More than 15 years after they were discovered in Mexico City, the Catalan National Art Museum (MNAC) is now showing a collection of war photography by Robert Capa, David "Chim" Seymour and Gerda Taro. These three photographers, who lived in Paris, worked in Spain, and published internationally, laid the foundation for modern war photography. Their work has long been considered some of the most innovative and passionate coverage of the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939).
Many of the contact sheets made from the negatives will be on view as part of the exhibition, which will look closely at some of the major stories by Capa, Taro and Chim as interpreted through the individual frames.
These images will be seen alongside the magazines of the period in which they were published and with the photographers' own contact notebooks.
The so-called Mexican Suitcase - actually three cardboard boxes of negatives - was discovered in 1995 in the Mexican capital and released to New York's International Center of Photography (ICP) in 2007 after years of secret negotiations with the descendants of a Mexican general who found the trove. The boxes contained more than 4,500 negatives of images shot by the three photographers between May 1936 and March 1939. The images were long-feared to be lost after the negatives were left in Capa's studio in Paris when he fled France during World War II.
"Capa, Chim and Taro risked their lives to witness history in the making and showing it to the world, and the Mexican Suitcase contains some of their most important works," says Cynthia Young, a curator at the ICP who has overseen the Barcelona exhibition. "The Mexican Suitcase marks a profound shift in the study of these three photographers. In the process of researching the negatives of both major events and mundane details of the war, the authorship of numerous images by Capa, Chim and Taro has been confirmed or reattributed."
Equally compelling are the stories of the photographers themselves as revealed through these images: the dashing Capa, the studious Chim, and the intrepid Taro, who died during the battle of Brunete in 1937.
The Mexican suitcase. Until January 15, 2012, at MNAC, Barcelona.