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The meticulous analysis of a negative discarded that German photographer Hugo Brehme (1882-1954) was author of the famous full-body photograph where Emiliano Zapata appears standing with the rifle in his right hand, a sable in the left, and a band covering his chest under the cartridge belts.


Mayra Mendoza Aviles, sub director of the National Photographic Library of the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), and specialist on Brehme’s work, found out that at the mentioned reprography or negative, safeguarded by INAH, “it is possible to notice, under the sable, that the impression was signed in English: “Zapata, Photo and Copyright by F.M.”.

According to the researcher, the famous portrait was attributed to Hugo Brehme since 1995, without any historical or documental reference, when it was included in the exhibition Mexico: Una Nacion Persistente (Mexico: A Persistent Nation). No reliable testimony indicated it was Brehme’s, and a myth that endures to our days began”.

Famous Zapata photograph has been reproduced in countless occasions in books, magazines, posters and t-shirts, and could have been captured by some American photographer probably named F. Moray or F. McKay.

Some mysteries have been clarified with the passing of time, such as place and date of the shoot: Moctezuma Hotel in Cuernavaca, 1911, as well as its first appearance in printed media: April 16th 1913, in El Imparcial diary.

For Mayra Mendoza there are 4 elements that make impossible that the author is Hugo Brehme: the first one is the use of calligraphy different from the German photographer’s and from collaborators that labeled the plaques. The sign F.M. keeps no relation with Brehme’s study.

The second element is that Brehme did not labeled inside images with calligraphy: all legends were written with Capital print letters at the borders. Third factor is that there is not information regarding Brehme using or knowing English; his impressions were labeled in Spanish and, occasionally, German.

“The fourth argument is that in any of his exterior shot collections is possible to locate a portrait of Zapata without his signature and seal; he labeled each and every picture of his studio”.     

All of the above “leads us to question his authorship and to attribute the picture to F. Moray or F. McKay. There is no data regarding any of them, but it is possible he was a little known American photographer, as many of them crossed the border during the Revolution”.

Mayra Mendoza gives details of her research in the most recent number of Alquimia magazine, published by the National System of Photographic Libraries (SINAFO), named Carlos Jurado y el arte de la aprehension de las imagenes (Carlos Jurado and the art of capturing images).