banner image by Gerda Taro
Robert Capa was a Hungarian photographer and photojournalist who focussed on covering wars. He covered a total of five different wars in his career: the Spanish Civil War, the Second Sino-Japanese War, World War II, the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, and the First Indochina War. Capa left home at age 18 to see the world.
His original goal was the be a writer. However it was in Berlin that he found work as a photographer. He ended up leaving Germany due to the rise of the Nazi party as a freelance journalist. In fact, this is what lead him to change his birth name from Friedmann to Capa (a word meaning shark which has his nickname in school). He also like the name as it was similar to that of film director Frank Capra and sounded American. In fact, he often passed himself off as an American.
If your photographs aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.
Capa started his career as a war photographer in Spain covering the Spanish Civil War. It was here that he formed both a personal and professional bond with Gerda Taro who’s viewed as the first female war journalist. Both regularly put themselves in great danger to cover the wars. In fact it would be later in life a war assignment that killed him when he stepped onto a landline. Gerda also died earlier in life in Spain during a war.
Capa’s work is seen as changing the role of the war journalist. His in the trenches approach was a major departure from how war had been previously photographed.
Capa is also recognized as the co-founder of the Magnum Photos agency in Paris along with David Seymour, Henri Cartier-Bresson, George Rodger and William Vandivert. This was the first cooperative for worldwide freelance photographers.
Both Capa and his younger brother, Cornell Capa,were deeply committed to preserving photography. Cornell founded the International Fund for Concerned Photography in 1966. This served as an effort to preserve the photographs by Capa.
Watch the first part of his documentary here. You can find the other parts on YouTube.
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