As if you didn’t know already, today would have been Gerda Taro’s 118th birthday and Google are celebrating it with a Doodle. The German photographer was a pioneer for women in her field, becoming the first female photojournalist to cover war on the front lines, and subsequently die doing so. Her tragic death came during the Spanish Civil War, but the circumstances of it have been disputed over the years. Here is all you need to know about Taro, her partner and colleague Robert Capa and the controversy surrounding her demise.
Toro’s real name was Gerta Pohorylle, born in 1910 in Stuttgart into a Jewish family. With the rise of the Nazi Party, her family were forced out of Germany and separated as they left with Gerta moving to Paris in 1934 and not seeing her family again. It was in Paris that she began her career as a photojournalist, alongside Endre Friedmann, a man who she met in the French capital in 1935.
Pohorylle and Friedmann began to publish works under the fictional American pseudonym of Robert Capa, a name he would take on as his own, whilst Gerta changed hers to Gerda Taro in homage to Japanese artist Taro Okamoto and Greta Garbo. The pair began their work in war photography in 1936 when they travelled to Barcelona to cover the Spanish Civil War, both producing photographs under the name Robert Capa. She not only photographed the violence of the time, but passionately campaigned against fascism that was rife across Europe.
Taro was covering the Battle of Brunete, near Madrid, in 1937 when tragedy struck and a car she was travelling in was hit by a tank. She died the next day due to her wounds at the age of just 26. It appeared this was a tragic accident, but fellow journalist Robin Stummer claimed she had been the victim of a planned attack by Russian forces.
Stummer believed that Stalinists were trying to purge communists and socialists in Spain that were not in line with feelings in Moscow. There was little evidence for this theory and it did not allign with eye-witness accounts, but it remains a question mark over her untimely demise. Taro’s work has been popularised recently with the first major American exhibition of her work opening in 2007, documentary The Mexican Suitcase being released in 2011 based on Taro and Capo and even alt-J releasing the song Taro about her life.