European HerStory: Gerda Taro

, by Rebecca Wenmoth

All the versions of this article: [Deutsch] [English] [français] [italiano]

European HerStory: Gerda Taro
Gerda Taro exercising her craft. Photo via Ur Cameras, Flickr: Public Domain

History is not merely a question of fact but of how it is recorded and how we interpret it. What is remembered, and how we remember it, is shaped by our socially constructed understandings of the world as it was at the time and as we know it today.

With the feminine history of our continent often sold short under the weight of enduring patriarchal structures, women’s contributions to science, art, politics and beyond are often at best overshadowed or at worst forgotten.

The following article is part of our fortnight-long feature, “European HerStory”, during which we are presenting inspiring stories of women who have contributed to Europe. With this feature, we hope to help rectify the imbalance stemming from our collective prism of history, and inform ourselves and our readers about female achievements and innovations.

You can read the full presentation of the feature here.

Gerta Pohorylle, alias Gerda Taro, (1 August 1910 – 26 July 1937) was a German Jewish photographer best known for her work during the Spanish Civil War.

Born to a family of recent Spanish immigrants living in Stuttgart, Taro became interested in left-wing politics and rejected growing Nazism. She was even arrested for distributing anti-Nazi propaganda in 1933. Following the Nazi party’s consolidation of power that same year, her family began to flee Germany. Taro moved to Paris but other family members escaped to England and Mandatory Palestine. Taro would never see them again.

Working in Paris, Taro met young Hungarian Endre Friedmann (alias Robert Capa), and learned the art of photojournalism through him. The two fell in love and began working together, inventing their aliases to avoid the antisemitism and xenophobia that prevented two unknown Jewish refugees from being employed.

Capa and Taro covered the Spanish Civil War after it broke out in 1934, where Taro became recognised as a talented photojournalist in her own right, though some of her work has been misattributed to Capa. It was here that Taro met her tragic end aged only 26, in a tank crash. Honoured as an anti-fascist figure, she was given a funeral in Paris attended by thousands.

Taro and Capa are remembered in the song ‘Taro’ by British band Alt-J.

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