Monday, August 16, 2010

The Mexican Suitcase at ICP New York

The so-called "Mexican suitcase" is in fact three small cardboard boxes containing 4,500 negatives documenting the Spanish Civil War in pictures taken by Robert Capa, Chim (David Seymour), and Gerda Taro. Through this work and its publication in newspapers and magazines at the time, these three photographers were unknowingly laying the foundation for modern war photography.

In 1939, the Germans were advancing on Paris, where Capa had a studio. Aware of the necessity to leave quickly, he left this work in the care of his lab assistant and fled to America. In a series of extraordinary adventures, it appears that the boxes were taken from Paris to a Mexican consul in Marseilles. He presumably took them across the ocean and on to Mexico City for safekeeping. Unheard of for more than half a century, the negatives were discovered among the effects of a Mexican general (who had served under Pancho Villa), which were inherited by a relative. In 2007, after several years of discussions and negotiations, the negatives were returned home to ICP. After careful conservation studies, the negatives were scanned and sequenced and will be presented in a major exhibition and two-volume publication.

The Mexican Suitcase: On View at ICP, September 24, 2010–January 11, 2011

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