Robert Capa

Robert Capa

Infobox Person
name = Robert Capa

image_size = 280px
birth_name = Endre Friedmann
birth_date = October 22 1913
birth_place =Budapest, Austria-Hungary
death_date = May 25 1954 (aged age|1913|10|22|1954|5|15)
death_place =Thai Binh, State of Vietnam

Robert Capa (Budapest, October 22 1913 – May 25 1954) was a 20th century combat photographer who covered five different wars: the Spanish Civil War, the Second Sino-Japanese War, World War II across Europe, the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, and the First Indochina War. He documented the course of World War II in London, North Africa, Italy, the Battle of Normandy on Omaha Beach and the liberation of Paris. Capa's younger brother, Cornell Capa, also a photographer, worked to preserve and promote Robert's legacy as well as developing his own identity and style.


Born in Budapest, Austria-Hungary in 1913 as Endre Ernő Friedmann, Capa left the country in 1932 after being arrested because of his political involvement with protestors against the government (his parents had encouraged him to settle elsewhere).

Capa originally wanted to be a writer; however, he found work in photography in Berlin and grew to love the art. In 1933, he moved from Germany to France because of the rise of Nazism (he was Jewish), but found it difficult to find work there as a freelance journalist. He adopted the name "Robert Capa" around this time because he felt that it would be recognizable and American-sounding since it was similar to that of film director Frank Capra. (In fact, "cápa" is a Hungarian word meaning shark.)

panish Civil War

From 1936 to 1939, he was in Spain, photographing the horrors of the Spanish Civil War. In 1936 he became known across the globe for a photo he took on the Cordoba Front of a Loyalist Militiaman who had just been shot and was in the act of falling to his death. Because of his proximity to the victim and the timing of the capture, there was a long controversy about the authenticity of this photograph. A Spanish historian identified the dead soldier as Federico Borrell García, from Alcoi (Alicante). There is a second photograph showing another soldier who fell on the same spot. [ [] "Proving that Robert Capa's Falling Soldier is Genuine: a Detective Story," Richard Whelan, American Masters, PBS Website.]

Many of Capa's photographs of the Spanish Civil War were, for many decades, presumed lost, but surfaced in Mexico City in the late 1990s.Randy Kennedy, [ "The Capa Cache"] , "New York Times", Jan. 27, 2008.] While fleeing Europe in 1939, Capa had lost the collection, which over time came to be dubbed the "Mexican suitcase". Ownership of the collection was transferred to the Capa Estate, and in December, 2007, moved to the International Center of Photography, a museum founded by Capa's younger brother Cornell in Manhattan. [cite web |last=Kennedy |first=Randy |title=The Capa Cache |url= |accessdate January 27, 2008]

World War II

At the start of World War II, Capa was in New York City. He had moved there from Paris to look for new work and to escape Nazi persecution. The war took Capa to various parts of the European Theatre on photography assignments. He first photographed for "Collier's Weekly", before switching to "Life" after he was fired by the former. He was the only "enemy alien" photographer for the Allies. On October 7, 1943, Robert Capa was in Naples with "Life" reporter Will Lang Jr. and photographed the Naples post office bombing. ["Slightly Out of Focus", Henry Holt and Company, New York, 1947, p.104.]

His most famous work occurred on June 6, 1944 (D-Day) when he swam ashore with the second assault wave on Omaha Beach. He was armed with two Contax II cameras mounted with 50 mm lenses and several rolls of spare film. Capa took 106 pictures in the first couple of hours of the invasion. However, a staff member at "Life" in London made a mistake in the darkroom; he set the dryer too high and melted the emulsion in the negatives in three complete rolls and over half of a fourth roll. Only eleven frames in total were recovered. ["Slightly Out of Focus", Henry Holt and Company, New York, 1947, p. 151] Capa never said a word to the London bureau chief about the loss of three and a half rolls of his D-Day landing film. [ [ "Moments of war, captured by the master", by Peter Aspden, Financial Times (London), October 4 2008] ]

Although a fifteen-year-old lab assistant named Dennis Banks was responsible for the accident, another account, now largely accepted as untrue but which gained widespread currency, blamed Larry Burrows, who worked in the lab not as a technician but as a "tea-boy". [ [] "Snapshot", The Weekly Newsletter of A Better Photo website, trivia section.] "Life" magazine printed 10 of the frames in its June 19, 1944 issue with captions that described the footage as "slightly out of focus", explaining that Capa's hands were shaking in the excitement of the moment (something which he denied). ["Slightly Out of Focus", Henry Holt and Company, New York, 1947, p. 151. It should be noted that earlier in this account, Capa stated that his "empty camera trembled in my hands." (p.148) This prevented him, however, from loading a new roll of film, not from taking clear shots of the battle.] Capa used this phrase as the title of his alternately hilarious and sad autobiographical account of the war, "Slightly Out of Focus".

In 1947 Capa traveled into the Soviet Union with his friend, writer John Steinbeck. He took photos in Moscow, Kiev, Tbilisi, Batumi and among the ruins of Stalingrad. The humorous reportage of Steinbeck, "A Russian Journal" was illustrated with Capa's photos. It was first published in 1948.

In 1947, Capa founded Magnum Photos with Henri Cartier-Bresson, William Vandivert, David Seymour, and George Rodger. In 1951, he became the president.

First Indochina War and Death

In the early 1950s, Capa traveled to Japan for an exhibition associated with Magnum Photos. While there, "Life" magazine asked him to go on assignment to Southeast Asia, where the French had been fighting for eight years in the First Indochina War. Despite the fact he had sworn not to photograph another war a few years earlier, Capa accepted and accompanied a French regiment with two other "Time-Life" journalists, John Mecklin and Jim Lucas. On May 25, 1954 at 2:55 p.m., the regiment was passing through a dangerous area under fire when Capa decided to leave his jeep and go up the road to photograph some of the advance. About five minutes later, Mecklin and Lucas heard a loud explosion. Capa had stepped on a landmine. When they arrived on the scene he was still alive, but his left leg had been blown to pieces and he had a serious wound in his chest. Mecklin screamed for a medic and Capa's body was taken to a small field hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival. He had died with his camera in his hand.

Private Life

In 1934 "André Friedman", as he called himself at that time, met Gerda Pohorylle, a German Jewish refugee. The couple lived in Paris where André taught Gerda photography. Together they contrived the name and image of "Robert Capa" as a famous American photographer. Gerda took the name Gerda Taro, becoming successful in her own right. She traveled with Capa to Spain in 1936 with the intention to document the Spanish Civil War. In July 1937 Capa went on a short business trip to Paris while Gerda remained in Madrid. She was killed near Brunete during a battle. Capa, who was reportedly engaged to her, was deeply shocked and never married.

In February 1943 Capa met Elaine Justin, the beautiful young wife of actor John Austin. They immediately fell in love and the relationship lasted until the end of the war, although Capa spent most of his time in the frontline. Capa lovingly called the redheaded Elaine "Pinky," and their romance became the topic of his war memoir, "Slightly Out of Focus". In 1945, Elaine broke up with Capa and married her friend, Chuck Romine.

Some months later Capa became the lover of actress Ingrid Bergman who was travelling in Europe at the time entertaining American soldiers. In December 1945, Capa followed her to Hollywood where he worked for American International Pictures for a short time. Bergman tried to persuade him to marry her but Capa didn't want to live in Hollywood. Their troubled romance was immortalized by their mutual friend Alfred Hitchcock in "Rear Window". The relationship ended in the summer of 1946 when Capa travelled to Turkey.


In order to preserve the photographic heritage of Capa and other photographers, his younger brother, Cornell, founded the International Fund for Concerned Photography in 1966. To give this collection a permanent home he founded the International Center of Photography in New York City in 1974.

The Overseas Press Club created an award in his honor, the Robert Capa Gold Medal. It is given annually to the photographer who provides the "best published photographic reporting from abroad, requiring exceptional courage and enterprise". [ [] "Overseas Press Club of America", Awards Archive.]

In 1995, thousands of negatives to photographs that Capa took during the Spanish Civil War were found in three suitcases bequeathed to a Mexico City film-maker from his aunt. In 1939, after Capa fled Europe for America during the World War II, these negatives were left behind in a Paris darkroom and they were assumed lost during the Nazi invasion of Paris. It is not known how the negatives traveled to Mexico, but apparently Capa asked his darkroom manager, a Hungarian photographer named Imre Weisz, to save his negatives during 1939 and 1940. Jerald R Green, a professor at Queens College, was informed by a letter from the Mexican film-maker about this discovery. In January 2008, the negatives transferred to the Capa estate, but the Mexican film-maker has asked to remain anonymous.Hill, Amelia. [,,2247776,00.html?gusrc=rss&feed=40 "Photographer Capa's lost treasure chest unearthed"] , Guardian: The Observer, 27 January 2008.]

An exhibition "This Is War:Robert Capa at Work" can be seen be at Barbican Art Gallery 17 October 2008 – 25 January 2009.


*"Death in the Making", 1938
*"The Battle of Waterloo Road", 1941
*"Invasion!", 1944
*"Slightly Out of Focus", Henry Holt and Co., New York, 1947
*"A Russian Journal", by John Steinbeck and Robert Capa, Viking, New York, 1948
*"Robert Capa: Photographs",1996
*"Heart of Spain", 1999
*"Robert Capa: The Definitive Collection", 2001
*"Blood and Champagne: The Life and Times of Robert Capa", 2002

ee also

* Photojournalism



* Whelan, Richard (1985) "Robert Capa: a biography" Knopf, New York, ISBN 0-394-52488-8 ;

External links

* [ Robert Capa's Photography Portfolio — Magnum Photos]
* [ Magnum Photos]
* [ "Capa and Taro: Together at Last" — The Digital Journalist]
* [ PBS biography and analysis of "Falling Soldier" authenticity]
* [ On Capa's photography "Falling Soldier"] Links compiled by
* [ Robert Capa's "Lost Negatives"]
* [ Death of a Loyalist Soldier] , Spain, 1936.
* [ The D-Day photographs of Robert Capa]
* [ A biographical page regarding Capa]
* [ Hultquist, Clayton. “Robert Capa ~ Pictures of War.”]
* [ Photography Temple. “Photographer Robert Capa”]
* [ VNS. May 2004. “Photographers mark Capa’s passing”.]
* [ International Photography Hall of Fame & Museum]

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Robert Capa — 1937 im Spanischen Bürgerkrieg (Fotografie von Gerda Taro) Robert Capa (* 22. Oktober 1913 in Budapest, Österreich Ungarn; † 25. Mai 1954 in Thai Binh, Französisch Indochina), eigentlich Endre Ernő Friedmann (in anderen Schreibweisen auch André… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

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  • Robert Capa — Robert Capa, Budapest, Hungría, 22 de octubre de 1913 Thai Binh Vietnam, 25 de mayo de 1954. Fue, posiblemente, el más famoso corresponsal gráfico de guerra del siglo XX. Su verdadero nombre era Ernö o Ernest Andrei Friedman. De ascendencia judía …   Enciclopedia Universal

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  • Robert Capa — (22.10.1913 25.5.1954) eigentlich Andrei Friedmann, amerikanischer Fotograf ungarischer Herkunft, arbeitete ab 1936 während des Spanischen Bürgerkriegs als Kriegsberichterstatter. Während des Zweiten Weltkriegs erschienen seine Fotos vom… …   Das Lexikon aus „Bernie's Foto-Programm"

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  • Robert Capa Gold Medal — The Robert Capa Gold Medal is an award for best published photographic reporting from abroad requiring exceptional courage and enterprise .cite web | title=OPC Awards: The Robert Capa Gold Medal | publisher= Overseas Press Club of America |… …   Wikipedia

  • Robert Capa Gold Medal — Die Robert Capa Gold Medaille ist ein Preis, der seit 1955 jährlich vom Overseas Press Club für die beste veröffentlichte Fotoreportage aus dem Ausland verliehen wird, die besonderen Mut und Unternehmensgeist erforderte. Der Preis wurde gestiftet …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Premio Robert Capa Gold Medal — Saltar a navegación, búsqueda La Robert Capa Gold Medal (Medalla de oro Robert Capa) es un premio a la mejor fotografía realizada fuera de Estados Unidos que requiera excepcional valor y medios ( best published photographic reporting from abroad… …   Wikipedia Español

  • Prix Robert Capa Gold Medal — Description Récompense photographique Organisateur Oversea Press Club of America Pays  États Unis Date de création …   Wikipédia en Français

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