José Manuel Serrano Esparza. LHSA
During the last weeks there has been a curious debate focused on the Pepe Pásame Los Alicates (Pepe, Hand Me The Pliers !) Hypothesis regarding a famous picture made by Robert Capa in the outskirts of Teruel of a Republican soldier who was killed on a tree while he was repairing the cables of a telephone line, and according to which it is flatly stated that the man appearing in the image is alive, which is not true.
Photo: Robert Capa. © Cornell Capa Estate / ICP / Magnum
Until the photographic exhibition The Mexican Suitcase at the International Center of Photography in New York ( which was held between September 24, 2010 and May 8, 2011), this was the only known picture of the three taken by Capa by the aforementioned tree in that place in the outskirts of Teruel in late December 1937, and it has been published with very good wisdom for the last twenty-seven years by different editorials featuring an outstanding international prestige in the photographic scope, such as Alfred A. Knopf with its book Robert Capa: Photographs (year 1985), Aperture with its book Capa: Cara a Cara (year 1999), Phaidon Press with its book Robert Capa: The Definitive Collection (year 2001), and more recently Lunwerg with its book La Guerra Civil Española: Imágenes para la Historia (September 2011) and others, without forgetting some works that were greatly out of print, like Robert Capa: Cuadernos de la Guerra Civil en España (1936-1939) edited in 1987 by Alfonso el Magnánimo Editions of the Valencian Institution os Studies and Research and recently put on sale by Kowasa Bookshop.
But the catalogue book The Mexican Suitcase published by ICP/Steidl, which began to be sold in September 2010 at the International Center of Photography in New York during the premiere exhibition La Maleta Mexicana held there, showed for the first time the other two pictures made by Capa next to the quoted tree and corresponding to the Agfa 35 mm roll film with 36 exposures with which he took those three photographs and other twenty-one more in other different locations both in the outskirts and urban area of Teruel city, with the two last negatives (numbers 28 and 29) exposed in Plaza del Torico.
Besides, both the three pictures made by Capa next to the tree and the other twenty-one he gets afterwards in different locations of the outskirts and built-up Teruel were displayed as 35 mm contacts on the walls of the ICP New York during the first worldwide exhibition of The Mexican Suitcase (September 24, 2010-May 8, 2011) and the Musée Départemental Arles Antique during the second worldwide exhibition of it held during the Rencontres Photographiques d´Arles (July 4-September 18, 2011),
Detail of the 35 mm contact sheet (with a total of 24 frames) with negatives 4, 5 and 6 exposed by Capa in a location of the outskirts of Teruel between December 21-24, 1937 and present on the wall of one of the rooms of the Musée Départamental Arles Antique during the exhibition La Valise Mexicaine held in that city during the second worldwide exhibition of it within the Rencontres Photographiques d´Arles (France) 2011. Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza
as a contact sheet corresponding to the b & w Agfa panchromatic 35 mm film roll and 36 frames used by Capa to expose the twenty-four negatives of that spool found as different disorderly negative strips in the Mexican Suitcase in 2007.
It is the Agfa 35 mm film roll number 111, corresponding to the Battle of Teruel and exposed by Capa in late December 1937, though the true expert in Capa Richard Whelan knew with higher accuracy the approximate date of December of that year in which Capa could take the picture of the Republican soldier killed on the tree, as we´ll see later.
Therefore, the negative of the picture that has been known for many decades, and in which the Republican soldier killed on the tree appears, is the frame number 6 of the first strip of negatives of the 35 mm and 36 exposures film, while the other two (frames 4 and 5) are respectively the two previous ones that he makes in that same place and that have known for more than a year.
That´s to say, Capa only takes three photographs of the Republican soldier climbed on the tree, of which precisely the last one (frame number 6) is the one already known since the time of Spanish Civil War (it appeared in Regards on January 13, 1938 and in Life on January, 24 of the same year), after which Capa doens´t make any more pictures in that location, something very strange bearing in mind his professional career and his way of getting photographs, and very important for the study of this famous picture, such as we´ll see soon.
On the other hand, the existence of the original captions made by Capa as to the different photographs made by him in Aragón Front without any reference made by him on the killed Republican soldier appearing in the image, doesn´t automatically mean at all that he is alive.
As a matter of fact, he is dead or mortally wounded very few seconds before dying.
A REAL DEATH
Since January 1938 in which the photograph was published by Regards and Life, it is known that the Republican soldier on the tree was repairing the telephone cables visible in the image, when suddenly, he was shot, something that has also been explained in different books published since early eighties on Robert Capa, albeit the hypothesis of electrocution defended by ICP on page 283 of the quoted two volume catalogue book can´t be 100% excluded.
It isn´t less certain that Magnum Agency, Richard Whelan and Cornell Capa always stated with utter conviction and discernment that the Republican soldier appearing on a tree (the only one of the three made by Capa in this spot known until a year ago, and in which his comrade doesn´t turn up) is dead as a consequence of a rifle shot made by a Francoist soldier performing as a sniper, which has turned out to be the truth as we´ll see later.
On the other hand, in the further two negatives (frames 4 and 5, known and seen by thousands of people all over the world for a year) that Capa exposes of the Republican soldier climbed on a tree, there are some very significant differential sides regarding the number 6 negative, which is the last picture made by Capa in this place.
a) In the negative number 4
Photo: Robert Capa. © Cornell Capa Estate / ICP / Magnum
we can see a comrade of the Republican soldier who is on the tree. This second soldier is standing beside the tree, while the man who is climbed on it, is trying to mend the cables of the telephone line. And next to the feet of this second soldier there´s a telephone cable bobbin (barely perceptible, because it sports a dark colour and is within shadow area)
Capa takes this picture from a perpendicular position to both Republican soldiers. We see that the soldier on the tree is leaning his legs, bottom and back on some thick branches, and his position is a natural one for a man working with the cables, so his body is rather bent down.
You can see part of the telephone wire of the bobbin protruding under one of the feet of the soldier on the tree, while his comrade (appearing standing, sideways and with his right arm a bit folded towards the rangefinder 35 mm Contax II camera and non coated Carl Zeiss Jena 5 cm f/2 lens with which Capa takes the picture) is looking at the ground, with his eyes staring at the lower right area of the frame and both of his hands inside the pockets (due to the temperature of approximately -10º C existing in Teruel at those instants) and maybe momentarily thinking about something.
Two tense telephone cables can likewise be discerned, departing from the center of the frame left border and describing a slightly ascending trajectory until converging in the tree on which the Republican soldier is, while another tense cable can be seen describing a descending path and going from this tree to a second tree appearing on the right of the frame.
b) In the negative number 5,
Photo: Robert Capa. © Cornell Capa Estate / ICP / Magnum
we see that Capa has moved to get the picture from a different angle, while the Republican soldier goes on climbed on the tree working with the cables and now he is captured wholly from behind, so we can only glimpse his winter coat and his left arm grabbing a thick branch on which he is looking for another supporting point (the main leaning points go on being the thick branch on which the backside rests, the thick branch on which the right foot rests and the thick branch on which the lower area of left thigh and calf are leant, although it all is hidden by the soldier coat).
The tree with the soldier on it appears on the left half of the frame, while his comrade is now visible also standing, but much sharper, both his face features and his winter clothes (even the buttons of his garment can be made out). He is looking at his comrade climbed on the tree while he works with the cables.
This second soldier continues with his two hands inside his pockets (now both of his wrists are perfectly visible).
A rural stone made house with some doors and windows can be seen in the background.
And now we can observe the dark colour bobbin with telephone cable on the ground by the feet of the second Republican soldier with a much higher level of detail, along with a some meters stretch of telephone wire ascending from the bobbin to the tree branches and falling on the other side.
A further tense telephone cable going from just under the coat of the Republican soldier working on the tree up to the right border of the negative can be seen, in the same way as two other telephone wires which go from the tree to the center of the left border of the frame, describing a descending trajectory.
Though we can´t see the face of the Republican soldier on the tree, bearing in mind his posture (grabbing a thick branch with his left arm, with his body bent down, and because of it the back of his head not visible over his coat), it is apparent that this man - in the same way as happens in the negative number 4- is still alive and working with the cables, while his comrade watches him.
c) In the negative number 6 (the most famous of the three photographs, and in which Capa captures the Republican soldier on the tree, but now his comrade doesn´t appear in the frame)
Photo: Robert Capa. © Cornell Capa Estate / ICP / Magnum
we see that the position of the Republican soldier climbed on the tree is utterly different to the one depicted in the negatives 4 and 5, because now he isn´t bent down working with cables, but pulling from a telephone wire (which can bee seen in the image departing from the upper area of the left border of the frame) grabbed with his right hand, when suddenly he has been shot by an enemy bullet that has killed him, and he has remained in an exceedingly forced position, with his back very leaned backwards and his head even more.
This soldier goes on with a good percentage of his body resting on his right foot - leaned on a thick branch of the tree- and though unlike the two previous pictures, his left leg is now hanging from the tree, the lower area of the left thigh is also leant on a thick branch, and his backside is likewise resting on another thick branch concealed by the soldier coat.
This position in which appears the Republican soldier on the tree in negative 6 is excessively forced and rigid, too bent backwards, with the risk of breaking the branches on which the back and upper right arm rest, since though they are thick, they feature a much lesser width than the ones supporting the weight of his right foot, lower area of the left thigh and bottom.
Evidently, the Pepe Pásame Los Alicates (Pepe Give Me The Pliers!) Hypothesis must be discarded, because this man is with his face excessively towards the sky and if he were asking for a tool to his standing comrade by the tree, he would look downward.
On the other hand, if a man climbs on a tree with the aim of repairing a telephone cable, the normal thing would be he took the pliers or any other tool inside his pockets, to have everything handy.
But besides, the position is very rigid and agonic, full of stress, the soldier has his eyes wide open with evident countenance of shock, and his left hand appears grasping a branch of the tree, while his right hand grabs a stretch of cable (which is visible with a descending path, beginning in the upper left border of the frame, reaching the right hand of the soldier - who holds a little portion of it- and then continues in a descending trajectory, bent by gravity).
The countenance of this man doesn´t correspond at all to a person who is asking for a pair of pliers or any other thing.
Moreover, in one of the selective enlargements we´ve made, it can be also watched that the right hand of the soldier who grabs this little stretch of telephone cable from which he was pulling, is not governed by the will of the soldier any more, has remained practically inert or with its last grasping strengths after the man has been shot (or electrocuted, a hypothesis that can´t be 100% excluded) and leaned on a branch of the tree being thicker than could be thought in the beginning on watching the entire picture, with the hand fingers bent inwards and the telephone wire still grabbed between two of them (ring finger and medium one ).
That´s the reason for which the telephone wire appears still tense.
It can also be visually checked in these two selective enlargements of the right hand grabbing the telephone cable - which appears in dark colour- that the grasping strength of this man has greatly decreased and the wire that highly probably he had initially held in the middle area of separation between the ring finger and medium finger up to the knuckles with his closed hand and surely with more fingers providing further grabbing under it, is now beyond the upper extreme of the knuckles of ring finger and medium finger, about to loose, instead of being on a closer position with respect to the joint of both fingers, as they would be very probably before the shot, and which fosters the grasping much more.
On the other hand, his mouth is excessively open, in the same way as his eyes, with a clear gesture of unexpected pain and shock.
And besides, in two of the reframings we´ve made, it can be clearly seen that as a consequence of the impact of the bullet, which has thrown backwards his upper half of the body, specially his head, his cap has remained somewhat removed on his head, with approximately a 40% of its top area (left zone) without covering, which is very strange, since temperature in the outskirts of Teruel at those moments was approximately -10º C, so if the soldier were alive, his cap would appear firmly tight on his head to protect him from the cold on top of the tree during the minutes he needed to mend the telephone cables.
Therefore, because of all the previously quoted reasons, this image, unlike the previous two ones (negatives 4 and 5) doesn´t correspond at all to an alive man who is working, but to a man who has died or is mortally wounded and with his last stamina within very few second before dying because of an enemy bullet shot by a Francoist soldier performing as a sniper with a 7 x 57 mm Mauser rifle while the Republican soldier was pulling from the telephone wire.
It is very difficult to know with certainty if the picture was taken by Capa just after the Republican soldier on the tree was shot, or some seconds later or even some minutes later.
But bearing in mind Capa´s way of making pictures, his great speed of movements and accuracy in the timing on pressing the shutter realease button of the camera, and the fact that we know the negative number 7 (the following one, made in another location of the outskirts of Teruel), there is a much higher possibility that Capa got the picture just after hearing the shot and the cry of the Republican soldier on being shot, and then quickly took shelter to avoid further risks, in the same way as highly probably did the rest of the soldiers and perhaps some officers that surely were in that location, some meters away and who don´t appear in the three photographs made by Capa in this place.
On the other hand, if Capa got the picture with his usual great quickness, just after hearing the shot and the cry of the Republican soldier on the tree on being pierced by the bullet - which is the most probable thing- there´s a very high possibility that the man appearing in the image has just been shot and is mortally wounded, with his last energies, instinctively going on grabbing the telephone wire with his right hand - which he can´t avoid it slowly falls on the branch and leans on it just after losing grasping strength-, which keeps its tension, while with his left hand he is grabbing another branch, preserving a forced balance, feasible because his right leg, lower area of his left thigh and backside are resting on very thick branches of the tree.
NEW EVIDENCE CONFIRM THE TRUTHFULNESS OF MAGNUM AGENCY CAPTION REGARDING THE PHOTOGRAPH
Once more, the 205 superb master enlargements in 38.8 x 48.8 cm made by Teresa Engle Moreno on baryta paper from copy negatives of 35 mm contacts of pictures made by Robert Capa during the Spanish Civil War and donated by Cornell Capa to the Reina Sofía National Museum and Art Center of Madrid in 1999, have been very important to thoroughly analyze the image of the Republican soldier on the tree, which was one of the photographs selected by the New York ICP that year for such collection.
More than twelve years have already elapsed since Richard Whelan, with difference the greatest expert on Capa of all time, pronounced his mythical lecture in the Reina Sofía Museum and Art Center that unforgettable May 25, 1999 in the CARS, where he displayed his fairly deep knowledge on him, in an act in which Irme Schaber, top world expert on Gerda Taro, was also present.
It was Cornell Capa himself who asked Teresa Engle Moreno the making of these large size copies on photographic black and white paper.
One of them was this one showing a Republican soldier on a tree and killed by a bullet shot by a Francoist soldier performing as a sniper while he was repairing some telephone wires.
Photo: Robert Capa. © ICP New York
The quality and level of detail of this copy - in the same way as happens with the other 201- is so big, including the most difficult to render high key and low key areas, that we have been able to make enlargements of specific areas of the image practically enabling to assure that the Republican soldier appearing on the tree (negative number 6 of the Number 111 35 mm film roll of The Mexican Suitcase) is dead or mortally wounded before dying.
It´s truly fascinating that though Capa made the photograph between December 21-24 1937 - id est, nothing less than 74 years ago- with Agfa panchromatic nitrate film featuring a sensitiveness of around Weston 40 (approximately ISO 32) and rather visible grain, the very good acutance of such a black and white emulsion of the Number 111 Agfa 35 mm film roll (enhanced to the utmost because the development was made using Agfa Rodinal in a 1+50 dilution at 24º C during 8 minutes in a Leitz Correx Cordo tank by Csiki Weisz, who knew well both the excellent sharpness of contours and great level of discerning of details along with the gorgeous contrast control applied to the final obtained negative by this concentrated liquid) and the prowess of the world class printer Teresa Engle Moreno ( who made many copies of Capa´s photographs, Life Pictures Collections, was master printer and teacher at the ICP New York for sixteen years and has often imparted classes in the Rencontres Photographiques d´Arles), who made the enlargement of the picture of the Republican soldier on the tree from a copy negative done with the original 35 mm contact made by Csiki Weisz on December 25-26 1937 with a Leitz Focomat 1 VIWOO Model 1934 enlarger, using the original Agfa 24 x 36 mm negative exposed by Capa in Teruel - a contact which is included in the collection of more than 70,000 contacts of Capa´s pictures held in the archives of the ICP- enable to distinguish a remarkable level of detail in the selective enlargements of small areas of the image taken in the outskirts of Teruel.
THE NEGATIVE NUMBER 7: ANOTHER ALMOST DEFINITIVE EVIDENCE
Thanks to ICP New York and his excellent two volume book The Mexican Suitcase, edited by ICP / STEIDL, and fruit of the great and historical work and effort made for three years by Cynthia Young (Assistant Curator of ICP New York), Kristen Lubben (Associate Curator of ICP New York) and Brian Wallis (Chief Curator of ICP New York) classifying and putting everything in order - along with many more things that have also been decisive-, we´ve known for a year the negatives of both the two previous photographs (frames numbers 4 and 5) made by Capa before the one of the Republican soldier killed on the tree (frame number 6) while he was mending some telephone wires , and also the twenty-one more negatives belonging to the same Number 111 35 mm Agfa film roll and exposed by Robert Capa in other completely different places of both built-up Teruel and the outskirts of the city
Photo: Robert Capa. © Cornell Capa Estate / ICP / Magnum
The negative number 7 was exposed by Capa in another different area of Teruel outskirts and five people appear in it (five Republican soldiers - two of whom are holding Mauser rifles Model 1916 7 x 57 mm caliber in their hands- and a man clad in a dark coloured garment, a thick black scarf and black beret, who could be an officer) advancing across a long sloped way, while some more Republican soldiers and officers - two of them chatting - can be seen in the background.
This number 7 contact is hugely important, since it proves without any doubt that negative number 6 (the image in which you can see the Republican soldier climbed on the tree -with his comrade not appearing in the frame- and in a very forced and stressful position, highly bent backwards, with the danger that the tree branches on which his back are leant can break, and with his eyes and face gesture showing a lot of shock) is the last picture made by Capa in that location.
And the fact that Capa doesn´t make more photographs in this point is very strange, above all in we bear in mind his way of taking pictures and his professional career.
Evidently, if the Republican soldier dead on the tree in negative 6 was asking his comrade a tool (pliers or anything else), Capa would have undoubtedly got the picture of the moment in which the second soldier standing by the tree hands him such hypothetical tool, because Bob was always highly aware of capturing the representative instants, a constant attitude in his coverage of the Spanish Civil War since he arrived in Spain on August 5, 1936.
As a matter of fact, Capa made big efforts to photograph those moments between August 1936 and late May 1937, because during that period he used a Leica III (Model F) 1933-1939 with a non coated Leitz Summar 5 cm f/2 and a Leica II (Model D) with Elmar 5 cm f/3.5 lens - the latter property of Csiki Weisz, who lent it to Capa and Taro from mid November 1936-, rangefinder cameras sporting different little windows for the RF and the viewfinder, so the photographer had to firstly focus and then frame.
Capa made a lot of representative pictures in different front of the Spanish Civil War during his ten first months of stay in Spain, though the camera he wore, because of the aforementioned reasons, greatly slowed his production and style of taking pictures, based on the maximum possible speed, the very fast movements thanks to his rather good natural athletic condition and a great accuracy in the timing when pressing the shutter realease button of the camera to capture the important moments.
But in early May 1937, there was a meeting in the desk of Henry Luce, owner and editor of Life and Time Inc., on the 31st floor of 48th Street of New York, between him and Wilson Hicks (Executive Editor), Daniel Longwell (Executive Editor), John Shaw Billings (Manager Editor) and Edward K. Thompson ( Wilson´s Hicks right-hand man since 1937 and the best picture editor of them all, to such an extent that sometimes, if there was time pressure, he was able to choose the best images of a number of Alfred Eisenstaedt´s 35 mm film rolls in the darkroom looking at the still wet with sodium tiosulphate fixer negatives) in which they agreed to give their maximum support to Robert Capa by means of Richard de Rochemont, Director of Time Life Inc. in Europe, whose main office was in Paris, for Life magazine was highly interested in being sent as many meaningful pictures of the Spanish Civil War as possible made by Capa.
In that meeting it was also decided that Richard de Rochemont - who was likewise director of the cinematographic series The March of Time- would hand over Capa an Eyemo 35 mm movie camera and a new 35 mm rangefinder Contax II photographic camera with Carl Zeiss Jena Sonnar 5 cm f/2 lens in order that he could increase his working speed and photographic yield as much as feasible.
And it happened that way in the meeting held by Robert Capa and Richard de Rochemont in Paris between May 20-25 1937. From that moment on, Capa stopped using his Leica III (Model F) 1933-1939, changing to a Contax II with a non coated Carl Zeiss Jena Sonnar 5 cm f/2, with which he got a lot of representative pictures, working much more comfortably, since as well as not having to separately focus and frame, the 90 mm rangefinder baselength with a magnification of 0.75x of the Contax II provided a much higher speed and focusing accuracy, it was a much lesser proned to misalignments RF and on the other hand, the loading and unloading of film in the Contax II was much easier than with the Leica III, thanks to its removable back.
If we keep it all in mind, it is exceedingly queer that if the Republican soldier appearing on the tree in the negative number 6 is alive and asking his comrade for pliers or any other tool, either precisely at that moment or some seconds later, Capa didn´t take the picture just at the instant in which he is being given it, because he has a much adequate camera to do it quickly than the Leica III he used between August 1936 and early May 1937 and with which he always paid top attention to photograph that kind of representative moments.
Capa would have tried to get the picture of the instant in which the standing soldier by the tree passes the pliers or any other tool to the soldier who is on the table with any camera he had had handy, even a Kodak Brownie.
But truth is that such an instant didn´t exist. There wasn´t any handing over of pliers or any other tool to the Republican soldier depicted in negative number 6, which is clearly dead or mortally wounded very few seconds before dying.
The negative number 7 categorically proves, without margin for doubt, that frame number 6 is the last picture taken by Capa at that spot and that the soldier appearing climbed on the tree isn´t asking anything to his companion (as clearly proved by the selective enlargements we have made), but dead because of a 7 x 57 mm caliber bullet (the most commonly used by the Francoist side and from a military viewpoint featuring excellent ballistic qualities, to such an extent that it became sadly famous, in the same way as its ´pac´ sound of impact, for being able to accurately kill up to distances of 1000 and 1200 meters) made by a Francoist soldier from a long distance, leaning the Mauser 1893 Model long barrel rifle or Mauser 1916 mosquetón on a firm base.
IMPOSSIBILITY THAT CAPA DOESN´T TAKE ANY MORE PICTURES IN THE LOCATION WHERE HE EXPOSES THE NEGATIVES 4, 5 AND 6 BECAUSE HE HAS GOT LITTLE FILM AND HE WANTS TO BE SPARING WITH IT
It is true that during the second half of thirties photographic film was scarce and expensive, above all the 35 mm one, which was then deemed as the ´small format´.
Both Capa and Gerda Taro had some problems for getting film between August 1936 and July 1937.
But in December 1937, this didn´t almost affect Capa, already a very recognized photographer, working among other media for Life magazine (the most important in the world then, with a huge economical power and influence), Regards (one of the best French magazines), The Illustrated London News (one of the most influential British newspapers), Schweizer Illustrierte Zeitung (a top-notch quality illustrated Swiss magazine resembling the Berliner Illustrierte Zeitung), Weekly Illustrated and Ce Soir, and he was very well stocked with film through four main sources:
a) Richard de Rochemont, to whom Henry Luce himself had ordered in mid December 1937 to send abundant 35 mm film by plane to Robert Capa, because Life (which had started his relationship with Bob publishing in late December 1936 some of the pictures that he had made in Madrid during the two last weeks of November and first week of December of that year) wanted to put top effort in the photographic coverage of Teruel battle.
Rochemont (who had a bank account opened in Paris by Henri Luce to pay all the outlays that could arise) was in contact with the Agfa Gevaert factories at Mortsel and Amberes (Belgium) through Hendrik Kuijpers (Technical Director) and R.G.Tritsmans (Engineering Head), along with the big German factory of the industrial conglomerate I.G.Farben at Wolfen, and also with some distributors of Agfa film in the French capital.
And following Luce´s instructions, Rochemont sent Valencia by plane during the third week of September 1937 a significant quantity of spools of Belgian Agfa Gevaert 35 mm film, German Agfa 35 mm film and Kodak Nitrate SS Panchro 35 mm film (earlier, when he was less famous, he had used Eastman Kodak panchromatic nitrate 35 mm cinema film lacking frames numbering and introduced in chassis of different length, which was cheaper), knowing that Capa would begin taking pictures in Teruel on December 21, 1937, as it happened (Bob went on going daily to Teruel departing from Valencia from that day until December 24, 1937, travelling then to Barcelona, where he stayed until January 2, 1937, when he came back to the city of Teruel, which abandoned for ever on the night of December 3, 1937, returning to Paris - two weeks later, on January 21,1938, he sailed from Marseilles together with John Fernhout on board of the ship Aramis bounding for China, where he arrived on February 16, 1938, staying in that country until September 22, 1938).
And when Capa came back from Teruel to Valencia with his exposed 35 mm rolls, the plane took them to Paris (in an operation financed by Henry Luce with his own wherewithal and which was fulfilled with utter secrecy), where Csiki Weisz developed them.
Capa had been using this system above all since May 12, 1937, when he took on board of a 8 cylinder engine Packard 120 car the 35 mm rolls he had exposed during the Battle of Monte Sollube to Lamiako Airport, located in the outskirts of Bilbao, where a plane was waiting for him, and its pilot flew to Biarritz, sending the exposed 35 mm rolls through urgent certified mail to Paris, where they were picked up by Csiki Weisz, who developed them, made the contacts and sent the best pictures to Ce Soir, which published a comprehensive reportage.
b) Regards French magazine, which had been buying photographs from Capa for a lot of months. Regards editors were very happy with the picture essays they had published including pictures made by Capa in different fronts of the Spanish Civil War, that had made them outstandingly increase their publication sales (above all thanks to the great reportage published in the number 10 of December 1936 titled La Capitale Crucifiee, with excellent layout made by the artist Édouard Pignon, art director of the magazine) and they also sent frequently film to Bob.
Not in vain, Regards had been the publication which had sent Capa to Madrid as a photojournalist in two different trips by himself: the first between November 18 and December 5, 1936 and the other one in January, only being a pair of days in the latter.
c) Leon Daniel, director of Pix Photographic Agency in New York, who had hired Capa during his trip to New York in October 1937.
Bob wasn´t satisfied with the results of Black Star Agency which had previously represented him in United States, so he decided to work for Leon Daniel, who was besides the brother of his friend Henri Daniel, that had been one of his first agents in Paris since 1935.
On the other hand, Capa managed to convince Leon Daniel to also hire his brother Cornell as an agency darkroom assistant - Cornell had already experience in such scope, because during the second half of June and July of 1936, he had worked in Paris as an apprentice of the Hungarian photographer Emeric Fehér, and at the same time, he made copies on paper of pictures taken by Bandi in the bathroom of a room he hired in the Hötel de Blois which had been turned into a darkroom.
Moreover, Capa also managed to get that Leon Daniel gave employment to his friend Ladislaus Glück - who had been Simon Guttman´s financial director and creative assistant in early thirties and had helped Bob in 1931 during his stage in Dephot Berlin- as a writer of picture captions.
d) Csiki Weisz, a great friend of Capa since his childhood in Budapest and his darkroom man in Paris. Weisz lived and spent a lot of daily hours in the darkroom of Capa Attelier in rue Frondivaux, 37, Paris -where Bob had moved in early 1937- developing his 35 mm film rolls, and unlike 1934, 1935 and 1936 when they got through frequent economical problems, their incomes had greatly increased since February 1937, Capa sold pictures to many different important illustrated magazines and he had already hired Csiki Weisz with a fixed salary, paying him a monthly percentage of the earnings.
Weisz was a highly methodical and disciplined man, sporting a remarkable manual skill, and a top-notch film developer and printer, deeply knowing both the features of the chemical b & w emulsions used by Capa and his style of getting pictures. He was also a great admirer of Capa, both as a human being and as a photographer. Once the 35 mm film rolls exposed by Capa arrived in Paris, Weisz developed them and made the contacts and necessary copies, likewise often carrying out the sending of the most representative photographs to the most important and best paying media.
Csiki Weisz sent as much film as he could - bought in Paris- to Capa through certified mail, wherever he was.
IT IS NOT TRUE THAT THERE WEREN´T FRANCOIST TROOPS ON THE AREA AT THOSE MOMENTS
Also according to the Hipothesis of Pepe Pásame Los Alicates (Pepe Hand Me The Pliers !), ´it is impossible that the Republican soldier on the tree was shot by an enemy sniper, because at those moments there weren´t Francoist troops in the zone´, which is utterly uncertain.
Evidently, between December 21-24 1937, when Capa makes the picture, Republican troops hold a sway over both inside the city of Teruel (where only the approximately 4,000 men of colonel Rey d´Harcourt - Francoist 52th Division- resist in various strongholds, specially in the Palacio de la Gobernación and in the Seminary) and its outskirts.
The offensive planned by general Vicente Rojo and Hernández Saravia - knowing that Franco had a total of twelve divisions concentrated from Jalón Valley to Medinaceli, and also in Guadalajara province since early December of 1937 to try launching the definitive attack on Madrid- attains the necessary surprise factor and is successful because of the overwhelming numerical superiority (60,000 attacking Republican soldiers against roughly 4,000 Francoist defenders), the compelling need of offering a victory to the public opinion and the thrust of an already highly experienced Enrique Líster, who - in the same way as had happened in Brunete five months and a half before- is the one breaking the front on December 15, 1937 with his 11th Division, until conquering the village of Concud- 6 km on the northwest of Teruel city- and its surrounding hills.
At the same time, the XVIII Republican Army Corps (34 and 64 Divisions) under the command of colonel Fernández-Heredia, advances across the south towards the city, putting the Francoist defenders of Puerto Escandón (around 16 km in the southeast of Teruel) to flight, to such an extent that on December 17, 1937, both units contact each other and complete the pincer movement on Teruel, which is wholly encircled by abundant Republican troops equipped with 400 cannons, 100 T-26 and BT-5 tanks and around 120 aircraft as an aerial support.
On its turn, the center of the Republican onslaught is performed by the XX Army Corps under the command of lieutenant colonel Leopoldo Menéndez, while the right wing of the Republican attack is made up by a column of more than 16,000 men and 15,000 more in reserve, they all under the command of colonel Juan Ibarrola.
Líster and Fernández-Heredia decide to quickly attack the Muela of Teruel, a hill located on the west of the city (and featuring a huge strategic significance, since you can dominate Teruel with artillery from it), which is speedily attained, with the city being finally captured on December 18, 1937 by the Republican 34 Division.
Thousands and thousands of Republican soldiers go on arriving at the outskirts of Teruel, and the percentage of Francoist soldiers in the outer perimeter of the city are suffering heavy casualties and are about to be routed, so colonel Domingo Rey D´Harcourt decides to withdraw his men to the urban area of the city, setting up a house by house battle, striving after slowing the Republican victory as much as possible and trying to gain time for the Francoist reinforcements to arrive, in such a way that the following day, the Republican forces attack in the zones of football ground - captured by the 34th Division- and the cemetery, already almost touching the built-up area of Teruel.
From December 19, 1937, Francoist troops under the command of general Aranda (81th and 84th Francoist Divisions) arrive at the outskirts of Teruel, but their effectives are not enough to be able to break the siege, so they devote themselves to watch the enemy positions in the outskirts of Teruel (so as to look for breach points through which to attack in mid term and try to break the siege when further reinforcements arrive) and to hinder the telegraph and telephone communications of the siegers with the outer areas as much as possible, because it is very important for Franco to avoid by all means the real time communication of the Republican high commanders sieging Teruel with Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia.
Between 19 and the night of December 20, 1937, the Republican XX Army Corps conquers the Francoist positions in Puerto Escandón and Castralvo.
El Campesino - once the way has been previously cleared by Líster´s 11th Division, colonel Fernández-Heredia´s XVIII Army Corps and general Walter´s 35th Division- strikes through the central area, endeavouring to reach the Plaza del Torico as soon as possible, which he doesn´t manage to achieve due to the Numantine defense made by colonel Rey D´Harcourt, who has been given the order to fight to the death if necessary by Franco.
But on December 22, the Republican troops manage to force their way up to the Plaza del Torico, which is captured after a massive use of ordnance and attacks with T-26 and BT-5 tanks.
From that moment on, the fight becomes even more fierce, and colonel Rey D´Harcourt´s contingents of Francoist troops retreat to the south of the city with the aim of keeping on delaying the advance of Republican troops as much as possible, fortified inside the Hotel Aragón, the Civil Government building, the Seminary, the Bank of Spain and the Santa Clara convent, waiting for Francoist reinforcements.
Teruel turns into a small scale Stalingrad, soldiers of both sides fight house by house and the Republican troops are bound to steadily use artillery, hand grenades and dynamite to be able to surrender the Francoist defenders, shelling building by building.
Casualties in both sides are very heavy.
Capa arrives in Teruel on December 21, 1937 at first hour in the morning. He gets a lot of pictures of Republican soldiers and officials, with a very cold temperature of -10º C and he comes back to Valencia in the evening, with his first exposed 35 mm film rolls of Teruel Battle.
The following day, Capa makes contact in Valencia with Ernest Hemingway, the American journalist Herbert Matthews (reporter of the New York Times and a personal friend of Robert Capa) and the British journalist Dennis Sefton Delmer (head of the Paris office of The Daily Telegraph). The three are also making the daily round trip to Teruel inside Matthew´s car.
From that moment, on December 22, 23 and 24, 1937, Capa makes daily the route Valencia-Teruel / Teruel-Valencia, taking many more pictures in Teruel during the morning and afternoon, and returning in the evening to the Turia capital with the exposed 35 mm film rolls.
On December 24, 1937 in the evening, Capa delivers the package with all of the 35 mm films he has exposed in Teruel during the mornings and afternoons of December 21, 22, 23 and 24 to the pilot of the plane (who has arrived once more in Valencia from Paris, chartered by Richard de Rochemont, fulfilling the mission given to him by Henry Luce -who is the person really financing the whole project with his own wherewithal-) for the pilot to take them to the French capital and deliver to Csiki Weisz for its development and contacts.
Then, Capa travels by car to Barcelona with Ernest Hemingway, Herbert Matthews and Dennis Sefton Delmer, to spend the Christmas Eve in the Condal City.
Just the following day after the arrival of Capa in Barcelona, Vicente Rojo (Head of the Republican High Command) travels from Teruel to Barcelona, and shortly after, he returns to Madrid, a piece of news that arrives at the Francoist high commanders, who take the opportunity to try to break the siege of Teruel on December 29, 1937, by means of a great offensive made by generals Varela and Aranda, during which major García Valiño and major Muñoz Grandes (other two Francoist high commanders with a lot of years of experience in battle in the Spanish Army of Africa), in spite of not having abundant effectives, conquer La Muela, and from there they have Teruel at their artillery reach, but a night counterattack made by the 70th Republican division under the command of Nilamón Toral Azcona makes them step back, though García Valiño recovers the position twenty-four hours later in the middle of a bloodshed in which every advanced meter means dozens of killed soldiers.
Casualties go on being very heavy on both sides. The Republican forces greatly dominate the situation, but there´s the possibility that Francoist troops try to once again focus their assaults on specific points to break the siege, so Vicente Rojo decides to come back to Teruel on December 31, 1937.
Capa and the three journalists go on being in Barcelona, where they have spent the Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and December 31 of 1937, the last day of the year. They have witnessed between December 21-24, 1937 the success of the Republican attack and the victory that was about to be achieved, with the whole conquest of Teruel, because only the last Francoist redoubts remained to be captured.
Suddenly, on January 1, 1938, when Capa , Hemingway Matthews and Sefton Delmer are still in Barcelona, they are reported that a great mess has arisen regarding what is happening in Teruel, because Fracoist radio broadcast stations and newspapers are telling that Francoist troops have recaptured the city of Teruel.
The four of them become astonished. That is impossible, because only seven days before, almost the whole city was in Republican hands and they were about to conquer the last buildings with colonel Rey D´ Harcourt´s effectives inside.
Stress does increase continuously. They know it can´t be true, but in those instants, everybody in Barcelona, Madrid and Valencia has doubts. It´s impossible to know what is really happening in Teruel.
Reality is that Franco has decided to try to break the siege, but he hasn´t reconquered Teruel at all ( he won´t be able to capture it again until February 22, 1938, during the Alfambra offensive).
Francoist generals Varela and Aranda have attempted to try the siege on December 29 and 30, finding an exceedingly strong Republican resistance, and on December 31, 1937, they have managed to reach La Muela by dint of heavy casualties.
General Varela is in permanent contact with colonel Yagüe. Both of them know that they need more days to be able to send reinforcements to the area, above all the dreaded elite Barron´s 13th Division and the 5th Division, which is not possible in the short term, due to the great Republican numerical superiority in the area and the very low temperatures and thick snow everywhere, hampering the transport of troops and supplies.
On December 31, 1938, Francoist troops have tried to get a breaking point approaching to the first houses of Teruel and infiltrating up to the railways station of the city.
The temperature is already extremely low, with a thermal feeling of -26º C.
During the night of that December 31, 1937, there´s an impasse moment in which some Republican units make a helter-skelter flight, believing that they were being attacked by en masse reinforcements of the Francoist Army of Africa.
These Francoist troops under the command of Varela and Aranda are still scarce in the area, but have had even the chance of attaining a breakage point and attempting to free the Seminar - stubbornly defended by colonel Barba and some hundred soldiers-, but general Varela convinces Franco to order these troops to come back to their departing points, because the weather forecast announces an exceedingly snowfall and a drop of temperatures up to around -18º C and they haven´t got enough quantity of men to face the unsurmountable Republican superiority in the area, without tabors of Regulares and legionnaries who can perform encircling manoeuvers.
Varela´s forestalling, who is in steady contact with Franco, has enabled to free those infiltrated Francoist forces from a certain death, because since January 1, 1938, Vicente Rojo, a remarkable strategist, on being aware of the incursion of enemy troops, reads perfectly the context, reorganizes the Republican forces in Teruel and launches a massive counterattack which puts the most advanced Francoist troops to flight, making them withdraw to their starting area in La Muela, where they entrench themselves.
The convent of Santa Clara has also fallen on January 1, 1938, with the Francoist defenders inside it having died up to the last man, and Vicente Rojo orders to assault the Comandancia Militar (Command Headquarters) as soon as possible, a task for which he will need two further days.
Franco is reported by Varela that the last defensive strongholds of colonel Rey D´Harcourt in Teruel are about to fall in Republican hands (which will happen on January 8, 1938), and they haven´t got enough forces to launch a successfully guaranteed attack to break the siege against the many Republican divisions present in the area without the help of units of the Army of Africa, specially Fernando Barrón´s 13th Division - which is at those moments in the area of Salinas de Medinaceli (Soria)- and Franco won´t be able to begin his Alfambra offensive until January 17, 1938, which will result in the recapture of Teruel in late February.
The Francoist high commanders need to gain time, so - something common in both sides during the Spanish Civil War- they have chosen to spread the radiophonic and newspaper false rumour of announcing something that isn´t obviously true: the reconquering of Teruel by Francoist troops on January 1, 1938.
But the false piece of news has the desired effect. Besides, telephone and telegraph communications between Teruel and the rest of important Spanish cities have been cut by small contingents of Francoist troops infiltrated through different points and hindering any Republican attempt of laying telephone or telegraph wire.
Truth is that the Republican forces are about to conquer the 100% of urban Teruel (which will take place on January 8, 1938, with the surrendering of the last Francoist defenders and colonel Barba in the Seminar, after the capitulation of colonel Domingo Rey D´Harcourt at the Military Headquarters the day before).
But the city is practically without real time communication, with the telephone and telegraph lines greatly sabotaged in the outskirts.
The false piece of news of the reconquest of Teruel by Francoist troops on January 1, 1938, arrives that same day at Henry Luce himself, who needs to publish the reportage with Capa´s photographs as soon as possible to show a Republican victory in Teruel.
The boss of Life magazine and Time Inc. communicates with Richard de Rochemont and orders him to contact Capa in Barcelona within the shortest feasible time and send him again to Teruel to take new pictures and attest to what is really happening.
This way, Capa is telephoned by Richard de Rochemont, who gives him the new instructions, and sends him more 35 mm films. Life has invested a lot of time, effort and money to get Capa´s reportage at any cost, so they need to verify on the spot what is truly taking place in Teruel.
On the other hand, Richard Whelan states in his biography on Capa that on January 2, 1938, telephone and telegraph communications with Teruel went on cut, so in the morning of that day, Capa and Matthews went out from Barcelona on the latter´s car bound for Teruel, and on arriving at a port located 30 km from the city, they found a huge traffic jam of Republican military vehicles, because from that point on, the road was covered by a half a metre layer of snow, so it took them eight hours to cross the port, until they reached the Port of El Ragudo, then managing to go down to the area of Barracas where they could have dinner with some Republican soldiers.
The following day January 3, 1938, Capa and Matthews discovered that the Francoists had advanced very much and had been attacking the city for some days with their artillery and aircraft, but most of Teruel was still in Republican hands.
Capa made a lot of further photographs during the morning and afternoon of this day, being witness of some of the hardest moments of the battle, above all the frontal attack with grenades and fixed bayonets made by the Republican soldiers on the charred building of the Palace of the Civil Governor, inside whose ruins the last Francoist defenders resisted, after the blowing up of the façade.
Capa returned with Herbert Matthews to Barcelona during the night of that same day, and there he mounted on a plane which took him to Paris, where he delivered all the 35 mm films he had exposed on January 3, 1938 to Csiki Weisz at number 37 of rue Froidevaux, venue of Capa Attelier.
Note 1.- Some persons have stated that ´the Republican soldier appearing on a tree in the negative number 6 can´t have been shot by a rifle bullet, because in that case, ´on being on such a weak support´, he would have fallen on the ground as a consequence of the bullet impact, and so, the soldier depicted in the image is alive´, which is not true.
Aside from the aforementioned different factors and evidence, it is important to know that from a ballistic viewpoint, the 7 x 57 mm caliber doesn´t excel in a tremendous hitting power, but for its great accuracy, very long range and huge penetration power, keeping an exceedingly flat trajectory and a very high speed for the time of 730 m / seg, so in the hands of an experienced shooter (and every Francoist division had many of them, both the Iberian Peninsula units and the one belonging to the Army of Africa, above all the Moroccan soldiers of tabors of Regulares and the legionnaires) using long barrel Model 1893 7 x 57 mm Mauser rifles or Mosquetón Mauser Model 1916 made in Oviedo, was able to accurately kill up to distances of 1000 and even 1200 meters if the gun was leant on a firm base, because they are rifles designed for long distance shooting with a bullet generating scarce recoil, which optimizes accuracy.
During the period 1936-1939, from a military viewpoint, the Mauser rifles shooting this 7 x 57 mm caliber bullets were the best in the world regarding accuracy at medium and long ranges and also as to penetration power, so if it made impact on a vital area, it was hugely lethal and pierced the victim´s body at a great speed.
But it could only be used at such long distances by expert snipers (popularly known as ´pacos´) featuring a lot of combat experience.
It was masively used by both sides during the Spanish Civil War, though it is true that usually the Mauser rifles and mosquetones used by the Francoist Army (above all the Army of Africa units) were in better condition, and besides, a high percentage of the Republoican Army divisions were equipped with Mosin-Nagant calibre 7.62 x 54R rifles, often in bad condition (including Líster´s 11th Division) and featuring a triangular bayonet.
Therefore, the reasons for which the Republican soldier on the tree doesn´t fall from it into the ground is that the 7 x 57 mm caliber bullet kills him on the spot or within very few seconds after the impact, and pierces his body at great speed, but on not being a caliber featuring a great hitting power, the upper half of the Republican soldier body (that´s to say, approximately from waist upwards) is thrown backwards on receiving the shot, but the soldier doesn´t fall down because a great percentage of his weight is resting on thick branches of the tree (backside, right foot and lower area of his left thigh), while his right hand which was pulling from a telephone cable, has remained inert or with its last energy for very few seconds more - which is the most probable-, leant on a thicker branch than could be thought in the beginning.
And as a defensive reaction on feeling the impact of the bullet, the soldier´s left hand has grabbed a thick branch (it can be seen in one of the selective enlargements we´ve made, that there has just been a loss of grabbing strength and only three fingers of the left hand are already grasping the branch, while his upper right arm area and the weight of his body in that zone is supported by another branch mainly in shadow, while his back is held by two V shaped and sunlit very thick branches whose arms reach the left border of the frame and converge on his other extreme near the right shoulder of the soldier, and we also see a lot of other less thick branches helping to hold the soldier body.
It is possible that if the Republican soldier killed or mortally wounded by a 7 x 57 mm bullet would have been hit by a superior caliber and much powerful bullet (both if the projectile impacts on a vital area or not) like the 7.62 x 54R Mosin Nagant or Dragunov, 7.62 x 51 (308 Winchester), 30-06 Springfield, 270 Winchester with 130 grains load, 300 Weatherby Magnum, 338 Lapua Magnum, etc (we won´t mention Nitro-Express ammunition because it belongs to another much more powerful sphere) he would have fallen to the ground - or maybe not, because the soldier has his body leant on some different points of the tree, which have stopped his sudden bending backwards, though of course, such a hypothetical fall would have been more probable, due to the much higher power of these calibers-.
But not with a 7 x 57 mm caliber Mauser bullet, featuring much lesser hitting power and smaller size regarding calibers sporting more power and volume, a reason for which it was chosen nothing less than by the English John Rigby, one of the greatest experts on hunting cartridges of all time, who used it in some of his best rifle designs, changing its name to .275 Rigby caliber, trying to compete in African hunting with nitro-express rifles featuring far superior caliber and hitting power.
The 7 x 57 mm bullet was also very used by the Scottish hunter Karamojo Bell, who between 1902 and 1920 shot a great number of elephants in Africa, which made him always impact on a vital area, because of the much lesser hitting power of 7 x 57 mm caliber in comparison with the nitro-express ammunition often used by the African hunters of the four biggest animals (elephant, rhino, hippo and buffalo), but the scarce recoil of the rifle being an exact copy of the Spanish Mauser model 1893 7 x 57 mm caliber (made for him by John Rigby) with which he shot, its great flat trajectory for around two kilometers, its 131 grains (11 grams) smokeless powder load and its high sectional density enabling it to mount long and heavy projectiles, along with its huge penetration power and accuracy in long distance shots, made it possible that this bullet was able to kill big pachyderms at much longer ranges ( in some cases up to 600 meters) than other hunters using much more powerful ammunition featuring lesser speed, much higher recoil and much lesser accuracy and penetration at medium and long distances.
Therefore, if the 7 x 57 mm caliber (.275 Rigby) was able to get those results with elephants at medium and long distances, whenever the impact of the bullet was on a vital area, you can imagine its lethal effect on a human being, but with much lesser hitting power and throwing of the victim backwards than with many other more powerful calibers.
Note 2.- During the last twenty years, there have been persons supporting the thesis that the Republican soldier on the tree in frame 6 was on a watching mission, which is not true.
This understandable error was due to the fact that in the image of the Republican soldier climbed on a tree (negative number 6) a triangular elongated and in shadow area can be seen, whose border is lit and it can be mistaken for a pair of binoculars.
But the great darkroom craftsman Csiki Weisz, fully aware about the significance of Mackie lines, after receiving the Teruel 35 mm film rolls exposed by Capa almost three quarters of a century ago, used concentrated high acutance Agfa Rodinal developer, which made possible to increase the sharpness of the border effects inherent to the 35 mm format Agfa panchromatic film exposed by Bob in Teruel, so Emerico Imre Weisz achieved to create the best feasible 35 mm negative along with its contact, getting top contours definition and discernment of details at the Capa Atelier in 37, rue Frondivaux, Paris.
Thanks to it, 75 years later, the selective enlargement of that area of the picture reveals that what could easily thought to be watching the complete photograph as a pair of binoculars hanging from the neck and located on the Republican soldier chest by his left hand, is really the right lapel of the soldier coat.
Copyright Text: José Manuel Serrano Esparza. Leica Historical Society of America.
Inscribed in the Territorial Register of the Intellectual Property of Madrid
Other articles on Robert Capa:
ROBERT CAPA, CHINA 1938: FIRST KODACHROME WAR PHOTOGRAPHIES IN HISTORY
ROBERT CAPA´S FIRST LEICA SOLD DURING THE HISTORICAL 22ND WESTLICHT CAMERA AUCTION