Thursday, 11 August 2011

Juan Guzmán – a remarkable photographer

Whilst researching for striking images I came across the two below by the same photographer. Hans Gutmann was German by birth and upbringing, but came to Spain at the time of the Revolution* and changed his name to Juan Guzmán. He was a war photographer and spent his time with the International Brigades. Apart from that I can find very little about him.

The first photograph is of the Catholic priest Martin Martinez Pascual.

The photograph was supposedly taken immediately before his execution on 18th August 1936. He is counted as a martyr amongst some Catholics and is supposed to have called out “Viva Cristo Rey!” (“Long live Christ the King”) before he was killed. I can’t substantiate the claims about when this photo was taken nor about his last words; however, if there is any truth in that it is indeed a remarkable photo. The subject is relaxed, hands on hips, looking directly at the camera, and there is even a smile on his face. It’s a picture of courage. The Catholic apologist on whose blog I found the photo said of Guzmán, “We may assume that he was a communist”. Fair bet, although I can find no record of his having been a combatant.

The second picture is of the Miliciana Maria Jinesta.

Maria was a member of the Socialist Militia associated with the UGT** and she is pictured here on a high spot in Barcelona, again in 1936. Again the subject is smiling and looking directly at the camera. It is almost as though Guzmán’s technique is to get his subjects to look directly at the camera, saying “Show us who you really are, show us your truth”. How much his photographs are contrived or staged, beyond this liking for the full face, I couldn’t say.

As I say, very little seems to be known about Gutmann/Guzmán. His work is virtually unknown in his native Germany. He survived his time in Spain and WW2 and his death date was possibly 1982 (which would put these images outside public domain) but again I can’t confirm that. The latest photo of his that I have seen was of Frida Kahlo in 1951. Anyhow, I want to mark his work here, and that’s that.

Juan Guzmán


* Better known as the Civil War, but it was in fact a revolutionary situation first and foremost.

** Unión General de Trabajadores (General Union of Workers)


  1. Hi,

    I hope you'll forgive a stranger commenting out of the blue, but I wondered if you could give me more information about the sources of the photographs you've posted here; I agree that they're remarkable and very worth preserving!

    I'm a historian and professor at Pace University, in New York, and I'm doing research for an article on women in various European resistance movements. I was struck by the photograph of Maria Jinesta here, and would like to contact the copyright holder to request more information and perhaps permission to use the photograph (I can pay for the rights, if it's not too much).

    Could you please tell me where you found the photo, and perhaps (if you know) who owns the rights to it?

    Thank you so much in advance for any help you can give me here!

    Prof. Nancy Reagin
    Pace University

    email: nreagin AT pace dot edu

    1. Hi Nancy. I have emailed a reply to you.


  2. Dear Marie,
    I am also intrigued by this photo and would like to know more about copyright. Could you please also let me know more about how I could access to a higher resolution image?
    Many thanks

    Dr. Myrto Tsakatika
    Glasgow University


  3. Hi,
    Pardon me to write to you in so direct way, but you must be an ignorant or an ideological fanatic to call the Spanish Civil War a Revolution.
    1.Primo: Revolution is a violent change of power, and if you know history of Spain for two centuries before the Civil War, you know how violent it was. Catholic church played a dark role in all of it. Two centuries of constant revolt but never a revolution.
    2.Secundo: Before the British inspired Franco's putsch (I would never call it a Revolution neither), there was no such deep leftist influence in Spain, as during the Civil War. Spain went left because the country was desperate for an ally and paid dearly for Stalin's devious assistance.
    3. Terzio: You should know that Catholic priests who were on the side of the government and were executed by Franco, were not recognized by the Church as martyrs. The pope also never criticized the past excesses of the Inquisition in Spain, which were the main source of anti-church sentiments among the population.
    Peter Andrean, Amsterdam
    andreanp at

    1. Peter, thank you for calling me "an ignorant or an ideological fanatic".

      The Civil war was, as I stated, 'a revolutionary situation first and foremost'. The term 'Spanish Revolution' is a term now widely accepted by historians, particularly for the first phase of the Civil War. Your definition of a revolution as a specifically 'violent' change of power is inaccurate; a revolution is a radical change of power, with or without violence.

      Your assertion that 'there was no leftist influence' depends on what is meant by 'leftist'. Historians of the trades union movement in Spain would disagree with you; however, the most vigorous union was perhaps the anarchist CNT.

      Regarding your final comment, I dare say what you say is true (in fact I know it to be true regarding priests who supported the Government), but it has nothing to do with this blog post.