martes, 4 de octubre de 2011


Text and Indicated Photos: José Manuel Serrano Esparza. Les Rencontres Photographiques d´Arles (Francia) 2011

Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

The worldwide itinerant photographic exhibition The Mexican Suitcase, organized by ICP Curator Cynthia Young and made up by a comprehensive selection of the 4,500 negatives corresponding to the 126 35 mm film rolls exposed by Robert Capa (45), David Seymour "Chim" (46) and Gerda Taro (32) between May 1936 and March 1939 during the Spanish Civil War and developed in Paris by Chiki Weisz, is undoubtedly one of the most impressive exhibitions in History, and also includes a small quantity of pictures made by Fred Stein in the French capital.

Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

Emerico Chiki Weisz Schwartz, a great friend of Robert Capa and Kati Horna since his childhood in Budapest, is the key figure in the inception, manufacture and salvation of this highly significant and historical photographic heritage, because on one hand, it was him who developed between 1934 and 1939 the 126 35 mm film rolls in Paris, made the contacts, the vintage copies on photographic paper, etc, and on the other hand, it was also him the person to whom Robert Capa personally entrusted with the custody of the 126 35 mm film rolls with their 4,500 negatives (who were inside his atelier of number 37 rue Froidevaux in Paris) shortly before leaving on October 15, 1939 from France to United States on board of the Manhattan ship to meet his mother Julia Friedmann, his brother Cornell and Edith (Cornell´s wife) in the brownstone of West Eighty-ninth Street in New York.

It was Chiki Weisz who with great thoroughness and manual ability prepared three chocolate boxes (featuring red, green and beige colours) with little cardboard compartments, putting inside each one of them, one by one, the 126 film rolls painstakingly classified - which set up what is known as The Mexican Suitcase - ,

Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

subsequently introducing everything in a rucksack that he transported on a bycicle, from Paris to Bordeaux, and after successive vicissitudes, the boxes with the 4,500 negatives were finally delivered to General Francisco Javier Aguilar González (Mexico Ambassador to Vichy Government during 1941-42 and demised in Mexico D.F in 1972), the trove having remained in the most absolute oblivion for 53 years - since 1939 -, until they appeared again in Mexico D.F in 1992, when Grace Aguilar (general Aguilar´s daughter), shortly before dying in Mexico City, gave away the three boxes with their 126 35 mm film rolls and 4,500 negatives to the Mexican cinematographic producer Benjamin Tarver (whose mother was a great friend of Grace Aguilar), who kept everything inside a wardrobe of his home during three years, until in 1995 he realized that the present he had been gifted was much more valuable than he could imagine, on watching against the light one of the 24 x 36 mm format negatives and seeing Gerda Taro´s face.

Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

The vintage copies and contact sheets of photographs made by Fred Stein and Robert Capa to Gerda Taro in 1935 are one of the most exotic scopes of The Mexican Suitcase Exhibition. Here we can see on the right a vintage copy of the famous picture of Gerda Taro typing, made by Fred Stein in his studio of the Paris rue Colaincourt (where he lived with his wife Lilo Stein, often making great quantities of food with which they fed and allowed the subsistence of many Jewish political refugees coming from Germany fleeing Nazism) and which was published three years later by Regards magazine in its number of July 21, 1938, on the first anniversary of his death. Under this vintage copy is the contact sheet with 25 frames (in which also appears Chiki Weisz and to which that image corresponds) beginning with two pictures of a blind accordionist playing music in the street; and on the left, we can watch a vintage copy of another likewise famous photograph: the one made by Capa to Gerda Taro while she was sleeping with her pyjamas, on which we see the contact sheet it belongs, and in which there are three images of the photojournalist woman sleeping, along with two further more in which she appears with a non identified friend. Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

Since then, after years of negotiations between Benjamin Tarver and the ICP of New York with Cornell Capa, Richard Whelan and Brian Wallis, the decisive steps and perseverance of the photographic curator and cinema director Trisha Ziff, aware of its huge historical importance, enabled the definitive recovery and salvation of The Mexican Suitcase, which was handed over by his son Julio Ernesto Patrick to Cornell Capa at the ICP of New York on December 19, 2007, in a very emotive and symbolical act - he is the son of an exile of the Spanish Civil War-, eleven months after the death of Chiki Weisz, demised on January 16, 2007 at 19:00 h in the evening in Mexico D.F, already being very old, at the age of 95, because of a serious renal illness, besides having suffered from sight ailments since eighties, so he spent his last lifetime years inside his home of Chihuahua Street in the Roma Sur colony of México City, where he was looked after until his last moments by Eleonora carrington, who was his wife for 61 years.

Photo: Bill Jay

This extraordinary portrait of Cornell Capa, made by Bill Jay at the ICP of New York in 1980 outstandingly depicts the personality of a man who since 1974 (year of foundation of the International Center of Photography in New York) greatly renounced to his until then remarkable career as a professional photographer, devoting himself above all to try to preserve the photographic heritage of his brother Robert and to foster the famous collections of pictures of the ICP, made by the best photographers in history, along with its worldwide itinerant exhibitions.

´Since the day of the death of my brother in 1954, I was haunted by the question of what happens with the work of a photographer leaves behind him and how to do that work goes on alive ´.

When Trisha Ziff travelled by plane from Mexico D.F to New York, taking with her The Mexican Suitcase to the ICP on December 19, 2007, after almost 75 years in which it had been given up for lost, Cornell Capa, who had been suffering from a strong Parkinson disease for long, could at last verify, five months before his death (he died on May 23, 2008 at the age of 90) the definitive preservation of the famous suitcase, twenty-seven years after having emitted a communiqué in 1979 ( on the occasion of a picture exhibition on Robert Capa in the Venice Biennial) : ´ In 1940, because of the advance of the German army, my brother gave a friend of his a suitcase full of documents and negatives. On his way to Marseilles, the friend entrusted the suitcase to a veteran of the Spanish Civil War, in order that he concelaed it in the cellar of a Latinoamerican consulate. Every attempt to find the suitcase has been in vain. naturally, a miracle can arise. If anybody has information on the suitcase, please make contact with me and he will have in advance my deepest gratitude´.

Capa´s friend to whom Cornell was speaking about was Chiki Weisz. Both of them believed for many decades that The Mexican Suitcase had disappeared.

As a consequence of the circumstances and the manifold contingencies which have surrounded the existence of The Mexican Suitcase since early nineties, while being in his eighties and nineties, Chiki Weisz hadn´t either the chance of knowing that the photographic trove that Capa had delivered him in France (and that had made him risk his life to protect it, travelling on a bycicle across France) was safe at a few blocks of buildings from his home, in a house of Avda de la Revolución, or of confirming the downright preservation of the 4,500 images exposed by Capa, Chim and Taro, who in addition to being great friends of his, three quarters of a year ago trusted utterly on his great professionalism, talent and working capacity when developing their films and making the very important 35 mm contact sheets from which editing the best pictures.

Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

The huge quality of the developments made by Chiki Weisz three quarters of a century ago, the practically perfect preservation condition of the 35 mm film rolls and the excellent digitization implemented by the experts of the Rochester Museum of Photography, have enabled the enlargement of some 35 mm film rolls until making mural size contact sheets, something really exotic which is undoubtedly one of the most relished ingredients by the attendants. Incredibly, in spite of such a considerable size of enlargement, there isn´t barely any noticeable loss of quality, which speaks clearly in favour of Chiki Weisz´s darkroom work, because from mid thirties, he had to develop Kodak and Agfa panchromatic nitrate films featuring sensitiveness of around Weston 32 (equivalent to ISO 40), and these emulsions were noted for their visible grain. The praiseworthy labour of Picto Photographic Laboratory in Paris, author of such king size contacts, has likewise been instrumental in that regard. Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

Nevertheless, I have got the firm conviction that Chiki Weisz would have been very happy knowing the current situation, since after all, it has been possible to preserve this photographic treasure, World Heritage, which was the important thing, and millions of people all over the world

Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

have now the chance to watch these impressive photographs made by his great friends Robert Capa, David Seymour Chim and Gerda Taro during the Spanish Civil War, three generations after the events, with roughly 4,500 35 mm nitrate negatives which have kept almost 100% intact thanks to Mexico climate and that have enabled that Cynthia Young, Assistant Curator of ICP New York and Curator of the great photographic exhibition The Mexican Suitcase, organizes once more a superb picture display oozing true international magnitude ( as were previously Unknown Wegee (2006), This is War! Robert Capa at Work & Gerda Taro - in collaboration with Kristen Lubben, Associate Curator of the ICP New York- during 2008-2010, etc) full of good taste details enthralling the large numbers of visitors.

Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza
Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

The Mexican Suitcase remarkable photographic exhibition offers also a wide range of vintage illustrated publications edited in different countries and which reported about the Spanish Civil War. Here we can see two pages of a Dutch magazine. On the left, there are some pictures made by David Seymour ´Chim´ in Vizcaya Front in 1937, while on the right page appear a text and photographs on the cinema director Joris Ivens and his film The Spanish Earth, which he shot in Spain in 1937, with comments and narration by Ernest Hemingway and photography by John Fernhout. A year later, Joris Ivens and John Fernhout shot in China (mainly in Hankou) the film The 400 Million, for which the Dutch director hired Capa as an assistant movie camera operator, after the arrival of Bob with John Fernhout in Hong-kong (where Joris Ivens was waiting for them) on February 16, 1938 on board of the ship Aramis, which had departed from Marseilles (France) on January 21, 1938.

Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

The documentary film With Abraham Lincoln Brigade in Spain (1937-1938), discovered by Juan Salas (an expert on visual studies and independent photographic curator) and shot by Henri Cartier-Bresson and Jacques Lemare during the Spanish Civil War with 35 mm Eyemo cinematographic cameras and that is possible to watch in top-notch quality LCD screens, is another of the alluring sides of The Mexican Suitcase exhibition. Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

It all combined with highly informative texts and a painstaking order, fruit of a previous strenuous work of arrangement and research, with the added bonus that in this photographic exhibition, with very wise criterion, a special priority has been given to 35 mm contacts, exceedingly significant both to choose the best pictures and to know how a professional photographer works and his professional evolution.

Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

35 mm sheet with photographs made by Gerda Taro in early 1937 on Jarama Front, in northeast of Madrid, and that in the same way as with many other contact sheets included in The Mexican Suitcase exhibition, allows to appreciate the complete series, id est, the before and after of the image or images which were selected by the editors of newspapers and magazines, along with the context of each story. Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

The area of the exhibition devoted to contacs and vintage copies of pictures made by Robert capa in Teruel (Aragon Front), in December of 1937 and January of 1938, becomes a steadfast focus of attention for the attendants. Just in front of the visitor wearing sandals and crutches, two vintage copies can be made out: on the left, a photograph made by Robert Capa in early January 1938, in which we can see four Republican soldiers (two of them wounded, one slightly injured and marching on foot, and another one being more seriously wounded, with a thick bandage on his head and mounted on a donkey) walking by a Teruel house, and a further one also taken by Bob in Teruel on December 21, 1937 (when in the company of his friend and journalist Herbert Matthews of the New York Herald Tribune, he was starting his entrance in the city besieged by the Republican army) and in which we see a father bearing his wounded son - who has his trousers broken and his right leg in the open air with a fairly bloodied bandage- in his arms and a background with the large timber door of a house and the white wall typical of the period.

One of the 35 mm contact sheets with pictures made by Capa during his coverage of the battle of Teruel, of which The Mexican Suitcase contains nothing less than 14 film rolls of the then called miniature format. Once more, the quality of the developments made by Tsiki Weiss in Paris during the second half of thirties proves to be laudable.

Photo: Robert Capa. © Estate of Cornell Capa / ICP / Magnum

Capa in pure state. Scanning of the original 35 mm negative exposed by Bob on November 7, 1938 during the Battle of Rio Segre. This is one of his most dramatic photographs in his career. The Francoist shells are falling very near and the smoke brought about by the explosions pervades everything.

This photograph was published in the Picture Post magazine number of December 3, 1938 (along with other ones also extraordinary and very dramatic corresponding to that battle), with a caption in which it was stated that ´ two Republican soldiers come back with a captured prisoner ´.

But truth, such as was discovered by The Legendary Maestro Richard Whelan, maximum expert in the world on Robert Capa and Alfred Stieglitz of all time, is that he is a Republican soldier injured by shrapnel of a Francoist howitzer on his ventral area, and who is being helped by two comrades, so the text of such caption is wrong, not written by Capa - something which often happened during his career as a photojournalist-, and it was an editorial decision made by Stefan Lorant (editor of Picture Post) and Tom Hopkinson (assistant editor of Picture Post).

Whatever it may be, the image is another diachronic icon of war photojournalism. Capa risks his life to a great degree to take it, being in the firing front line, in a zone where the Republican troops are being attacked by the Francoist artillery. 73 years later, you can almost hear the deafening sound of shells, smell the black powder and feel the fear to death.

Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

Three contact sheets and two vintage copies of photographs made by Robert Capa in Early January 1939 and corresponding to the Catalonian Front. In the vintage copy visible on the left, appear four Republican soldiers belonging to general Líster´s V Army Corps in an area of combats, approximately three weeks before the onslaught of Francoist troops between Manresa and Sitges on January 22, 1939 and the following day attack on Sabadell, Tarrasa and Badalona, subsequently crossing the Llobregat river, all of which results in the hasty exodus of hundreds of thousands of Republican refugees from Barcelona towards France.

In the lower vintage copy, we see an exceedingly young Republican conscript being roughly 16 years old, enrolled during the last calling up and photographed by Capa by the walls of a half-destroyed rural house located on the fighting area. Bob clearly realizes the inexperience of the recruit, dramatically revealed by two details vividly depicting the tragedy of the moments which are being lived, since the teenager, with barely any military drill, is grabbing the Mauser rifle with his left hand on the area of its barrel tip, which he is hiding with his thumb, with the danger it implies, and at the same time, he is grasping the gun into his chest, in such a way that the muzzle is aiming at his face, which increases the jeopardy even more.

Another of the highlights of The Mexican Suitcase exhibition is the comprehensive assortment of of top-notch quality vintage copies in medium and large sizes it holds (a total of fifty), plus other twenty also excellent and made after the Spanish Civil War. Here we can see a vintage copy with some orphan refugee children having lunch, made from the original 35 mm negative exposed by Robert Capa in Barcelona in November 1938. Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza.

Vintage copy of a photograph made by Capa in March 1939 in the internment camp of Argelès sur-Mer (France) for Republican exiles, in which we can see a mother cleaning his son´s nose. As an aftermath of the Francoist troops advance and with the war already lost, a total of 500,000 persons escaped from Spain to the south of France crossing the French border, being confined and crammed into different camps (Le Barcarès, Bram, Argelès-sur-Mer, Montolieu, Saint Cyprien and Gurs) in deplorable conditions, lacking food, water and the most basic hygienic conditions, together with non exiatent electricity and impossibility to get any kind of medical attention or medicines. Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

Photo: Robert Capa. © Estate of Cornell Capa / ICP / Magnum

Scanning of the original negative exposed by Robert Capa in the internment camp for republican exiles of Le Barcarès (France) in March 1939. This well-known image captured by Capa became a further icon in his career as a professional photographer, and appeared inside the pages of many magazines and publications of the time, showing the world with all of its roughness and dramatism the destiny of around 500,000 people who had to flee Spain marching to France with only their clothes on and the few personal belongings they had been able to save, to set about a new life beginning from scratch. Once more, it is very evident the practically perfect preservation condition of the negatives, 75 years after the events, which has enabled to save this great array of pictures - many of them wholly unknown - of the Spanish Civil War, which are probably the biggest trove of images in the History of Photography.

Photo: Robert Capa. © Estate of Cornell Capa /ICP / Magnum

Image taken by Robert Capa in March 1939 in the French concentration camp of Bram during the distribution of food to Spanish Republican refugees. The gaze of the young boy in the middle of the picture clearly shows the host of hardships endured by him. Bob has realized that - unlike other older exiles appearing behind him- this boy lacks adequate winter clothes and is getting very cold.

Another image of attendants to The Mexican Suitcase Exhibition watching the documentary film With the Abraham Lincoln Brigade in Spain (1938-1939). Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

The documentary film With the Abraham Lincoln Brigade in Spain (1937-1938) includes a lot of informative texts easing the understanding and historical context for the visitors. Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza.

Persons of the most various ages and generations go to watch live what is not only a grandiouse photographic exhibition, but also a coming back in time 75 years behind. In the image, the woman nearest to the camera is seeing the cover of Regards magazine of April 15, 1937 in almost perfect preservation condition, while another visitor in the background beholds - with the help of a very powerful magnifying lens (provided to the attendants by the Musée Départamental de l´Arles Antique) some contacts sheets with pictures made by Gerda Taro in March 1937 in Valencia, during the drill of Republican Army men, which was made from early 1937 after the first months of war in which units composed by popular militias prevailed. Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

The Mexican Suitcase exhibition also shows some of the Notebooks of the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) including pictures made by Capa and Taro, belonging to the Collection of National Archives of paris and encompassing 24 x 36 mm contacts clipped and glued to their pages as a reference guide. We can see here one of those notebooks with the contacts of the hair-raising reportage made by Gerda Taro in Valencia morgue on May 16, 1937, after the aerial bombings on 14 and 15 of that month, and in which she photographed the stained with blood bodies of many victims along with a number of their fidgety relatives waiting for news and grabbing the metallic fence giving to the main gate of the building. Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

Photo: Gerda Taro. © ICP New York

Scanning of the original negative of a dramatic photograph made by Gerda Taro and showing relatives of casualties of Valencia bombing, who are waiting for news about their beloved ones by the access railing of the Turia city morgue. The mien of the foreground woman clad in dark garment and with her thumb inadvertently touching her lips is the epicenter of an icon which still keeps utterly its effect, almost 75 years after the events.

These valuable contact notebooks also aroused a considerable interest. Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

Three vintage copies of photographs made by David Seymour ´Chim´ near Badajoz (Extremadura), in early May 1936, during his first trip to Spain as a photographer for Regards French magazine, accompanied by the writer George Soria, aren´t unnoticed at all for the visitors, and the same happens with the series of six 35 mm contacts to which those images belong.

In the upper middle area you can see the famous image of a peasant mother nursing his son while she is listening to a speaker during a political rally. At present, it is more deeply known both the context of this photograph and its true image aesthetics and aspect ratio, for its original negative was one of the 4,500 included inside The Mexican Suitcase.

Until now, there were only reproductions of vintage copies, in which part of the original 24 x 36 mm frame had been traditionally cut and an excessive darkening along with a contrast increase had taken place, but this great exhibition allows to watch the picture with its full 2:3 proportion together with its original tones, it all with a much higher level of detail.

This photograph had a profound impact and was published in Regards magazine of May 14, 1936, in AIZ of June 29, 1936, and in Nova Iberia of January 1937.

On its right, we can see another picture belonging to this series captured in Badajoz, and in which appears an old woman with her left hand leaned on the left area of her face, looking at an orator and listening to his words. This aged woman is with her mouth ajar, showing teeth in bad condition. Behind her appears the head with beret abd the right shoulder and arm of an old farmer, being possible to glimpse many others attendants to the meeting in the background - already out of focus - .

In both pictures, truly excellent, Chim, a great photographer and likewise featuring very deep technical and lighting knowledge, makes a masterful use of the high lateral light, generating peak levels of dramatism on underscoring the left half of the main characters´ faces, surrounded by harsh shadows and glances of intense concern and hopelessness.

Photo: David Seymour ´Chim´. © Estate of David Seymour / Magnum

Scanning of the original negative of the famous photograph made by David Seymour ´ Chim ´ near Badajoz (Extremadura) in early May 1936.

On the right of the woman suckling her baby we can see the expression of her eyes overfilled with fear and anguish before an uncertain future of another a little younger mother wearing a clear attire and located on the right of the image - taking in her arms her approximately three years old daughter - whose left shoulder touches the right border of the frame or the detail of the around ten years old girl - who is standing by the nursed baby - frightfully peering out her head just behind a young man attending the event, while just behind her we can see the half of the face of other similar age girl being thoughtful.

Chim, with great sensitivity and paying attention even to the most minute details, captures the countenances of the countryside men and women, toughened and prematurely aged because of a life full of hardships and daily work by the piece during between 12 and 16 hours for subsistence pittances (to name but an example, the woman suckling his baby isn´t probably more than 30 years old, albeit she seems to be around 50) and foresees the dramatic events which will begin in Spain only two months and a half later.

This man is one of the most important photographers in history and a great friend of Robert Capa and Henri Cartier-Bresson, who deeply admired him.

Sheet with 33 contacts of the reportage made by David Seymour ´Chim´ in November 1936 in Sabadell, a great industrial city in the north of Barcelona, during the visit that he made with his brother-in-law S.L.Schneidermann to a textile factory. Chim photographs in a discreet and masterly way different working men and women full-swing, making different tasks, and at the same time, he manages to impressively depict thge texture of different machines, thread reels, etc. Though this Master of Photography is under difficult lighting conditions, a lot of dark backgrounds and simultaneous presence of white thread next to the metallic structures of blackened by time iron, a very high percentage of the 33 images are accurately exposed, with a lavish level of detail in low key and high key areas alike. Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

The expectation and interest aroused by David Seymour ´Chim´ photographs and contact sheets along with the explanatory text by them, are one of the foremost sides of this unforgettable The Mexican Suitcase exhibition. Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

David Seymour ´Chim´ made in Asturias, above all in the areas of Oviedo, Gijón and Langreo, some of his most representative series of pictures, with highly eloquent portraits in which he captured both the faces of the Republican militiamen (in the trenches, having lunch, talking to one another, etc) and men and women working in the mines in dire conditions, civil population keeping long queues to obtain food, and other various contexts of the daily life that many people strove after going on. Chim achieves to get pictures of dual meaning in which war is overtly perceived, but at the same time, there´s leeway for hope. Therefore, the attendants have the chance to watch as well as many famous pictures made by David Seymour ´Chim´, another group of unknown photographs made by him and showing a number of sides of the usual life of portrayed civilian persons, and that on not having been made in the combat fronts, weren´t mostly published in the newspapers and magazines of the time, but transcend the destruction and ponder on other aspects inherent to war and how it affected to those ones who suffered it. Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

A visitor watching the exhibition area with contact sheets of pictures made by Chim in February 1937 near Oviedo to young Asturian dynamiters. The vintage copy on the wall, in which can be seen two Asturian miners with dynamite sticks was cover of Regards French magazine of February 18, 1937. Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

Chiki Weisz was always throughout his entire life surrounded by extraordinary people of the photographic and artistic scope: Robert Capa, Kathy Horna, David Seymour ´Chim´, Gerda Taro, Fred Stein, Leonora Carrington, Remedios Varo and many others, being with difference to meet Leonora Carrington, a world-class representative of Surrealism and pride of México, the turning point in his life, as she was an extraordinary woman whom he loved deeply and with whom he had two very wished children, for whom Chiki Weisz worked hard, above all during forties and fifties, as a social photojournalist in Mexico D.F - because he was also a good photographer - , always wishing that Leonora Carrington was the main character, whose great personality and artistic talent were the light which greatly lit both his family, utterly integrated and identified with Mexico, and those ones who met her and had the chance of realizing the extraordinary artistic and human stature of a woman who was likewise a great mother.

Regarding the great photographers for whom he worked in darkroom during the second half of thirties, Chiki Weisz always chose to discreetly stay in the background, because his bigger desire was that Bob, Chim and Gerda were the main characters, which made him happy, as well as being a great admirer of Capa as a photographer and human being alike and being very grateful to him, since thanks to Bob´s help, he could flee the concentration camp in Morocco to which he was deported, arriving in Casablanca, a city in which he embarked on the ship Serpa Pinto bound for Mexico, where he arrived in 1942.

The Mexican Suitcase historic photographic exhibition has been decisive among many other things to undoubtedly prove that Chiki Weisz is deservedly one of the most prominent experts in development of films and printing of all time, along with outstanding figures like Voja Mitrovic, Teresa Engle Moreno, George Fevre, Igor Bakht, David Vestal, Nathalie Lopparelli, Bruce Barnbaum, Juan Manuel Castro-Prieto, Pablo Inirio, Dominique Granier, Giulietta Verdon-Roe ...

On the other hand, such as was explained by Brian Wallis (Chief of Exhibitions of the ICP New York), this unforgettable exhibition has meant the unquestionable verification, even more if possible, of the stratospheric dimension of David Seymour ´Chim´ as a photographer, because the 46 35 mm film rolls exposed by him during the Spanish Civil War and preserved in pristine condition, provide a number of unknown till now extraordinary portraits made with available light of famous Republican personalities of the time, such as Federico García Lorca, Ilya Ehrenburg, Ernest Hemingway, etc (together with many of his images taken both in Bilbao and bordering villages and in Oviedo during 1937, in which through a masterly use of the quality and directions of natural light, he captures the faces of combatants, women and children), without forgetting a wide range of remarkable pictures of different objects affected by war, it all with truly praiseworthy thoroughnes and self-discipline, in synergy with a unique versatility and ability to draw the genuine soul of the persons he photographs, also highlighting in his abundant pictures of children which were always one of his fortes.

Photo: David Seymour ´Chim´. © Estate of David Seymour / Magnum

Scanning of the original negative of the amazing portrait of Federico García Lorca made by David Seymour ´Chim´ in early July 1936 in Madrid, a few days before the beginning of the Spanish Civil War.

With great professionalism, the ICP New York left the difficult digitization of the original nitrate 35 mm films of The Mexican Suitcase in the hands of a team of experts of the Key Whitmore Conservation Center of the George Eastman Kodak Museum in Rochester, directed by Grant B. Romer (Director of the Advanced Residency Program in Photograph Conservation of the George Eastman House Museum of Rochester), Mirasol Estrada ( Andrew W. Mellon Fellow of the Advanced Residency Program in Photograph Conservation at George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film and brought up in the ECRO of Guadalajara, Jalisco), Inés Toharia Terán (a Specialist in the Preservation of Cinematographic Stuff) and Arnold VanDenburgh (Designer), who managed to create the Planar Film Duplicating Device (PFD2) made with glass, teflon and aluminum which carried out simultaneously a great quality of professional scanning with the maximum reduction of the risks inherent to unfold 35 mm nitrate film rolls which had been very wrapped around for approximately 68 years, because it is an ingenious contrivance holding photographic film and working as a copy stand with which each and every one of the original nitrate 35 mm film roll was photographed with a Canon ESO DS Mark III digital reflex camera, so avoiding any possible frictions of the emulsions exposed by Capa, Chim and Taro and developed by Chiki Weisz on any kind of physical support, greatly attaining the access to the images without unrolling or cutting the films and with the minimum feasible manipulation of them.

This has meant in practice a momentous feat, since they have been able to solve the conundrum which implied to flat the 35 mm nitrate roll films in such a way that there wasn´t any image distortion or harm to them, with the simultaneous need to avoid the built-in typical risks in this sort of highly inflammable emulsion.

And at the same time, thanks to the good preservation condition of them, they have managed to get excellent results, in my opinion comparable in terms of image quality to the ones which would have been achieved with a professional 35 mm Nikon Coolscan 5000 ED scanner reaching the 4,000 dpi of optical definition, with a 4.8 DMAX, though this kind of scanners were far from being the most appropriate to digitize the very warped 4,500 negatives of the 126 rolls of 35 mm film of The Mexican Suitcase and wouldn´t have enabled a safe handling and keeping up of the delicate nitrate 24 x 36 mm negatives, which was the most important side.

Neither was possible the use of state-of-the-art scanners of the cinematographic industry with 35 mm films like the ARRISCANS 3K and 6K searching for the concept of integral digital replica of the original 35 mm negative (with exceptional levels of sharpness and dynamic range), since a high percentage of the sprocket holes of the 35 mm film rolls of The Mexican Suitcase are broken.

Therefore, it was necessary to find the best feasible compromise solution enabling to attain a top-notch quality digitization, and the George Eastman House Museum team did it with high marks using the PFD2, because the 40 megabytes DNG archives obtained from the RAW of each one of the 4,500 negatives made with the Canon EOS 1DS Mark III at f/16 and 1/6 sec are more than enough to any desired application and size.

In a truly incredible way, the modern digital technology has been a key factor in this story for the definitive preservation of this historical and hugely important photographic heritage of images created almost three quarters of a year ago, with spectacular image quality and a total preservation of the special image aesthetics typical in the black and white chemical emulsions of the time which included high quantities of silver.

Probably, it would be feasible even to go beyond trying to get all the possible information of the 4,500 negatives exposed by Capa, Chim and Taro making up The Mexican Suitcase, and with high levels of security, using the Inscanity 4K HDR Film Scanning, currently the quality world benchmark in cinematographic industry scanners, with a 3.3 full density range, TDI sensor and spectrally optimized LED luminic source, using a sprocketless film path (along with an optical touch free pin registration, so there isn´t any torn perforation, as well as featuring a precision roller gate that flattens warped films, it all being much safer for archival films) and gets maximum information in high keys.

Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

Among the best of the yield of images made by David Seymour ´Chim´ during his coverage of the Spanish Civil War, are the photographs he took in February 1937 in Asturias (Oviedo, San Esteban de las Cruces, Gijón, Langreo, Duro-Felguera mines, etc) and in January-February 1937 in Basque Country (Bilbao, Bermeo, Lekeitio, Berango, Gorliz, Gatika, Erandio Goikoa, Guernika, Güeñes, Amorebieta, Eibar, Cenerruza-Puebla de Bolívar and Elgeta). Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

And as if it were not enough, The Mexican Suitcase also offers the visitors two noteworthy desserts: the shooting with 35 mm movie cameras made by Henri Cartier-Bresson and Jacques Lemare to the Abraham Lincoln Brigade in 1937 and 1938 during the Spanish Civil War and particularly the documentary film The Mexican Suitcase directed by Trisha Ziff, one of the most important worldwide cinematographic events of the year, filmed throughout two years not only in Spain, but also in different countries related to the Spanish Civil War, and offering a stark social and political approach about whay the conflict meant and the aftermath it had on those who endured it, above all the exiles, also including hugely interesting interviews with still alive friends of Capa, Chim and Taro, along with very old persons who lived those convulsed days.

Copyright Text and Indicated Photographs: José Manuel Serrano Esparza. LHSA
Inscribed in the Registry of the Intellectual Property of Madrid

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