sábado, 24 de agosto de 2013

LOS BLÁZQUEZ (CÓRDOBA) 1937 : DESCUBIERTA LA UBICACIÓN EXACTA DE TRES FOTOGRAFÍAS HECHAS POR GERDA TARO

ENGLISH

Los Blázquez (Córdoba), visto desde el imponente afloramiento rocoso de la Piedra Zuchá. Este bello pueblo, situado al noroeste de la sierra cordobesa, fue visitado por Gerda Taro a mediados de Mayo de 1937.

Tras algo más de dos años de investigación que iniciamos en Julio de 2011, elrectanguloenlamano.blogspot.com ha podido hallar la ubicación exacta en la que Gerda Taro hizo tres fotografías dentro del pueblo de Los Blázquez.

Dichas imágenes aparecen en la página 201 del libro de dos tomos La Maleta Mexicana editado por ICP/Steidl, que incluye 4.500 contactos de 35 mm de fotografías realizadas por Fred Stein (en París en 1936)), así como Robert Capa, Gerda Taro y David Seymour ´Chim´ entre 1936 y 1939, durante la Guerra Civil Española en distintos frentes y ciudades, y cuyos negativos originales fueron revelados en París por Csiki Weisz.

Las tres fotografías objeto de este artículo, en las que aparece un joven soldado republicano sentado sobre una silla (con otra silla desocupada visible a su lado) y equipado con mosquetón Mauser calibre 7 x 57 mm (en cuya boca del cañón hay una flor probablemente introducida por Gerda Taro) y bayoneta larga específica de 40 cm con funda de cuero con extremos en metal sujeta al cinto mediante tahalí y abrazaderas

                      Photo: Gerda Taro. © ICP New York

                      Photo: Gerda Taro. © ICP New York

                      Photo: Gerda Taro. © ICP New York

fueron hechas dentro del pueblo de Los Blázquez, concretamente en la zona central de la calle Fuentes, una de las más antiguas de la villa.

        Zona central de la calle Fuentes de Los Blázquez hoy en día. 

Gerda Taro acudió a Los Blázquez a finales de Mayo de 1937 para fotografiar a las tropas de las Brigadas Internacionales (específicamente el batallón Henri Vuillemin, perteneciente a la XIII Brigada Internacional y constituido mayormente por combatientes franceses y belgas) que pocas semanas antes, durante la tarde del 5 de Abril de 1937, habían reconquistado el pueblo tras dura lucha contra las tropas franquistas, como parte de un plan que incluyó también la captura de Valsequillo (4 de Abril de 1937) y La Granjuela (5 de Abril de 1937 por la mañana), constituyéndose con estos tres pueblos un triángulo que sumado a Fuenteobejuna habría de servir de plataforma para un ulterior ataque sobre Peñarroya, en poder de las tropas franquistas, y que por su gran riqueza minera era un objetivo prioritario para los altos mandos republicanos.

La lucha de tropas republicanas y franquistas por Los Blázquez fue tal desde Abril de 1937 hasta muy pocos meses antes del final de la guerra, que incluso todavía el 7 de Enero de 1939 el XXII Cuerpo de Ejército Republicano fue capaz de conquistar nuevamente Los Blázquez por asalto, tras dura lucha casa por casa con las fuerzas franquistas, aunque no consiguieron capturar Peñarroya, defendida muy tenazmente por las divisiones franquistas 60ª, 112ª y 122ª. 

TRES FOTOGRAFÍAS INTERESANTES
Aunque las tres imágenes no reflejan acción, ya que en esos momentos no había combates ni en Los Blázquez ni en sus inmediaciones, las imágenes son altamente informativas, ya que captan claramente cual era la situación del pueblo en esos momentos, completamente ocupado por tropas republicanas y brigadas internacionales.

Sobre todo la fotografía en la que se aprecia buena parte de la zona central de la calle Fuentes, es muy significativa, 

                      Photo: Gerda Taro. © ICP New York

ya que en ella vemos al soldado republicano que aparece sentado sobre la silla, mientras que en la mitad superior izquierda de la foto hay tres mujeres (una de las cuales lleva un niño en brazos) de pie, un niño también de pie de unos séis años y pantalón corto oscuro.

Asimismo, vamos a un soldado republicano con gorro isabelino dotado con borla (visible justo detrás del niño con indumentaria clara que es sujetado en brazos por su madre que lleva vestido negro), un soldado republicano con mono oscuro que camina de espaldas a la cámara en dirección al fondo de la calle y a una anciana vestida de negro que lleva en su mano izquierda una cesta de mimbre.

Destaca también en la imagen la presencia de un oficial republicano con gorra de plato, que aparece muy cerca del borde superior izquierdo del fotograma, camina por mitad de la calle, y se cruza con la anciana de vestido negro, avanzando con dirección ligeramente a la izquierda de la posición en la que se encuentra Gerda Taro con su Leica III y objetivo Leitz Summar 5 cm f/2.

Por otra parte, es también relevante la imagen en la que aparece el mismo soldado republicano sentado en la silla y a su derecha una mujer joven que sostiene a su bebé envuelto en una manta mientras un niño de unos cuatro años (probablemente su hijo mayor) aparece con un aro metálico que tiene asido alrededor de su cadera, ya que pese al carácter estático y carente de movimiento o acción de esta fotografía, el contexto bélico está muy latente mediante la contraposición de la madre con sendos vástagos y el soldado sentado en la silla, armado con un mosquetón Mauser calibre 7 x 57 mm y una bayoneta larga de casi 40 cm provista de hoja de acero con superficie acanalada en cada una de sus caras, que es capaz de provocar terribles heridas en los combates cuerpo a cuerpo.

Taro, mujer de notable sensibilidad y perspicacia, lo percibe e introduce la flor en el arma como mensaje de paz (al igual que Capa, odiaba la guerra) anticipándose en varias décadas al simbolismo conceptual de famosas fotografías como Young Girl with Flower de Mark Riboud (captando a la estudiante de diecisiete años Jan Rose Kasmir mostrando una margarita a soldados que intentan parar una manifestación con fusiles con bayonetas caladas) o a la también famosa Flower Power (realizada por Bernie Boston, fotógrafo del Washington Star, al actor de dieciocho años George Harris de Nueva York introduciendo flores en la boca de fusiles de asalto de policías militares antidisturbios) hechas en 1967 en Washington durante las protestas contra la Guerra de Vietnam. 

Así pues, la fotoperiodista fotografía la atmósfera reinante en Los Blázquez, donde conviven con toda la cotidianeidad posible, dadas las circunstancias, las tropas republicanas y la población civil, siempre teniendo muy presente que esta villa estuvo durante mucho tiempo, de manera ininterrumpida, muy próxima al frente de combates de la zona entre el 5 de Abril de 1937 (fecha de la captura del pueblo por el batallón Henri Vuillemin) y el 26 de Enero de 1939 (cuando la 74ª División franquista capturó definitivamente Los Blázquez) y que el propio pueblo fue escenario de algunos cruentos combates durante un período de casi dos años consecutivos.

Por tal motivo, Los Blázquez fue muy dañado durante la Guerra Civil Española y el pueblo tuvo que ser notablemente reconstruido en el marco del Programa de Regiones Devastadas que se aplicó tras la finalización del conflicto y que duró hasta 1957, por lo que se produjeron algunas inevitables modificaciones en el trazado de sus calles, sobre todo estrechando las aceras (que durante los años treinta eran mucho más anchas, ya que el tráfico rodado de automóviles particulares a motor era por entonces prácticamente inexistente).

CÁMARA Y OBJETIVO UTILIZADOS
Gerda Taro utilizó una Leica III con objetivo Leitz Summar 5 cm f/2 de 6 elementos en 4 grupos, sin parasol y cuyo elemento frontal presentaba algunas marcas de limpieza.





76 AÑOS DESPUÉS
Han transcurrido setenta y séis años desde que la fotoperiodista alemana de origen judío Gerda Taro estuvo haciendo fotografías en el pueblo de Los Blázquez y sus inmediaciones.

Hoy en día, Los Blázquez, situado 97 km al norte de Córdoba capital, posee una población de aproximadamente 800 habitantes, cuya economía se basa mayormente en la agricultura y ganadería, sin olvidar la producción de aceites de gran nivel como el elaborado por la cooperativa olivarera artesanal Las Cinco Villas (nacida de la fusión de las cooperativas de Valsequillo y Los Blázquez y basada en la soberbia variedad picual de aceituna producida por el olivo Olea Europeae como producto base para su transformación en uno de los mejores aceites de oliva virgen del mundo, caracterizado por su impresionante estabilidad, rendimiento graso que supera con frecuencia el 25%, y óptima cantidad de antioxidantes naturales).

Por otra parte, destacan también los abundantes paisajes que enmarcan con gran belleza a este municipio cordobés situado entre Los Pedroches y el Alto Guadiato.

E incluso a veces, cuando llega el anochecer,

Los Blázquez visto desde la Piedra de Zuchá, diez minutos antes de caer la noche.

la emoción puede alcanzar inefables cotas imaginando a Gerda Taro haciendo fotos en Los Blázquez y sus alrededores hace ya tres generaciones, dos meses antes de su muerte aplastada por un tanque T-24B a las afueras norte de Villanueva de la Cañada el 25 de Julio de 1937, durante la última jornada de la Batalla de Brunete.


Y a las 4 de la madrugada, cuando reina el silencio en Los Blázquez, 76 años después, las sensaciones son ciertamente indescriptibles.

Copyright Texto y Fotos Indicadas: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

LOS BLÁZQUEZ (CÓRDOBA) 1937 : DISCOVERED THE ACCURATE LOCATION OF THREE PHOTOGRAPHS MADE BY GERDA TARO

SPANISH

Los Blázquez (Córdoba), seen from the imposing rock outcrop of the Piedra Zuchá. This beautiful village, placed in the northwest of the Cordovan range, was visited by Gerda Taro in mid May 1937.

After a bit more than two years of a research that we started in July 2011, elrectanguloenlamano.blogspot.com has been able to find the accurate location in which Gerda Taro made three pictures inside the village of Los Blázquez (Córdoba).

These images appear on page 201 of the two volume book The Mexican Suitcase, edited by ICP/Steidl and that includes 4,500 35 mm contacts of photographs made by Fred Stein (in Paris in 1936) along with Robert Capa, Gerda Taro and David Seymour ´Chim´ between 1936 and 1939, during the Spanish Civil War in different fronts and cities, and whose original negatives were developed by Csiki Weisz in Paris.

The three pictures dealt on in this article, in which appear a young Republican soldier sitting on a chair (with another unoccupied chair visible beside him) and equipped with a Mosquetón Mauser caliber 7 x 57 mm (in whose barrel muzzle there´s a flower probably introduced by Gerda Taro) and specific 40 cm long bayonet with leather sheath and metallic ends stuck to the belt through a baldric and clamps

                             Photo: Gerda Taro. © ICP New York.

                                 Photo: Gerda Taro. © ICP New York

                             Photo: Gerda Taro. © ICP New York

were made inside the village of Los Blázquez, specifically  in the middle area of Fuentes Street, one of the oldest in the township.

                 Current middle area of Fuentes Street in Los Blázquez.

Gerda Taro went to Los Blázquez in mid May 1937 to photograph the International Brigades troops (namely the Henri Vuillemin battalion, belonging to the XIII International Brigade, mostly made up by French and Belgian combatants) that a few weeks before, during the afternoon of April 5, 1937, had reconquered the village after hard fight against the Francoist troops, as a part of a scheme that also included the capture of Valsequillo (April 4, 1937) and La Granjuela (April 5, 1937 in the morning), with these three villages making up a triangle that together with Fuenteobejuna could be used as a platform for a further attack on Peñarroya, in the hands of the Francoist troops and which was a top priority target for the Republican high commanders because of its great mining wealth.

The fight between Republican and Francoist troops for Los Blázquez was so fierce from April 1937 to very few months before the end of the war, that even on January 7, 1939, the Republican XXII Army Corps was able to assault Los Blázquez and capture it again after hard struggle house by house against the Francoist troops, albeit they didn´t manage to seize Peñarroya, defended very stubbornly by the 60ª, 112ª and 122ª divisions. 

THREE INTERESTING PHOTOGRAPHS
Though the three images don´t show action, since there weren´t any combats either in Los Blázquez or its surroundings at those moments, they´re highly informative, because they clearly depict which was the village situation then, utterly occupied by Republican forces and International Brigades.

The photograph in which can be seen a good part of the middle zone of Fuentes Street is specially meaningful,

                            Photo: Gerda Taro. © ICP New York

because we can watch the Republican soldier sitting on it, while on the upper left half of the picture there are three standing women (one of them is holding a child in her arms) and an also standing child being approximately 6 years old and wearing dark short trousers.

Likewise, we can see a Republican soldier wearing a Elizabethan cap with tassle (visible just behind the child clad in a clear garment who is held in her arms by her mother wearing a black dress); a Republican soldier wearing a dark overalls, walking with his back to Taro´s camera and going to the end of the street; and an old woman dressed in a dark garment and grabbing a wicker basket in her left hand.

Moreover, the image stands out because of the presence of a Republican officer wearing a military peaked cap, appearing very near the upper left border of the picture, walking through the middle of the street and passing by the old woman with dark attire, advancing following a direction slightly on the left of the spot on which is Gerda Taro with her Leica III rangefinder camera and her non coated Leitz Summar 5 cm f/2 lens.

On the other hand, it´s likewise relevant the photograph in which appears the same Republican soldier sitting on the chair, with a woman on his right holding a baby wrapped in a blanket while an around 4 years old child (probably her elder son) stands with a metallic hoop around his hips, because in spite of the static and lacking movement nature of the picture, the war context is highly latent by means of the contrast between the standing mother with both of her sons and the soldier resting on the chair, equipped with a 1916 Mauser 7 x 57 mm rifle and a lethal bayonet featuring a length of almost 40 cm and a stainless-steel blade with a grooved surface on each of its faces, which is able to make terrible wounds in hand to hand combat.

Taro, a woman sporting remarkable sensitivity and insight, realizes it and gets the flower into the gun as a peace message, conceptually anticipating in three decades the meaningful symbolism of famous pictures like Young Girl with Flower taken by Magnum Agency photographer Marc Riboud (depicting the seventeeen years old student Jan Rose Kasmir showing a daisy to soldiers trying to stop a demostration using rifles with their bayonets sheathed) or the also well-known image Flower Power taken by the Washington Star photographer Bernie Boston to the New York eighteen years old actor George Harris putting flowers inside the barrel muzzles of assault rifles handled by antidemonstration military policemen) made in 1967 during the protests in Washington against Vietnam War.

The photojournalist captures the atmosphere reigning supreme in Los Blázquez, where Republican forces and civil population live together sharing their daily existence the best they can bearing in mind the circumstances, because this township was for a long time, in an uninterrupted way, very near the combats front in the area between April 5, 1937 (date of the capture of the village by the Henri Vuillemin Battallion of the XIII International Brigade) and January 26, 1939 (when the Francoist 74ª Division took definitely Los Blázquez) and that the village itself was scenery of some bloody clashes throughout a period of almost two consecutive years.

That´s why Los Blázquez was badly damaged during the Spanish Civil War and it had to be greatly rebuilt by the Program of Devastated Regions which was applied after the end of the war and lasted until 1957, so there were some inevitable changes in the outline of its streets, above all narrowing the sidewalk (whose surface is nowadays much more reduced than during thirties, since the traffic of particular cars was then almost non existent).

CAMERA AND LENS USED
Gerda Taro used a Leica III with a 6 elements in 4 groups non coated Leitz Summar 5 cm f/2 lens, without shade and whose front element featured some cleaning marks.




76 YEARS LATER
Seventy-six years have elapsed since the German photojournalist of Jewish descent Gerda Taro was getting pictures both inside Los Blázquez village and its surroundings.

Currently, Los Blázquez, placed 97 km in the northwest of Córdoba capital, is a township with a population of around 800 inhabitants, whose economy is mostly based on agriculture and stockbreeding, without forgetting the production of top-drawer oils like the one manufactured by the Las Cinco Villas traditional olive cooperative.

On the other hand, Los Blázquez is prominent because of the abundant landscapes framing this Cordovan township located between Los Pedroches and the High Guadiato.

Even sometimes, when the night falls

Los Blázquez seen from the Piedra de la Zuchá, ten minutes before nightfall.

emotion can reach unutterable peaks imaging Gerda Taro taking pictures in Los Blázquez and its surroundings three generations ago, two months before her death crushed by a T-26B tank in the north outskirts of Villanueva de la Cañada on July 25, 1937, during the last day of Brunete Battle.


And at 4:00 a.m, when silence rules in Los Blázquez, 76 years later, the feelings are truly indescribable.

Copyright Text and Indicated Photographs: José Manuel Serrano Esparza  

martes, 20 de agosto de 2013

TRACY, A DYING CHILD IS BORN. A PHOTOGRAPHIC ESSAY BY CLAIRE YAFFA



In May 1990, Tracy, a condemned to death child, was born in New York, prematurely suffering from the AIDS Virus, and her mother left the hospital after giving birth, abandoning the baby for ever.

Because of the highly complex medical problems derived from the disease, Tracy remained in a hospital until she was eight months old, when she was transferred to the Incarnation Children´s Center for Children with AIDS.

A TURNING POINT IN A PHOTOGRAPHIC CAREER
From scratch, the photographic coverage of Tracy´s evolution since her arrival to the New York Incarnation Children´s Center for Children with AIDS in November 1990, became a significant challenge for  Claire Yaffa in every conceivable respect and put her through her paces in many different sides.

She had already acquired great experience photographing needed people, specially neglected, abused, forgotten and abandoned children during the fulfillment of her first project as a concerned photographer, taking pictures between 1979 and 1987 inside the New York Foundling Hospital and its Crisis Nursery and the constant struggle of its staff to fight against the psychological and physical damages that can last a lifetime, and whose frustration often results in future crime and violence if society doesn´t bear them in mind.

And she had proved to excel at what would be a constant throughout her professional career: a remarkable ability to get an exceedingly difficult to attain level of intimacy, trust and approach with both the young patients and their fathers, mothers or other relatives.

It all had resulted in her picture book Reaching Out, published in 1987.

She had also made a lot of portraits of a number of worldwide acclaimed photographers and had been extensively working for The New York Times and Assocaited Press as a photojournalist.

                                                       © Claire Yaffa            

But Tracy: A Dying Child is Born would be arguably the most important photographic work in her life and the most intimately related with her inner being and essence, in which she´d prove once more her outstanding gift as a photographer but very specially her mettle, true human dimension and sensitivity during the last months of  life of this so little child, whose gruesome context was presided over by her total defenseless reality from the second 1 of her existence:

- Her mother had gone away.

- His father was completely unknown and had been impossible to spot.

- There weren´t any other known relatives and all the efforts made to find them were in vain.

- And above all, the whole eerie context made the photographer to ask herself two extremely difficult to answer questions:

How to tackle getting pictures of such an exceedingly young baby?.

                                        © Claire Yaffa

How to face the absolute certainty that Tracy would die in a short elapse of time as had been stated by the doctors and nurses?

On the other hand, Tracy was eight months old when Claire Yaffa began photographing her, so it was almost impossible to create any empathy with the patient, because there hadn´t been any mutual contact throughout the previous six months in which the little baby was in other hospital, and additionally, her extreme youth made that even her most basical cognitive skills and perceptive abilities weren´t developed yet.

As if this were not enough, Tracy was greatly disabled, to such an extent that unlike other babies of her age, 

                                         © Claire Yaffa

she couldn´t hold up her head, sit up or roll over.

If we add to it the fact that the little Tracy only weighted seven pounds and two ounces, had almost all her vital organs damaged, lost stamina by leaps and bounds and suffered from steady pains all over her body, we can grasp what undertaking this photographic essay meant.

                                        © Claire Yaffa

A gruesome situation ruled from the very beginning to the end, with a lack of hope and an impending death as two certainties known in advance.

PLUCKING UP COURAGE
Under the circumstances, top priority for Stephen W. Nicholas (Medical Director at Incarnation Children´s Center), rest of doctors and nurses and Claire Yaffa was to help Tracy as much as possible, taking care of her to the utmost and trying to make up for the absence of her mother.

Because of the seriousness of Tracy´s disease, she needed constant medical attention 24 hours a day, both when she was awake and asleep, something to which Claire collaborated as much as she could.

Regarding the photographic coverage, it was very important for Claire to do things as silently as possible and with utmost respect, so she got pictures of Tracy at different hours of the day, from every angle and either inside her little bed or in the arms of nurses, because she couldn´t barely move.

                                         © Claire Yaffa

The constant view of the little Tracy intubed, specially when she was conscious, suffering very much, crying and showing in her countenance the harsh pains she was experiencing, was something horrible to watch and not easy to endure.

Impotence, rage, pity, stress and many other things flowed into the mind of the photographer on being witness of this terrible tragedy for which there wasn´t any cure in 1990 and 1991.

But through great spunk, work till exhaustion and love, Claire managed to get the pictures, little by little, toiling to document this exceedingly touching story.

The photographer couldn´t often sleep throughout the night. She frequently woke up with the image of Tracy intubed and suffering coming to head once and again, which resulted in sleep deprivation, progressive increasing fatigue and anguish and above all the unrestlessness brought about by the certainty that nothing could be done from a medical viewpoint to save Tracy, who would suffer more and more every day and would die soon.

In spite of all the many cares, dedication and love she was receiving, Tracy´s life was being a hell.

The photographer tried to grin and bear it the best she could, crying privately at some moments and keeping a steady fight for not showing her feelings and anxiety.

She needed to be brave and she was brave taking pictures of Tracy during four months, in which the photographer strove after focusing 100% on her work and getting the best possible images to tell the story of Tracy, so she decided to forget about fatigue, lack of sleep, significant increase in hunger, overstress, anxiety, etc.

She had a mission to do, a work to implement, however bloodcurdling the context could be, and Tracy and others who could be in her situation in future deserved the effort.

                                        © Claire Yaffa

Therefore, Claire took constantly her Leica M6 with her and got pictures of Tracy while sleeping, being in the arms of nurses, crying, being fed, and also of specific areas of her fragile and emaciated body during meaningful instants.

The photographer had already two grown-up sons in their twenties, so the helpless and exceedingly young Tracy became top priority.

And in the same way as happened with the nurses, Claire also projected a great deal of her maternal instinct on the little baby to take care of her the best she could.

COMPROMISE AND ATTITUDE AS A CONCERNED PHOTOGRAPHER
From a photographic viewpoint, Claire Yaffa took a great level of compromise in this reportage in which she put her soul giving all of herself, developing such a huge involvement that she was repeatedly on the brink of exhaustion to be able to get pictures of Tracy.

                                         © Claire Yaffa

Being steadily at the end of her tether, the desire to document Tracy´s last months of life and to help the little baby as much as possible became the driving force that enabled the photographer to gather the necessary strength to forge ahead this photographic essay that went far beyond an image project.

In 1991, AIDS disease had been known for nine years, and it was considered by wide sectors of population, both in USA and rest of the world, as a kind of Twentieth Century plague comparable to the Black Death in medieval age, so people suffering from it were usually excluded from society to greater or lesser degree.

And the lack of information worsened things even more.

In this regard, Tracy´s story, because of her extreme youth and familiar abandonement from her very birth, was specially relevant.

She was exceedingly vulnerable, not only in terms of the then lethal illness she was suffering, but in the same way as the rest of people all over the world having it, also from the viewpoint of the scarce information then available and the rejection this disease generated in wide sectors of society, who most times preferred to turn a blind eye, not to speak about it because of fear and go on living a normal daily life.

The photographer realized that the risk of oblivion would be big after the certain demise of Tracy which would happen in a matter of weeks or a few months. It was difficult to foresee, but doctors and nurses agreed that she would live five or six months more at the most.

It was necessary to tell this story, to convey the myriad of experiences and vital lessons stemming from it, and above all to help to generate a collective social awareness about the this disease and how to fight against it and help its patients.

This way, mainly through sweat, strenuous effort and tons of love, Claire managed to create a comprehensive archive of pictures depicting the seven month life span evolution of Tracy, from her arrival to the New York Incarnation Children´s Center for Children with AIDS in January 1991 to her death on June 29th of that year.

OVERCOMING THE EMOTIONAL ODYSSEY AND INNER UPHEAVAL
In spite of the successfully accomplished picture story, the photographer´s mind was often inevitably convulsed, though she managed not to show it.

Desperation and sorrow flowed innerly galore, as Tracy´s health was increasingly deteriorating with the elapse of months.

And both horror and impotence reached their climax during the last two weeks when the little Tracy was almost utterly crippled and terminally ill.

More than one photograph was taken with the photographer shedding tears but she fought tooth and nail and got it.

But there was a sphere in which things resulted specially difficult to assume: the scope of one´s own convictions:

How was it possible that such a little baby could suffer so much?

Which would be the ethical or rational limit to artificially prolongue that context when the terminal stage of Tracy´s life came to an end?

On the other hand, should she stop taking pictures at any moment?

                                      © Claire Yaffa

Inevitably, during Tracy´s last days alive and experiencing greater and greater pains, the euthanasia debate came sometimes to the mind of the photographer, a great advocate of life and nature and their preservation within the core of her innermost tenets.

Top priority had been to prolongue Tracy´s life as much as possible, providing her all feasible comfort and compassion and trying to ease her pains, but now her passing away was approaching at an accelerating pace. The end of her life was very near.

Nothing could be made from a medical viewpoint to save her. All of her vital functions were severely damaged, she had great difficulties to breathe, and had lost a lot of weight.  

But Claire didn´t ever want to stop working in this reportage and decided to go on getting pictures until the burial of the little Tracy. Her choice was to suffer with her and love her. She was immersed in a very important time in the history of children with AIDS and she had to document it, because she wanted people to know and remember these children, albeit they were on earth for such a short time.

THE DEATH
After a lot of suffering, Tracy finally died on June 29th, 1991, which brought about a collective emotional shock among the people who had taken care of her: doctors, nurses and Claire.

All of them had loved her and would have her in mind for the rest of their lives.

Claire Yaffa took two more photographs of Tracy: 

                                                       © Claire Yaffa  

one depicting the little bed in which she had been the last five months of her life, full of different toys, balloons with messages, sheets of paper with messages for her and a number of medical devices and cables.

Loneliness had held sway of the room. Silence and affliction ruled everything. Tracy wouldn´t be there again. 

                                                        © Claire Yaffa                                                

Shortly after, Claire got the last picture of Tracy inside her opened coffin, dressed in white attire and with her head surrounded by flowers.

Only three people attended Tracy´s interment. Claire was one of them. 


PRIDE AND SADNESS THROUGHOUT TWENTY-TWO YEARS
Twenty-two years have elapsed since Tracy´s death on June 19, 1991, and throughout all this time, her remembrance has become a consubstantial part of Claire´s life.

Sadness pervades a significant percentage of those memories, along with a question without answer that the photographer has asked herself time and again: 

Could the little Tracy feel any of the love given to her at any moment?

Other times, a further question arises: Could she have done any more to help her?

But the elapse of time hasn´t dwindled the recollections of every experience shared beside Tracy during her last months of life, but has fostered them.

Tracy goes on being increasingly present after twenty-two years and she will never be forgotten.

But the photographer is also very proud of the work she did, very hard to carry forward and whose significance and far-reaching scope went far beyond photojournalism.



                                                     © Claire Yaffa

Anyway, the breathtaking black and white pictures of Tracy taken by Claire during late 1990 and between January-June 1991 have paid off, contributing to better understand this illness and to create a social cognizance about the need for looking after children with AIDS, coming to know and love them, so images have become a poignant reminder giving voice to so young human beings afflicted by this disease. 

In this regard, during the last 22 years there have been a lot of advances in treatment and nutrition alike which have proved to be instrumental to extend the patients´ life and improve their existence quality, unlike Tracy´s time when chances for recovery were almost zero.

In addition, Claire´s photographs of Tracy are also a stirring tribute documenting the highly praiseworthy devotion of caretakers to help them.

And as long as more and more people get involved in this fight, hope will never be lost.

The photographs from A Dying Child is Born are in the permanent collection of the International Center of Photography, and some of them have been included in the New York Historical Society exhibition Children with AIDS: Spirit and Memory. Photographs by Claire Yaffa , held between June 7, 2013 and September 1, 2013.

Interview with Claire Yaffa, Photographer of Children with AIDS: Spirit and Memory


© Text and Colour Picture: José Manuel Serrano Esparza