It was in 2006 that Julio García Bilbao, documentalist of the Spanish international news agency EFE, decided to start a research in order to find out who the smiling girl with a gun captured by Juan Guzmán was.
He already had a lot of information about this German-Mexican photographer. First that his original name was Hans Gutmann Guster and that he fled from his native country in 1936 because of the rise of nazism. He arrived in Barcelona planning to cover the People’s Olympiad that would take place there in July.
The whole project fell through due to the Civil War that broke out in the city on the 18th of that month. Instead of capturing sportsmen Juan photographed soldiers and activists; he even joined the Republican Army to fight against the Nationalists and obtained the rank of Captain.
After the war he moved to Mexico where he became famous for the portraits of the painters Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo. All in all Juan Guzmán left 150.000 negatives in black and white as well as in color. In 1987 his widow Teresa Miranda bequeathed 3.000 of them to the EFE that stored the photos in an archive gathering dust until Julio García’s curiosity got the better of him.
He found a series of 20 photograms taken with a 35 mm Agfa Pankine film featuring a young girl on the rooftop of a Barcelona building. Soon he discovered that the girl was standing on the terrace of the Hotel Colón, situated on the corner of Plaça de Catalunya and the Ramblas. But who was the girl and what exactly were the circumstances?
During his two years search he was to come across many copies of the photo used for different purposes, like book covers and posters for exhibitions. In the end his investigation led him to Paris where he discovered the identity of the girl who had become an icon of the resistance against Spanish nationalist forces: Marina Ginestà i Coloma, aged 88. She had never seen the photo and did not have an inkling of its fame and significance.
Marina proudly posed for a new photo (look how she holds her head in both photos!) and shared her story with the documentalist who had finally reached his goal. In the following installments all the details about the original picture and what happened to Marina afterwards will be revealed.