The Mexican Suitcase. The Legendary Spanish Civil War Negatives of Robert Capa, Gerda Taro, and David Seymour. Edited by Cynthia Young.
Sometimes, even in the world of photography, miracles happen. On 19 December 2007, three battered, commonplace
cardboard boxes arrived at the International Center of Photography in New York. Within these boxes – the so-called
Mexican Suitcase – was a treasure trove of photographic history believed lost since World War II: the legendary
Spanish Civil War negatives of Robert Capa, Gerda Taro, and David Seymour (known as “Chim”).
The Mexican Suitcase contained 126 rolls of film, mostly shot between May 1936 and spring 1939, that are an
inestimable record of innovative war photography and of a definitive episode in Spanish history. The photographs
include Capa’s images of the Battle of Rio Segre, Chim’s famous image of a woman nursing a baby at a land reform
meeting in Estremadura, and Taro’s last photos at the Battle of Brunete where she was killed in 1937.
The story of the Mexican Suitcase itself is as fascinating as the photographs it contained. Carried by Capa’s studio
manager from Paris to Bordeaux by bicycle in 1939, it came into the possession of General Francisco Aguilar
González, the Mexican ambassador to the Vichy government in 1941–42, and found its way to Mexico City. Decades
later the suitcase was discovered among González’s belongings and in 2007 was given to ICP, founded by Robert
Capa’s brother Cornell Capa and home of the Capa and Taro archives as well as a large Chim collection.
In 1979, Cornell Capa had implored the public to come forward with information about the Mexican Suitcase which he
had spent years looking for: “Anyone who has information regarding the suitcase should contact me and will be
blessed in advance.” This landmark two-volume publication, which accompanies a major exhibition at ICP and
reproduces all 4,500 negatives from the suitcase, embodies the blessing Capa spoke of and presents the miraculous
contents of the suitcase to the public for the first time.