Birth Date: 1 August 1910
Date of Death: 26 July 1937 (age 26)
Place of Birth: Stuttgart, Germany
Place of Death: El Escorial, Spain
Nationality: German
Occupation/Field of Study First female war photographer who died while covering combat and creator of one of the most moving studies ever made of people in war.


KEYWORDS: 20th century, women artists, female war photographer



Gerda Taro was a German war photographer who worked alongside her Hungarian partner, Robert Capa, at the front of the Spanish Civil War in the 20th century. She captured moments of fighting, explosions, and battlefields but especially set her focus on the innocent people who suffered the most – women, children, and old people. Many of her photos were lost, since her family died in the Holocaust and she had no other surviving relatives left, but many of her photos were also published under the name of her boyfriend, Robert Capa, who, even today, is still known as the best war photographer in history3. Gerda Taro was a very attractive woman who was only a little over five feet tall but was much admired for her chic clothes and makeup1 (p. 43). The Republican troops called her “La Pequeña Rubia”, which means the little blonde, but she was also known to be an intelligent and well-read woman1 (p. 43). Gerda Taro was only aged 26 when she died at the military front and, even though she was one of the first female war photographers and the first one to be killed in combat, she has remained mostly unknown until today.



Gerda Taro

In 1910, Gerda Taro was born under the name of Gerda Pohorylle into a middle-class Polish- Jewish family in Stuttgart, Germany. Due to the rising power of Adolf Hitler, Gerda and her family had to move to Leipzig in 1929 where she soon got involved in local leftist organisations. Soon after, in 1933, she got arrested for distributing anti-Nazi propaganda but could escape a year later and flee to Paris, where she met her future boyfriend and colleague Robert Capa. The Hungarian photo journalist Robert Capa was originally called Endre Friedmann, but Gerda got the idea to adopt a shorter more “American sounding” name for both of them in order to sell more photographs(p. 43). Her new surname was chosen after the avant-garde Japanese artist Taro Okamoto4. Robert Capa was, like her, also a Jewish leftist and a stateless exile. At the time Gerda met Robert, she knew nothing about photography as she had only worked as a part time secretary before, but, since she helped him to get jobs, he in turn trained her to use a Leica2 camera (p. 57). Soon after the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, the couple moved to Barcelona and started taking photographs for the French leftist press on most of the war fronts, from Aragón to Toledo, to Córdoba. It was during this same time that Gerda Taro refused Robert Capa’s marriage proposal even though she had planned to travel to China with him3. On the afternoon of the 25th July 1937, Gerda Taro was shooting the battle of Brunete, west of Madrid. General Walter, the senior commander in the field, warned her to get away fast, because he could not guarantee her safety in the battle, but Gerda refused to leave and continued shooting1 (p. 43). According to a witness, she was smiling during the heat and taking photo after photo, which she said were her “best pictures yet”1 (p. 41). On her way back to her villa in Madrid, Gerda Taro got fatally injured by a Republican tank that struck the car in which she was standing on the running board, and crushed her abdomen. She was still conscious when she was taken to the hospital where she soon died from her injuries1 (p. 41). Her photographs of the battle were never to be found since her equipment disappeared soon after the collision with the tank1 (p. 43). Several sources claim that the collision was no accident but planned. Some say she was murdered due to her accurate recordings of what really had happened during the battle that day and her general lack of loyalty to Moscow. Tens of thousands of people attended her funeral in Paris on 1st August 1937, which would have been her 27th birthday. Today, Gerda Taro is recognised as the first female war photographer in history2 (p. 58) and as the first one to die in combat4.



Gerda Taro was working together with her boyfriend Robert Capa, who trained her in photography while she, as his manager, suggested to change their names in order to get more jobs2 (p. 57). Nevertheless, it was Gerda Taro’s own will to become a photographer, and, from the beginning, she intended on becoming a photographer in her own right3. As Capa’s manager Gerda taught him how to dress for jobs, evaluated his ideas for photo stories, and made him stick to deadlines4 (p. 56). The couple’s work appeared in many famous international news magazines. Nevertheless, it was only Robert Capa who became really famous, since many of their photos were only printed in his name3. His main success was one photograph he took on the Córdoba front of a Republican militiaman falling dead while he was hit by a bullet. Several critics claim that the photo was staged and it was actually only during training of the soldiers. The rumours, however, did not have any effect on his reputation of being the best war photographer in history. Gerda Taro, on the other hand, remained mostly unknown even though the image of the fallen soldier also appeared in one of her own photos3. In order to be more recognised as an independent photographer, Gerda soon started to work apart from Robert Capa more often, which caused problems in their relationship, especially since she had also refused to marry him4. He claimed right until his death, to never have had a deeper relationship with any other woman than he did with Gerda Taro3.



[Shortly before her death:] When you think of all the fine people we both know who have been killed even in one offensive, you get an absurd feeling that somehow it’s unfair still to be alive.

Cited in Stummer, Robin (13 Oct. 2008), “Accidental heroine”, New Statesman, Vol. 137, Issue 4918, p. 43.

[Shortly before her death:] I’ve got these fantastic photographs, I’ve got champagne, we’re going to have a party.

Cited in Gee, Alison (2013): Gerda Taro: The forgotten photojournalist killed in action, BBC World Service,, (last accessed 08 Jan 2018).

If only the times were not so bad […] But what can you do: You laugh! (my translation)

Cited in Coen, Amrai (2014): Das Auge der Freiheit,, (last accessed 08 Jan 2018).




We all loved Gerda very much… Gerda was petite with the charm and beauty of a child. This little girl was brave and the Division admired her for that. 

Cited in Gee, Alison (2013): Gerda Taro: The forgotten photojournalist killed in action, BBC World Service,, (last accessed 08 Jan 2018).

I think it’s really quite tragic that beyond dying so young, we didn’t have an opportunity to see how her work as a photographer would develop.

Cited in Gee, Alison (2013): Gerda Taro: The forgotten photojournalist killed in action, BBC World Service,, (last accessed 08 Jan 2018).

What was at stake here, was right, justice, morality and decency. (my translation)

Herbert Matthews cited in Lange-Tetzlaff, Monika (2016): Mit der Kamera als Waffe – Das kurze Leben der Gerda Taro, neobooks.



Gerda Taro Platz in Stuttgart, Germany.



Novel about Gerda Taro and Robert Capa: Fortes, Susana (2011): Waiting for Robert Capa. A Novel, Harper Perennial.

Photo exhibition: Bilder der Solidarität. Ausstellung in Erinnerung an den Spanischen Bürgerkrieg und die Fotojournalistin Gerda Taro, Gerhard Hauptmann Haus, Düsseldorf, Germany,

Photo exhibition: Gerda Taro, International Center of Photography, Manhattan, 2007-2008,

Photo exhibition: Krieg im Fokus, Kunstmuseum Stuttgart, Stuttgart, 2010,;Archiv&id=37&PHPSESSID=990ce0cef528f01c61ba8b8b66e079ec.



François Maspero (2006), L’Ombre d’une photographe. Gerda Taro. Seuil, Paris.

Irme Schaber (2013), Gerda Taro, Fotoreporterin. Mit Robert Capa im spanischen Bürgerkrieg. Jonas Verlag, Marbug, Germany.

Sougez, Marie-Loup/Albert-Louis Deschamps (2003): Fotógrafo en la Guerra Civil Espanola. Junta de Castilla y Léon, Salamanca.

Rogoyska, Jane (2013): Gerda Taro. Inventing Robert Capa, Random House UK.



  1. Stummer, Robin (2008): Accidental heroine, in: New Statesman; 10/13/2008, Vol. 137 Issue 4918.“Lost & Found” (Winter 2011), MHQ: Quarterly Journal of Military History, Vol. 23 Issue 2, p.56-65.
  2. Linfield, Susie (Dec. 2007): “Dark Rooms”, The Nation.
  3. Whelan, Richard (Fall 2003): “Gerda Taro – Heroic Witness, Aperture, No. 172, p. 52-65.



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