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  Gerda Taro, Photographer

Trail-blazing photographer Gerda Taro was born Gerta Pohorylle, one of three children born to Polish Jewish refugees Heinrich and Gisela Pohorylle in Stuttgart, Germany on August 1, 1910. Her parents, who had relocated from Galicia a few years before her birth, lived comfortably, which enabled their daughter to receive the finest education, having attended Stuttgart’s Königin-Charlotte Realschule; the Internat Villa Florissant boarding school in Lausanne, Switzerland; Stuttgart’s Höhere Handelsschule, a business college in Stuttgart; and Leipzig’s Hugo Gaudig Schule.

In the 1930s, the Pohorylle clan relocated to Leipzig shortly after Adolf Hitler’s rise to power. This tumultuous period profoundly influenced the young woman’s political beliefs. In March 1933, because of her association with the Social Workers’ Party, she was arrested by the Nazis. Upon her release, Ms. Pohorylle realized she must leave Germany to avoid being placed back into protective custody, and so she relocated to Paris, where she found secretarial employment. Within a year, she met Hungarian-born aspiring photographer Endre Erno Friedmann, which ignited her passion for photography. She became Mr. Friedmann’s manager, and she became a press card-carrying photographer for Alliance Photo. It was during this time Ms. Pohorylle and Mr. Friedmann decided to reinvent themselves, as Gerda Taro and Robert Capa. In 1935, she received further formal instruction from portrait photographer Fred Stein, acting as his darkroom assistant.

Ms. Taro received her first major assignment in August of 1936 when she was dispatched to Spain to cover the country’s civil war. She initially used a medium-format camera, the Old Standard Rolleiflex Model 622, fitted with a non-coated Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar 7.5 cm f/3.5 lens. She later switched to a Leica II (Model D) with a Nickel Elmar 5 cm f/3.5 lens, which she later exchanged for the newer Leica III (Model F). Ms. Taro and Mr. Capa, became romantically involved and often worked together. Because Mr. Capa’s moniker had greater name recognition, several photographs of the Spanish Civil War attributed to him were actually taken by Ms. Taro. Her Loyalist sympathies gained her unprecedented access to the front lines, and her photographs were published by the Ce Soir Communist newspaper in Paris.

Ms. Taro and Mr. Capa amicably parted ways in 1937, and Ms. Taro began collaborating with Ted Allan, a Canadian journalist for the Federated Press who also became her romantic partner. On July 25, 1937, the couple traveled to the Brunete front lines,despite warnings that this was a particularly dangerous combat zone. Nevertheless, Ms. Taro photographed the action for several hours, taking take pictures of the casualties en route to the nearest field hospital from the running board of the transport car. Ironically, a Loyalist tank swerved into the car, curshing her and seriously injuring Mr. Allan. Gerda Taro died the next day at Escorial Hospital. According to one of the nurses, her last words were, fittingly, “Did they take care of my camera.” The most comprehensive collection of her works, which include original negatives and nearly 200 prints, can be found at the International Center of Photography (ICP) in New York City.

2017 Eyes of the World by Marc Aronson & Marina Budhos (New York: Henry Holt and Company), p. 132.

2015 Female Fotographer Fridays: Gerda Taro – Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow by Christopher George (URL:

2008 Gerda Taro (URL:

2014 Gerda Taro: The Forgotten War Photographer You Should Know by Sheena McKenzie (URL:

2011 Gerda Taro Used Two Different Models of 35 MM Leica Cameras with Different Lenses between Mid February 1939 and Her Death on July 26 of That Year by José Manuel Serrano Esparza (URL:

1937 Life Magazine (Aug. 16) (Chicago: TIME, Inc.), pp. 62-63.

2010 The Mexican Suitcase: The Rediscovered Spanish Civil War Negatives of Capa, Chim and Taro, Vol. I (Göttingen, Germany: Steidl), p. 426.

2012 Robert Capa and Gerda Taro: Love in a Time of War (URL:

2015 This Time a Better Earth: A Critical Edition by Ted Allan (Ottawa, Canada: University of Ottawa Press), pp. xx-xxi.

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