By José Manuel Serrano Esparza
It has been possible to discover the location of four further pictures made by Robert Capa on September 5, 1936 at the Finca of Villa Alicia (Cerro Muriano) and belonging to the series " Harangue in the Finca of Villa Alicia ", whose placement in it I could find in 2010.
These four images appear in the book " Death in the Making " from 1938, edited by Covici Friede Publishers New York, of which I could get an original copy in good condition some months ago.
The place where these photographs were made was unknown, and jmse has been able to locate them in the Finca of Villa Alicia (Cerro Muriano) during the aforementioned Arenga that Enrique Vañó Nicomedes (General Secretary of the CNT from Alcoy) and Felipe Colomé (also member of the CNT from Alcoy) pronounce while being on top of a big barrel approximately at 12:30 h of September 5, 1936 midday (half an hour before the attack of the fierce Moroccan troops of tabor of regulares commanded by colonel Sáenz of Buruaga), delivering speeches trying to encourage both Anarchist militiamen belonging to CNT and FAI from Alcoy (Alicante) and Andalusian militiamen listening to their words before the impending combat, in the midst of feelings of distress, deep concern, fear of dying, introspection thinking about their beloved ones during the previous moments to the fight, and so forth.
Instants that are masterfully captured by Capa using a 24 x 36 mm format Leica II (Model D) rangefinder camera coupled to a Leitz Elmar 50 mm f/3.5,
from an incredibly near distance and managing to go unnoticed, top dream of every good photojournalist during the photographic act.
In my opinion, these four images are highly relevant, since they show once more the unutterable passion for photography, incredible speed of movements, remarkable skill to become invisible during the photographic act and huge flair to get the picture in Robert Capa, a photographer who never believed he was the best at all and was always sure that other members of Magnum Agency whom he greatly admired like the genius Werner Bischof, Henri Cartier-Bresson, David Seymour " Chim ", and many more from different illustrated magazines and agencies were far superior to him in terms of technical background and a wide raft of further skills.
Capa´s photography is wholeheartedly instinctive. He fights to exhaustion for getting the picture, with uncommon ability to approach as much as possible to the photographed persons, breathtaking speed of movements and an outstanding natural gift for the capture of decisive moments, all of it enhanced by an extraordinary sensitivity and talent to convey emotions and messages with his images.
Two militiamen of the CNT and FAI from Alcoy are looking and listening to the anarchist chief (out of image) who being on top of a barrel is haranguing them to boost their morale before the upcoming clash against the feared Moroccan troops from Tabor of Regulares of the third attacking Francoist column under the command of colonel Sáenz of Buruaga.
Their faces say it all : both of them are with their mouth open, panting and sweaty.
The militiaman on the left, wearing dark overalls, has stubble on his cheeks, is looking at the speaker with a simultaneously hard and anxious countenance and supports his back on the tree behind him, while his hands rest on his hips.
On his turn, the militiaman on the right, clad in very torn out white overalls with its sleeves up, desolately stares and listens to the anarchist chief, while being at the same time in deep introspection thinking of a very probable death in combat facing the fierce Moroccan troops.
This man is experiencing a starting stage of animic shock, nervously grabbing both the barrel of his 7 x 57 mm caliber Mauser rifle with which he leans on the ground and the lower area of a small sheet he is taking on his left shoulder, and his right arm is resting on the tree.
|Photo : Robert Capa / ICP New York|
Capa, who is at a very near distance of roughly two meters, gets the picture of the two militiamen being perpendicular to them after having covertly approached to both combatants.
He´s being succesful approaching as much as possible and presses the shutter release button of his Leica II (Model D) with Leitz Elmar 50 mm f/3.5 lens, being able to go unnoticed, without any of the two militiamen detecting his presence, in addition to obtaining a very tight frame, typical in his fairly instinctive way of photographing, with great quickness of movements, a commendable mastery of the focusing distances, a steady attention to even the most minute details making a difference, and a stunning talent and accuracy in the timing on pressing the shutter release button of his camera to capture the most meaningful instants, always shooting handheld.
A quarter of a century before the wideangle 35 mm lenses became the par excellence photojournalistic objective from late fifties, Capa makes a masterful use of the 4 elements in 3 groups Leitz Elmar 50 mm f/3.5 standard lens designed by Professor Max Berek (which was the photojournalistic benchmark between the second half of twenties and early fifties along with the 7 elements in 3 groups Carl Zeiss Jena Sonnar 5 cm f/1.5 created by Ludwig Bertele in 1932), leveraging the first-rate qualities as short tele lenses inherent to 50 mm objectives when it comes to getting portraits and half-length pictures of people lacking distortion within very short distances.
Needless to say that while Capa makes the pictures of the Harangue in the Finca of Villa Alicia, he clearly perceives a somehow gruesomely surrealistic context in which civil combatants hailing from the most common occupations are going to fight against highly professional troops from the Spanish Army of Africa featuring abundant combat experiance and great prowess in the handling of firearms.
This photograph also appears in the lower left area of page 727 of the English magazine London Illustrated News of October 24, 1936, and jmse discovered its location in the Finca of Villa Alicia in April of 2011.
But the reproduction of this image appearing in the book " Death in the Making " from 1938, published by Covici Friede in New York, features much higher image quality than the one inside the aforementioned English illustrated magazine, so it has been possible to discern many more details both regarding the facial traits of the two militiamen visible in them and their clothes, together with the surrounding landscape, verifying even more that the picture was made by Capa in the Finca of Villa Alicia (Cerro Muriano) on September 5, 1936.
Exceedingly dramatic image in which Capa gets a picture of a roughly 40 years old Andalusian militiaman with moustache and wearing a checkered beret.
This man has been for some minutes listening to the harangue of the two chiefs of CNT from Alcoy being on top of a barrel in the Finca of Villa Alicia (Cerro Muriano) and Capa captures him just at the moment in which he is sweaty and collapses emotionally, closes his eyes and his head falls backwards, as a consequence of the uneasiness and stress.
He is a more veteran man than the rest of abundant civil combatants, both from Alcoy (Alicante) and Andalusia, present during the Harangue, so his older age and experience make him clearly understand the danger magnitude, because they will have to fight to the death against the fierce Morocca troops from tabor of Regulares, who will try to kill them all to attack the north slope of Torreárboles Hill and catch between two fires the Republican forces defending its summit and which are being attacked from approximately 10:00 h in the morning of September 5, 1936 through the south slope by the left Francoist column under the command of major Sagrado.
The picture is technically very imperfect: it is slightly out of focus and shows a huge amount of grain, so it could be a selective reframing made by a picture editor from a specific area of the original black and white photograph in which there were some more militiamen, to such an extent that there has been a big image quality degradation from a technical viewpoint.
But it doesn´t matter in this kind of photojournalistic pictures in which the key factors are to be at the adequate place at the ideal place, to get as close as possible to the photographed subject and to press the shutter release button of the camera with the highest precision feasible to capture the most defining moments, something that Capa has utterly achieved with this image, ruled by the powerful left diagonal framing the right shoulder and face of the Andalusian militiaman, whose countenance appears highly convulsed.
It is apparent in this picture a titanic effort by Capa to capture this decisive moment, because it is a totally instinctive photograph, made at full speed and from a low angle to highlight the drama, depicting a timeless instant faithfully summing up what war is about and the feelings it spawns.
Highly probably, this man is thinking not only about the great danger for his life during the imminent combat, but also about his most beloved relatives and friends whom perhaps he will not see again.
But at the same time, he plucks up courage and is ready to fight and die if necessary.
In spite of its rather low image quality stemming from the significant drop in resolving power, contrast and tonal range stemming from the enlargement from a specific area of the original picture probably including some more militiamen, this amazing photograph is a good example of the archetype of Leica photojournalistic image from thirties, forties and fifties, in which the focus is not 100 % perfect (an aspect thoroughly studied by the world-class Swiss expert on History of Photography Michael Auer and explained in a number of his lectures).
Whatever it may be, the drama of this picture doesn´t end here.
Capa has been watching and making photographs of this Andalusian peasant militiaman wearing a checkered beret for some minutes.
Who is this man ?
After a painstaking analysis of the image, jmse has been able to discover that it is the same person appearing on the right of the first picture made by Capa during the Harangue in the Finca of Villa Alicia, whose location in it and the presence of Gerda Taro on the left were also discovered by jmse on August 1, 2010:
Page 727 of the English magazine Illustrated London News of October 24, 1936 in whose upper left zone appears the same Andalusian peasant militiaman wearing a checkered beret and a shotgun hanging from his left shoulder.
And he is also the same man appearing in another photograph with a shotgun hanging from his left shoulder, looking at the speaker and listening to his words during the Harangue in the Finca of Villa Alicia, whose location was also discovered by José Manuel Serrano Esparza in April of 2011, both in the upper left area of page 727 of London Illustrated News magazine from October 24, 1936
and in one of the pages of the book The Spanish People´s Fight for Liberty, compiled by A. Ramos Oliveira and published by the Press Department of the Spanish Embassy in London in 1937, which used the original 24 x 36 mm format negative developed by Csiki Weisz (Capa´s great friend and his darkroom man in Paris) and sent by Maria Eisner (Director of Alliance Photo Agency in the French capital), reproducing the image in 19 x 24 cm size, which also appears in 20 x 25 cm size in one of the pages of the book Death in the Making, published by Covici Friede New York in 1938. The location of this picture in the Finca of Villa Alicia was discovered by José Manuel Serrano Esparza in April of 2011. © Robert Capa / ICP New York.
That´s to say, Capa greatly manages to photograph the feelings and reactions experienced by this Andalusian peasant militiaman while he listens to the Harangue in the Finca of Villa Alicia, in which both he and the rest of militiamen are reported that they will have to face the feared Moroccan Troops from the Army of Africa with fixed bayonets.
Capa, standing in a bit high position, photographs one of the numerous groups of militiamen who are listening to the Harangue in the Finca of Villa Alicia.
Once more, the scene he captures is devastating. Most of the militiamen visible in the image belong to the CNT and FAI from Alcoy (Alicante), though in the background, slightly out of focus, there is an Andalusian militiaman with typical straw hat, and a probably Andalusian woman can be seen on the middle left area of the picture, behind the militiaman wearing a dark beret with tassle
The facial expression of these militiamen while they listen to the harangue reflects huge restlessness and concern. They already know that they will have to fight for their lives against the ruthless Moroccan troops of Tabor of Regulares, featuring a previous combat experience of more than twenty years in Africa, so they have very little possibility of survival.
But Capa also realizes that in spite of their wholly adverse circumstances, these militiamen gather courage and brace themselves for fighting, something that powerfully draws the attention of Gerda Taro (out of image), who is at few meters from him, beholding astonished what is happening and also listening to the harangue.
The message conveyed by the image is greatly dominated by the militiaman from Alcoy wearing a dark cap without tassle, who shows a countenance speaking for itself, deeply engrossed in his thoughts and full of anguish faithfully synthesizing the melting pot of emotions and feelings brought about by war.
On his turn, the militiaman with clear overalls and cap appearing behind him, has got few days stubble on his face, is slightly out of focus, convulsed, sweaty, with his mouth open and also thinking to himself that he can die in combat, while the militiaman on his right is nervously looking around, trying to spot the presence of Moroccan soldiers.
Throughout the whole harangue, all the attending Alcoyan and Andalusian militiamen, along with Capa and Gerda Taro, are hearing the rifle, artillery and mortar fire exchanged between the Republican forces defending the summit of Torreárboles hill and the left Francoist column under the command of major Sagrado, which is attacking upwards the south slope of that height.
Additionally, Capa, always paying heed to even the smallest details, shoots his camera just at the moment when the face of an Andalusian woman (placed on the left of the image, in front of the militiaman smoking a cigarette and striving upon calming down ) appears partially covered by the Alcoyan militiaman wearing a dark cap with tassle located in front of her.
This impossibility of discerning the facial features of the approximately 60 year old woman (perhaps the mother of some of the Andalusian militiamen listening to the harangue) provides a great deal of dramatic symbology to the image, because she is crestfallen and pensive, fully aware of the huge risk for their lives approaching for each and every of these men.
On his turn, the countenance of the aforementioned militiaman wearing a dark cap with tassle and visible on the left of the picture, reflects great strain and bewilderment.
They know that the Francoist élite troops from the Army of Africa are at a distance of few hundred meters and can attack them at any moment, something that is utterly confirmed by the militiaman on far right of the image, captured sideways by Capa and who isn´t looking at the speaker on top of the barrel, but, being in the jitters, is staring at the surroundings, searching with his sight for the presence of Moroccan soldiers.
On his turn, the young militiaman clad in dark overalls, large white sheet on his left shoulder and a kind of round wide dark beret on his head appears likewise with his mouth open, gasping and shows anxiety to spare on his face.
|Photo : Robert Capa / ICP New York|
On the lower left half of the image, the militiaman from Alcoy who is in front of the one wearing a dark cap with tassel, appears frowning and with a look revealing deep concern, strengthened by the haunting gazes of both the exceedingly young roughly 17 years old militiaman with clear cap visible on the lower right corner of the picture and the one appearing on the lower left corner, clad in a clear cap with tassle.
Though all the persons visible in the photograph are hearing both the words of the speaker while he pronounces the harangue and the shots whose noise comes from the south slope and summit of Torreárboles hill, a significant percentage of them have stopped looking at the anarchist chief standing on the barrel and trying to encourage them before combat.
From a compositive viewpoint, Capa places the interest epicenter of the image in the triangle made up by five militiamen : the one located more on the left of the picture (with his entire face and cap visible and furrowing his brow), the militiaman wearing a dark cap with tassle just behind him, the militiaman with dark cap without tassle, the militiaman with dark cap and a big sheet on his left shoulder and the exceedingly young approximately 17 years old militiaman whose head occupies the lower right corner of the picture.
PHOTO 4 :
Capa photographs an Andalusian militiaman wearing a typical straw hat while he listens to the Harangue in the Finca of Villa Alicia, around 12:30 h at midday of September 5, 1936.
With astonishing discretion, the photographer approaches the Andalusian militiaman, who is taking a sheet on his right shoulder and is smoking a cigarette, trying to relax, immersed in a very special atmosphere of stress pervading everything at the moment, capturing him without being detected, with a slightly low angle, to underline his facial expression revealing unrest and commotion, and at the same time he nervously takes the front area of his Mauser rifle with which he leans on the ground.
In the same way as happens with the Photo 2, this image reproduced in the book Death in the Making from 1938 is probably a selective reframing made from a specific area of the original picture in which there would be more militiamen, because it exhibits tons of grain and lack of detail in the attire and face of this Andalusian militiaman, though the great acutance of the Eastman Kodak Panchromatic Nitrate black and white film featuring a sensitivity of Weston 32 (roughly equivalent to ISO 40) used by Capa in symbiosis with the Agfa Rodinal developer optimized to obtain maximum perception of visual sharpness and handled by Csiki Weisz in Paris, have been able to preserve a minimum level of detail, making possible to appreciate his facial expression.
The powerful sunlight illuminating the face left zone of this Andalusian peasant militiaman and rendering in shadow its right area, along with the vast low key area within the straw hat, enhance the drama of the image, in which once more Capa masterfully captures a meaningful instant.
VERIFICATION THAT ROBERT CAPA MADE IN THE FINCA OF VILLA ALICIA (CERRO MURIANO) A FURTHER PICTURE DURING THE HARANGUE
Photograph made by Robert Capa in the Finca of Villa Alicia (Cerro Muriano) on September 5, 1936 and appearing in one of the pages of the book Death in the Making from 1938 with much higher quality of image than on page 727 of the English magazine Illustrated London News from October 24, 1936. Photo : Robert Capa / ICP New York.
As well as the previous pictures, the book Death in the Making published by Covici Friede Publishers New York in 1938 includes another image made by Capa, whose location in the Finca of Villa Alicia (Cerro Muriano) was discovered by jmse in April 2011.
It´s a photograph depicted on the lower right area of page 727 of the English magazine Illustrated London News from October 24, 1936, but also in the book Death in the Making from 1938, with far better image quality:
We can see an anarchist militiaman from CNT or FAI from Alcoy (Alicante) captured sideways, with a framing whose top limit coincides with the highest area of the militiaman´s cap, while its lower border is bounded by approximatel the zone just over the left arm elbow and the high stomach area, and he takes on his chest some small clear colour and rectangular boxes, tied with strings.
This anarchist militiaman from Alcoy (Alicante) appears also in the aforementioned picture (page 71 of the book Capa : Face to face Robert Capa´s pictures on the Spanish Civil War from the National Museum of Art Reina Sofía Collection published by Aperture and on page 85 of the book Robert Capa Photographic Work published by Phaidon and written by Richard Whelan), in the middle area of his right half, in which jmse discovered in 2010 that all the pictures of the Harangue had been made by Capa in the Finca of Villa Alicia and the head of Gerda Taro on the left :
He is the second man on the right of the Andalusian militiaman whose hat is touching the painted white letters visible on the upper half of a car mostly hidden by the bodies of the many standing militiamen listening to the harangue of the anarchist chief who is speaking to them from top of a barrel.
He is undoubtedly the same person, identical facial traits, identical whiskers, the same militiaman cap and exactly the same handkerchief.
OSKAR BARNACK´S LEGACY PAYING OFF IN THE BIRTH OF A NEW KIND OF WAR PHOTOGRAPHY IN CERRO MURIANO (CÓRDOBA)
The twenty-one years elapsed between 1914 (production year of the Ur-Leica prototype) and 1935 (production year of the Leica IIIA, provided with an additional shutter speed of 1/1000 s) were the halcyon days of Oskar Barnack, whose immense talent creating the saga of 24 x 36 mm format, very small and light LTM39 Leica rangefinder cameras coupled to a wide range of also tiny first-class lenses meant a revolution in photography, enabling to comfortably shoot handheld and with a much faster speed of movements than the very big and heavy large and medium format cameras in existence until then, often needing the use of a tripod and very slow shutter speeds to obtain sharp photographs.
And in spite of being very weak, without stamina, constantly coughing and trudging, Oskar Barnack devoted many hours of his last two years of life to improve the reliability of the top-notch shutter of his 35 mm format screwmount Leica rangefindere cameras, to such an extent that even in November of 1935, under very low temperatures, only two months before his death, he kept on going to the platform of Wetzlar Train Station with Julius Huisgen ( photographer at Ernst Leitz Wetzlar as well as darkroom expert who developed the black and white 24 x 36 mm 35mm format film rolls exposed by Barnack and author of his portraits), waiting for the arrival of trains to do tests shooting at different shutter speeds and check the accuracy of the utterly mechanical horizontal travelling focal plane shutter featuring cloth curtains, steadily improving it.
And only eight months after his death, Robert Capa put Oskar Barnack´s fundamental keynotes through its paces in Cerro Muriano (Córdoba) on September 5, 1936, making the landmark reportages " Harangue in the Finca of Villa Alicia " and " Flight of the Refugees from the Village of Cerro Muriano " ,
Inventing a new kind of war photography and writing with golden letters both timeless and highly innovative picture essays.