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The Amsterdam Boxes
Frente de Aragón, 1937 © Kati Horna. Archivo Fotográfico de las Oficinas de Propaganda Exterior de la CNT-FAI / Collection International Institute of Social History (IISH) Amsterdam

The Amsterdam Boxes

In the Civil War (PHE 22)

Kati Horna » Margaret Michaelis »

Exhibition: 3 Jun – 24 Jul 2022

Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando

Calle Alcala, 13
28014 Madrid

+34 91-524 08 64


Tue-Sat 10-14 + 17-10, Sun 10-14

PHotoESPAÑA focuses on great female photographers in history whose work has not been sufficiently recognized, on this occasion with a unique testimony on the Spanish Civil War.

This exhibition collects the unpublished work of the two anarchist photojournalists, Margaret Michaelis and Kati Horna, which was considered lost for decades.

Margaret Michaelis (Dziedzice, 1902-Melbourne, 1985) and Kati Horna (Budapest, 1912-Mexico, 2000) put their cameras at the service of the Social Revolution promoted by the anarchists and anarcho-syndicalists of the CNT-FAI during the Spanish Civil War. Contrary to what has been thought until now, their photographs of the war did not fall into Franco's hands nor did they disappear among the ruins of the bombings, but were found in the archive of the Foreign Propaganda Offices of the CNT-FAI where they worked. . At the end of the Civil War, the archive managed to safeguard its collections by sending them to the International Institute of Social History in Amsterdam, where they remained practically invisible until 2016, when its archives were organized and its inventory was created and published.

Although there is no documentation in the FAI archive to corroborate this, during the first months of the war, Margaret Michaelis, based in Barcelona since 1933, would work for the Graphic Section, becoming the anarchists' trusted photographer. Proof of this are the trips that she would take as a photographer together with the Russian anarchist Emma Goldman (1869-1940) and the Dutch anarcho-syndicalist Arthur Lehning (1899-2000) in the autumn of 1936, organized by colleagues from the offices propaganda. Trips that Michaelis recorded with her camera and that have been identified, among other works by the photographer, in the Archive.

That situation would change, however, with the arrival of Kati Horna in January 1937. Under the name of Catalina Polgare, and together with her husband, the Hungarian Paul Polgare (1911-1964), she arrived in anti-fascist Barcelona to become the official photographer of the anarchists and their photographic agency, the Spanish Photo Agency, then known as Photo SPA. An experience of hers, that of the agency, which would allow her to see her photographs published in international magazines such as the British “Weekly Illustrated”.

In July 1937, Horna moved to Valencia and worked as a graphic editor for the magazine “Umbral”. Seven months of hard work in the Propaganda Offices were left behind, materialized in the publication of the album “Espana? A book of images about fascist stories and slanders '' and in hundreds of negatives taken with her usual rolleiflex camera that today allow us to understand her gaze and her relationship with the anarchists. In the middle of 1938, Kati Horna would travel to Paris to obtain photographic material, scarce in Barcelona, ​​and she would never return.

The exhibition will travel next autumn 2023 in the halls of the Diputación de Huesca and in summer 2024 in the Palau de la Virreina in Barcelona