This is a question I ask often. Whenever I read or watch something, whenever I am in a setting listening to some story and something is direly missing. Obviously this is only a rudimentary inquiry. Where are the queers, the poor, the nonbinary people, the people of color, the disabled, the mentally ill? It is not only women or only one kind of woman, so many of us are systematically disappeared from the mainstream conversation. Yet even the most rudimentary of inquiries for me (feminist was probably one of my first adopted political positions) “still” continues to be a productive question.
Sometimes women disappear into men’s names. Today I learned that the name Robert Capa, the most famous war photographer of all time, was not a name at all but an invention of two photographers:
In 1936, Pohorylle received her first photojournalist credential. Then, she and Friedmann devised a plan. Both took news photographs, but these were sold as the work of the non-existent American photographer Robert Capa, which was a convenient name overcoming the increasing political intolerance prevailing in Europe and belonging in the lucrative American market. Capa was derived from Friedmann’s Budapest street nickname “Cápa” which means “Shark” in Hungarian. The secret did not last long, but Friedman kept the more commercial name “Capa” for his own name, while Pohorylle adopted the professional name of “Gerda Taro” after the Japanese artist Tarō Okamoto and Swedish actress Greta Garbo. The two worked together to cover the events surrounding the coming to power of the Popular Front in 1930s France.
Taro was soon killed at the age of 27 while covering the Spanish Civil War in the front lines. She was forgotten while Capa went on to become a household name.
During their early work together their work is distinct as they use different types of cameras. During some time in 1937, the same year of her death, however, they both shoot using 135 film pictures under the label Capa & Taro. Some have claimed that the famous “Falling Soldier” was shot by Taro. Who knows, perhaps that famous quote [“If your photographs aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.”] first graced Gerda’s lips.
Despite their entwining legacies which always favors the dominant element (Capa is the first term, Taro is the second) she still seems to have established independence (she created her own label & signed with some publications for her own work) & rejected Capa’s marriage proposal. One cannot help but wonder what she would go on to become if she didn’t die so young.