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The Mexican Suitcase

December 2007 - three small boxes, made out of cardboard arrived at the International Center of Photography. The boxes came just straight from Mexico City after a long, mysterious journey! Inside the boxes, the legendary lost Civil War negatives from Magnum photographer Robert Capa!

Photo Nicolas Silberfaden from ICP

The negatives disappeared from Capa´s studio in Paris at the beginning of the World War II. There were always rumours that the negatives survived somewhere, so Cornell Capa, Robert´s brother tracked down each tale and story he heard about the negatives.

It is not quite sure how the negatives reached Mexico, but according to Imri “Csiki” Weiss, Capa´s fellow photographer friend and darkroom manager, the story was like this: In October 1939, as German forces were approaching Paris, Robert Capa sailed to New York to avoid capture by the Germans and internment as an enemy alien or Communist sympathizer.

Capa left all his negatives in his Paris studio at 37 rue Froidevaux, under the supervision of Imre “Csiki” Weiss (1911–2006). In a letter dated July 5, 1975, Weiss recalled, "In 1939, when the Germans approached Paris, I put all Bob’s negatives in a rucksack and bicycled it to Bordeaux to try to get it on a ship to Mexico.

I met a Chilean in the street and asked him to take my film packages to his consulate for safekeeping. He agreed." Csiki, also a Jewish Hungarian émigré, never made it out of French-controlled territory and was interned in Morocco until 1941, when he was released with the help of both Capa brothers and arrived in Mexico late that year.

When the boxes finally are opened up they revealed 126 rolls of film – not only by Capa, but also by Gerda Taro and David Seymour, three of the major photographers of the spanish Civil War.
These rolls of film constitute inestimable record of War photography and show an important part of spanish history.

Page from a contact notebook of Robert Capa’s images of the Battle of Rio Segre

For more info, please read here.

written by eyecon

2 comments

  1. vicuna

    vicuna

    wow! impressing story!!

    almost 3 years ago · report as spam
  2. sthomas68

    sthomas68

    Somebody should make an indie film out of that story!

    almost 3 years ago · report as spam

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This is the original article written in: English. It is also available in: Spanish.