Monday, December 22, 2008

Tina Modotti & The Tangled Web

Tina Modotti (1896-1942)
Mella’s Typewriter, 1928

Modotti was Italian but did most of her photography in Mexico in the 1920s, where she was friends with Frida Kahlo, among other interesting people.

This gorgeous photograph has a different impact now that I've just learned that "Mella" was Modotti's murdered comrade and lover Julio Antonio Mella, a Cuban Marxist revolutionary exiled to Mexico. On January 10, 1929, he was assassinated, in a murky political crime, possibly by agents of the Cuban government.

A political revolutionary, Modotti worked for social justice in Spain during the Spanish Civil War.

Wondering if she met Robert Capa and Gerta Taro (post below) in Spain, I googled the trio.
I found that, according to Margaret Hooks' biography Tina Modotti, Modotti hung out with Constancia de la Mora, who was head of the Foreign Ministry's press censorhsip department, where Capa and Taro would have come, and that Modotti met many of the foreign correspondents.

Ah! Here. I asked Google to translated this [clicked on "translate this page"], so it reads something like LOLcat, but the author contends that Modotti and Taro's paths did cross, at least once, at a Communist Party function:

"In July 1937, at the 2nd Congress to defend the culture, in the midst of the war in Valencia and Madrid took place, there was an encounter between two photographers. One of them, Tina MODOTTI should die in 1942 in Mexico, the other, Gerta Taro - actually Gerta Pohorylle - would be a few days after this encounter, crushed by a tank in front of Brunete killed."

The original, in German, is Kämpfer und Freunde der Spanischen Republik [Fighters and Friends the Spanish Republic]: Modotti und Taro, von Christiane Barckhausen.

I'm just rummaging around in history and images here, marveling at the threads that weave into and out of everybody's lives.

A mundane example of such interweaving is an emergency e-mail I got this afternoon from Momo, whom I only know because of blogging. She's leaving town tomorrow and at the last minute her cat-feeding arrangements fell through. So, it's not civil war, thank god, but I am pitching in to help.


Anonymous said...

Damn, Grrrrl!
You never cease to inspire! That is, to breathe creative life-breath into the universe and hence to any of us who require it and happen upon or consciously seek sustenance via yr blog!! (I thank you from the depths of my soul at this hour of 7:50 a. m. on a toe-tinglingly cold Minneapolis morn'! Sometimes I play a quick game of "Check Gugeo/Nave Or My Own Email First!?"! So glad that today I chose to view your site in advance of all the rest!)
I had to laugh about the Tina Modotti thing the other day, because, from a very young age, I've been so drawn to Kahlo--her life and works--and I recognized some association with her when i saw Modotti's name...But it wasn't until I read Kahlo's giant biography or saw the Frida movie that I think I learned about Modottti. And I laughed more today when I scanningly read your post and somehow, the translated piece from the Deutsche source seemed totally grammatically correct to me. I had to go back and reread to see why you'd commented on its strange wording! This is what comes of reading stuff online translated from Granma press about Cuba, etc., following the present actions in Greece, reading Yiddish and Ladino lyrics.. (Of course, the word order tends to "make more sense" to a native English-speaker when the original language is Latinate or Greek rather than German!)
For folks who might see this and want to know, May Day Bookstore, just off Cedar Ave. near the West Bank of the U of M periodically has educational and free events that focus on aspects of the Spanish Civil War--(among other wonderments). For those who still feel moved by the commercialism of the season to support the capitalist pig system, I recommend May Day as a great place to gift from!! And the space itself has an interesting history.

Fresca, darlin", keep feeding us and cats and other anarchists and revolutionaries so that we have breath and strength to arch our backs, purr, hiss, yeeowl in the moonlight and carry the revolution forward! So glad you're with us all!

Love and Happy Warmth!


fresca said...

Fa la la, Stef!
Thanks for you thoughts--I laughed to read that the translated tangle has come to seem normal to you: You're a natural for LOLcats then!
It's fun to see how far you can stretch language before meaning snaps in half.

The Spanish Civil War always felt like a movie (or a Hemingway novel) until I walked through regions in Spain where old bunkers remained, in a landscape of olive trees and grape vines... they brought home that these were real people killing each other in a real place.
Very horrible, very ordinary...