Pesini, the TODAY photographer who inspired Robert Capa

Time has not erased from the memory of the people of Badajoz the state in which Castelar Park was in the 1950s. A park that still preserves the grove and the iron benches where the nannies of the wealthiest families in Badajoz came, almost daily, with a multitude of children. They were the protagonists of one of the images that Antonio Pesini frozen with his camera. The photographer from Badajoz combined his vocation for images with his profession as a draftsman. A task that did not prevent him from developing his professional career at the newspaper HOY, where he was from its creation, in 1933, until he retired.

Pesini immortalized the battles and environments of a changing society and which he saw represented in three nannies, who in uniform, tried to put dozens of boys in order.

An image that would catch the attention of Robert Capa, considered one of the most famous war photojournalists in history and who tried to reproduce this same snapshot on one of his trips to Badajoz.

This is what Mónica Leo and Vanesa Cordero tell it, the CB Foundation’s documentary filmmakers who have investigated each photograph to create this exhibition that will be at the foundation’s headquarters until April 29. «We have enlarged the six photographs that we found most interesting. Each one of them heads a theme of the exhibition,” they explain.

Pesini was not a typical photographer, but a photojournalist who was present at the most notable events of the time. Proof of this is the back of the photograph he took of some soldiers painting a facade, on which the Government’s censorship seal appears and which hangs on one of the walls of the second floor of the foundation’s headquarters in Montesinos. .

With this exhibition the foundation aims to highlight Pesini’s work, of which very few photographs remain. “Badajoz has not given it the value it has, perhaps because there were not enough images or because it has not been worked on,” says Leo.

Delving into Pesini’s objective is to contemplate the images of society; of the last democratic elections before the dictatorship, which were in 1936; but it is also to bring to the present the event of Castiblanco, to Sergeant Pio Sopena, to remember the post-war period and the Civil War. Because like Robert Capa, but without going down in history, Pesini was at the front. He photographed that of Olivenza, Medellín or Don Benito. The protagonists of these images are militiamen, officers, prisoners of the Falange or soldiers in the trenches. He draws attention that despite the importance that the war had in his work, there is no image of the Badajoz massacre. “He probably made them, but it is difficult for any to remain because Pesini was forced to burn part of his work due to threats from the Government, which kidnapped his daughter,” explains Cordero.

The Plaza Alta was the place where the photographer burned a good part of his negatives. The regime linked him to the opposing side due to the annotations of his photographs. Hence the documentary collection that is preserved about him is so small. “It is very difficult to find described or digitized photographs of Pesini, since until now they were in the hands of his daughter.”

Bring photos closer to the public

With Pesini’s documentary collection updated and digitized, the task that the CB Foundation now has before it is to highlight these images, which they have already digitized following the creation of the book that the historian, Antonio Molina Cascos, has dedicated to him.

«People are really liking it. Many of those who pass by the room and see the photographs recognize the period or the places, although some are quite changed and we have had to investigate them,” he says. In just one month Vanesa and Mónica have documented most of the images, among which the change of the López de Ayala Theater, where several rallies were held in the ’36 elections, draws attention.

«We show part of the history that is important to make known. Few people know that there are so many photographs of the Civil War in Extremadura,” they clarify.

Most of his compositions are shocking, such as the arrest of the wellman, a well-known character from Badajoz imprisoned by the regime.

Emigration was also in the crosshairs of its objective. In 1964, hundreds of people from Badajoz crowded with suitcases at the Badajoz station. They were spending Christmas at home again. An image that can be seen today thanks to the Lubitel or the Richard, two of Pesini’s cameras that preside over the exhibition.

Next to them are his glasses, the boxes of photographic paper for developing, a pipe or a copy of TODAY from 1939. Objects and photographs that do not hope to inspire Robert Capa, but rather the new generations.

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