Forces of the Spanish Government Crossing the Ebro


Museo Reina Sofia

Museo Reina Sofia
Madrid, Spain

Photojournalism came of age during the Spanish Civil War, in a context in which graphic information was beginning to circulate and be accepted internationally. Photojournalism arose from three very different influences: in the first place, from the aesthetics of documentary photography, which were crystallised in Soviet factography and disseminated through the worker photography movement; in the second place, from the relationship between photography and the precise moment, as a way to capture and define the present, and, in the third place, as a result of the appearance of news agencies, an international market and an urban readership of the press and magazines, these last two items playing a vital role as vehicles of images during the Civil War.

A large group of both anonymous and well-known photographers from Spain and other countries, including Robert Capa (1913- 1954), David Seymour "Chim" (1911-1956), Agustí Centelles (1909-1985) and Gerda Taro (1910-1937) documented scenes of war, of political events and of ordinary life, which were then distributed in a multitude of printed media. These photographic images, along with film journalism, can be said to have been the most important source of information about the Spanish conflict at the international level.

Such works show the consolidation of an imaginary consisting of previously-defined signs that could be quickly and easily decoded, and that were accessible even to audiences not prepared for them. The words loyalist (which meant a supporter of the Republic, a socialist and defender of free Spain) and rebel (which, on the other hand, meant Nationalist, Phalangist and fascist) are as confusing as the images are clear. Combattants loyal to the Republic that was under attack by the Franco-led revolt are the ones that appear in shirtsleeves, without uniforms, without a strict system of ranks, without parades or perfectly aligned soldiers, and haphazardly armed. The rebels are the ones that are dressed in perfectly identifiable uniforms, with German weapons and helmets and a great deal of material imported from Germany and Italy.

Within this new level of information lies the definition and crystallization of press photography but, unlike the neutral eye of the informer, this kind of photography finds inspiration in the narrative, social and political dimension of the medium. Photography that, as images of an extreme situation, aspires to influence the international conceptualisation of the Spanish Civil War, generating action and prospects for transformation, both among the receiving audience and on the part of the photographer.


  • Title: Forces of the Spanish Government Crossing the Ebro
  • Creator: Unknown
  • Date Created: 1938
  • Style: Photography
  • Provenance: Private Collection
  • Physical Dimensions: w200 x h152 mm
  • Original Title: Fuerzas del gobierno español cruzando el Ebro
  • Type: Photograph
  • Medium: Gelatin-bromide silver on paper

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