Some of the most famous photographs in history are believed to be staged – probably because the moments depicted are too surreal to be captured by cameras. One of these is the war shot by Robert Capa named Falling Soldier.
In this Robert Capa photograph, a Spanish Republican, also known as a Loyalist, is falling backwards as he is struck by a gunshot through the head. This was taken last September 5, 1936 and was originally entitled as Loyalist Militiaman at the Moment of Death, Cerro Muriano. It was first published in a French magazine spread called Vu. Later on, it also appeared in LIFE magazine. After some time, it was determined that it was actually shot a number of miles away from the Cordoba Front.
In the 1970s, historians and researchers began to question the authenticity of this photograph. The controversy heated and went on for years and it was not until 1996 when the soldier’s name in the photograph was identified Federico Borrell García. It was confirmed by the Spanish government’s archives that García was killed in September 5, 1936, during the battle in Cerro Muriano. However, some experts still doubted its genuineness and they continued to argue fatuously that García posed for Capa before he was killed.
The soldier’s hands are noticeable in this picture: his right hand is loosely grasping the rifle and most importantly, his left hand shows death grip, wherein limp muscles indicate death. But what about your view – what is your stand on this iconic civil war picture’s authenticity? Did this momentous photo really capture the death of a hero? Or was it just faked? Share your insights.
Our intention with the Influential Photographs series is not to glorify or demean the subject of the photo. Our intention with this column is to highlight the most influential analogue photographs of history. The photographs we feature are considered icons, for their composition, subject matter, or avant-garde artistic value.