The Mexican Suitcase: The Rediscovered Spanish Civil War Negatives of Capa, Chim, and Taro (ICP New York)

Cynthia Young (editor), International Center of Photography (institution), Steidl (publisher), 592 pages in two volumes

2010

Cataloging the 165 recently discovered rolls of negative film was a massive undertaking for the curators, preservationists and historians at the ICP. Not only was the material physically delicate, but the film’s contents and its importance to the ICP was immeasurably sensitive. Robert Capa’s brother Cornell was the ICP’s founder, and this body of work was the cornerstone of Capa’s career as a photojournalist.

The Mexican Suitcase would be the debut of this material to the public as a complete archive, and the catalog as permanent record would be at least as important as the exhibition itself. Developing the structure for the book that would show off each of the film’s frames as well as the flow of the narrative within each roll was a complicated task. I had to balance between making the book unwieldy and expensive versus reproducing the frames too small to make their details intelligible.

Through many tests, strategies, and cost estimates, we came to the final two-volume 600 page document as the best way to get the material into the hands of all who wanted to make it a part of their library. The volumes are divided into a first book which contextualizes the film and provides background and analysis, and a second book which houses the complete collection of frames along with shorter essays pertaining to specific rolls.

The Mexican Suitcase