The Mexican Suitcase - Robert Capa, Gerda Taro and David Seymour

For almost 70 years they were presumed lost. Robert Capa, photojournalist, had fled Paris in 1939 and left behind his collection of negatives of the Spanish Civil War. The Nazis occupied Paris in 1940 and Capa died in IndoChina in 1954 having never recovered them. What happened to the negatives remained a mystery until in January 2008 the International Center of Photography announced the discovery of the Mexican Suitcase. The suitcase was actually three cardboard boxes which contained over 3500 negatives taken by the photographers Robert Capa, Gerda Taro and David Seymour. The negatives were made between 1936 and 1939 and are photographs shot in Spain during the civil war.

Why the Mexican suitcase? The negatives were found to be in the possession of a grand nephew of General Aguilar Gonzales who was a Mexican diplomat in France during the second world war. It is believed that the General was involved in removing the negatives from France to Mexico.The negatives were eventually acquired by the International Center of Photography, which was founded by Capa's brother Cornell. The ICP is in the process of scanning all the negatives and intends to exhibit and publish them.

Resources and Media Coverage

Play it again Sam: Emerging Images from a Mexican Suitcase by Trisha Ziff

A Flash presentation. Click anywhere on the opening page to start the presentation of 35 pages of images and text. The ICP in their press release (Jan 2008) say that Trisha Ziff was an independent curator in Mexico City who helped to arrange the transfer of the images from Mexico to  the International Center of Photography.

  1. The Capa Cache by Randy Kennedy New York Times (27 Jan 2008)
    "the Mexican suitcase .. in the pantheon of lost modern cultural treasures, it was surrounded by the same mythical aura as Hemingway’s early manuscripts, which vanished from a train station in 1922."
  2. Robert Capa's Lost Negatives  New York Times (2008) Slide show of images.
  3. The Mexican Suitcase - International Center of Photography webpages dedicated to the subject.
  4. Robert Capa's Lost Negatives by Ron Steinman Digital Journalist (March 2008)

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This page was added on 25 January 2009.