Last week incollege we were each given a photographer to research and mine, luckily in hindsight, was Robert Capa.
As in many areas of life, we absorb all sorts of information and names and Robert Capa was once such name. I knew of him but that is as far as it went. Leafing through books brought on that ‘ahhh!’ moment when I connected the name to his photographs. One such photo was The Falling Soldier, 1936 which in itself is worthy of a future blog post!
I say I was lucky to have been asked to research Capa because I love history and not only did he redefine wartime photojournalism, taking the amazing risks that he did, he was an extremely interesting individual, a scoundrel who engaged in politics from an early age, gambled, liked a drink and not wishing to move to Hollywood, split up with Ingrid Bergman after she had asked him to marry her. Now that’s pretty cool.
As a photographer, I feel that his subjects were portrayed with dignity and heroism while Capa was representing the suffering of ordinary people during wartime.
When I researched Capa’s photography, it was very often the delivery rather than the execution that is most striking to me. For example, there were other photographers working at Omaha Beach at the D-Day landings but it was Capa’s damaged, blurry images from the D-Day landings that became some of the most memorable war photographs ever made.
He landed on Omaha Beach with the first wave of infantry; his photographs were the first to be taken from the inside a great battle and his were the first to be brought back to London following the beach landings.
“I am a gambler. I decided to go in with Company E in the first wave.” – Robert Capa
Often, Capa’s wartime photographs tend to be technically imperfect due to the minimal time spent on the actual photographic process but for me, it’s Capa’s imperfections that portray a reality because they were taken instinctively and under extreme pressure.
I’ve since received a copy of Blood and Champagne by Alex Kershaw, a biography of Capa. That might already tip my college reading list over the thousand mark but it will be good ‘down-time’ reading (there’s optimism for you!) without losing sight of my studies.