For a young women, like Gerda Pohoryll, who had grown up in a German Jewish family in the midst of World War II, being in a war zone was no foreign experience. After Gerda’s arrest in 1933 for distributing Anti-Nazi propaganda, the Pohoryll family fled Germany for Paris, where a stroke of luck lead Gerda to find the job that would become her passion.
Where Anti- Nazi propaganda had once been the tools of her opposition, the camera would become her ultimate statement of truth and protest. Finding a job as a picture editor for Allied Photo she met and fell in love with Andre Friedman, an Allied Photo photographer. Together the two photographed the first ever images of war that the world had seen, but selling that work as a woman and both as Jews was more than difficult. Together, they invented the famous war photographer, Robert Capa, whose work did sell. The secret of their true identities didn’t last long, but by then, the strength of their work stood on its own and had opened the world’s eyes to the true nature and horrors of war.
It was then that Gerda assumed the last name of Taro and Andre that of Capa. Together Gerda Taro and Andre Capa left war torn France for Spain, then in the middle of a civil war that would put General Franco in power for the next 35 years. In an unprecedented move, the two risked their lives daily to capture on film the lives lived and lost in the battle. It was in 1937 during the Battle of Valencia, a confrontation of which the world knew not the realities on the ground, that became her most famous. For they revealed with accuracy the struggle for power between the Republican’s and the Nationalist’s. It was in covering that battle that Gerda sustained fatal wounds dying of her injuries on July 26, 1937. She had become not only the first woman to become a war photographer but also the first women to die as one.
Andre Capa went on to photograph more of the war in Europe, his most famous being the Allied landing on the beaches of Normandy. Many years later a suitcase was found in Mexico packed with film from both Taro and Capa. Their images live on today and remind us of not only the horrors of war but of their bravery in showing the reality of war to the world.