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La Valise Mexicaine in Arles

How three young war photographers defined a new genre

As part of the festival, Les Rencontres d’Arles, the Musée Départemental Arles Antique presents La Valise Mexicaine (‘The Mexican Suitcase’), an exhibition of unpublished photographic series taken by Robert Capa, Gerda Taro and Chim, during the Spanish Civil War. Rediscovered in Mexico in 2007, this is their first showing in Europe.

Fondation d'Entreprise Hermès - La Valise Mexicaine in Arles
© International Center of Photography

Following its discovery, the ‘Mexican suitcase’ – three small boxes with hand-written descriptions of their contents, lost since 1939 – was placed with the International Center of Photography in New York. Almost 4,500 negatives have ‘come to light’ once again, and are now the basis for this historic exhibition devoted to the Spanish Civil War: a superb testimony to the work of Robert Capa, Gerda Taro and David Seymour, known as Chim, three young Jewish photographers who joined the Spanish Republican troops in 1936, supplying pictures to newspapers throughout Europe.

The vision of these three photojournalists – widely regarded as the leading founders of modern war photography – profoundly altered the nature of photo-reportage from conflict zones. On the front line, Robert Capa captured combat ‘in the raw’; Chim focused on the ravages of war on civilian populations, in a series of deeply moving portraits. Gerda Taro made a particular study of wartime atrocities, and was crushed by a tank in 1937.

Presented at the Rencontres d’Arles, with the support of the Fondation d’entreprise Hermès, this exceptional exhibition presents the three boxes, original and contemporary prints from the negatives, a collection of their original publications in the international press of the day, two films incorporating images by Capa and Taro, and contact sheets, organized in the context of a chronological, cartographic presentation of the Spanish Civil War.

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Curator: Cynthia Young

This exhibition is organised by the International Center of Photography, New York.
This exhibition and its catalogue were made possible with support from the National Endowment for the Arts, Joseph and Joan Cullman Foundation for the Arts, Frank and Mary Ann Arisman, and Christian Keesee. Additional support was received from Sandy and Ellen Luger.

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