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Best of the Best: Robert Capa

“If your pictures aren't good enough, you aren't close enough.” — Robert Capa

Robert Capa (October 22, 1913 – May 25, 1954)

Robert Capa, whose real name was Endre Friedmann, was a veteran who covered five wars from 1936 in Spain to 1954 in Vietnam. His name was ever present in terms of combat photography and wartime photojournalism and his action photographs portrayed violence with extraordinary impact.

He was a renowned Hungarian-born photographer who once dreamt of becoming a writer. He documented various stories of conflict in black and white film with such bravery and valor. Thus, his photographs are considered as the most harshly fascinating war photographs of all time.

Slightly out of Focus: Capa’s World War II memoir, image from Google Images

Personally, he was also known to be a hard-drinking gambler, a lover of risks, which somehow supports his unfailing bravery during wartime. He had a certain charisma: with a Leica camera dangling around his neck and a filter cigarette dangling from his lips. He had a way with the females and was even romantically linked to the Hollywood superstar, Ingrid Bergman.

Bergman and Capa, image from fanpix.net

After cheating death for a number of times, Capa swore that he would never risk his life in violent photography and in 1941, he agreed to have his work published in LIFE magazine. In springtime of the same year, though, Capa was killed at a very young age of 40 as he tried to capture the fight as closely as possible. Capa’s ultimate sacrifice, to cover the essence of combat on film, is forever embedded in our memory. His courageous legacy remains intact and he will be unequaled.

image from Google Images

Splendid and, at the same time, doomed: these adjectives depict the best photographs by Robert Capa. His photographs are good enough because they were close enough. It’s your turn now, look as closely as you can.

In addition, Capa’s most controversial war photograph is The Falling Soldier which had allegations that it was only staged. In the shot, the soldier appears to be collapsing backwards after being hit by a sniper’s bullet.

Originally known as Loyalist Militiaman at the Moment of Death, Cerro Muriano, September 5, 1936, image from Google Images

Which of these Robert Capa photographs strike your liking the most? What is your two cents regarding the rumors of The Falling Soldier’s authenticity? What other classic photographers would you like to be written about?

basterda is a member of the Lomography team in Manila. She has been dealing with your Customer Service concerns since August of 2010 and is now also contributing to the magazine. Influential Photographs is also one of her ongoing series for the Lifestyle section.

written by basterda

13 comments

  1. disasterarea

    disasterarea

    excellent article....There's a real Leica theme running through al these classic photograph & photographer articles, I guess that's because at the time it was the best camera money could buy.

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  2. disasterarea

    disasterarea

    Not to mention Capa was the only photographer on the American beaches of the Normandy Landings during World War 2.

    Unfortunately the technician in the lab was so eager to see the pictures, he dried the film to quickly and melted the emulsion. Only 10 pictures of the 3 rolls he took that day were usable.

    ....You see, even the best labs get it wrong sometimes!

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  3. susielomovitz

    susielomovitz

    I really like Robert Capa's work and his interesting life. In my Grandmothers house there's a book of Capa I like to see once in a while. One of the things I like the most about Capa's life is when his lover, the german lady Gerda Pohorylle, who also became his agent, "invented" Robert Capa (1936) saying to every editor in Paris that Capa was an american photographer and telling them they were lucky to have the opportunity to buy Capa's photos. With his real name he wasn't being lucky, and editors didn't want him! That part of his life is great! And the beging of the character we know these days.

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  4. ggirl

    If you are in Tucson, AZ you can see Robert and Cornell Capa's work at the Art Center Design College and in NYC at ICP - The Mexican Suitcase ----- Master printer, photographer and educator Teresa Engle Moreno achieved global prominence for printing vintage negatives, including LIFE Picture Collections. Her exhibit in the Florence Quater Gallery continues through Friday, April 15. Hours are noon to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Call for more information. http://www.theartcenter.edu/n_71.html --- The Mexican Suitcase: Rediscovered Spanish Civil War negatives by Capa, Chim, and Taro September 24, 2010–May 8, 2011 The Mexican Suitcase will for the first time give the public an opportunity to experience images drawn from this famous collection of recovered negatives. In December 2007, three boxes filled with rolls of film, containing 4,500 35mm negatives of the Spanish Civil War by Robert Capa, Gerda Taro, and Chim (David Seymour)—which had been considered lost since 1939—arrived at the International Center of Photography. http://www.icp.org/museum/exhibitions
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  5. wuxiong

    wuxiong

    Capa, documenting the wars made himself a war hero...

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  6. adi_totp

    adi_totp

    “If your pictures aren't good enough, you aren't close enough.” Love that quote :)

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  7. disasterarea

    disasterarea

    ....with a quote like that he could've been a Lomographer! (rule #5)

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  8. grazie

    grazie

    Truly best of the best. His photos are priceless not only because they were taken with so much risk and danger involved but also he was able to capture moments perfectly. He might have a great camera, a Leica, and a rare bravery but I believe his great gift was his instinct in taking these photos. His work makes me respect and admire more the photojournalists out there who risk their lives everyday to give us a reportage of what's happening in the world through their photos.

    I don't know why but I love this Capa photo of "Young women being trained as Nationalist Chinese soldiers. After having lost Shanghai and Nankijng to the Japanese troops, CHANG KAI SHEK retreated to Hankou, where he resisted until late 1938."-Magnum photos http://www.magnumpho(…)age01_VForm

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  9. vicuna

    vicuna

    One of the greatest....! I love the blurry shot of the Normandy WW2 landing... and there's another one about vietnam (just before he died I think) which impressed me a lot some time ago, but don't remember exactly how it was called....
    About Impressing photos which are part of history, I could mention the work of Evgueni Khaldei (and his shot (manipulated afterwards) of the soviet soldiers on the Reichstag in 1945.
    Another impressing picture is this famous photo of this GDR soldier (Conrad Schumann, 19years old) fleeing over the Border in Berlin during the building of the wall 1961 and captured on film by Peter Leibing

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  10. pangmark

    pangmark

    My all time favourite. A man of true grit.

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  11. meryl

    meryl

    側面很帥 ~great CAPA

    almost 3 years ago · report as spam
  12. guanatos

    guanatos

    the whole d-day series is amazing. What I trylly love about Capa's work is he was able to capture the most horrifying acts of human cruelty, but still give it a humane point of view. He was bold, he was brave, he’s a true rockstar of the photography world.

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  13. carsten-schmitt

    carsten-schmitt

    Unfortunately there is an error in paragraph 4:
    "[...]photography and in 1941, he agreed to have his work published in LIFE magazine. In springtime of the same year, though, Capa was killed at a very young age of 40 as he tried to capture the fight as closely as possible."
    I am not sure how he would have covered the Normandy landings and the Vietnam war being DEAD. ;-)

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This is the original article written in: English. It is also available in: Русский, ภาษาไทย, Nederlands, Spanish & Português.