“If your pictures aren’t good enough, you aren’t close enough.” -Robert Capa

Robert Capa is accepted as the greatest war photographer during the first half of the twentieth century. Capa (born André Friedmann) was born in Budapest, Hungary.

Germany, 1930-1933

Capa studied photography in Berlin in the early 1930s and served as a darkroom assistant at the Deutsche Fotodienst Agency. He left for Paris during the rise of the Nazis. There, he shared a darkroom with Henri Cartier-Bresson and Chim (David Seymour).

Spain, 1936-1939

Robert Capa
Robert Capa

Capa made many trips to Spain with his partner and companion, Gerda Taro where he documented the Spanish Civil War. His most famous photograph, “Death of a Loyalist Soldier” (upper left in the gallery above) was made in 1938. His photographs of this war earned him the title from the Picture Post as “the greatest war photographer in the world” that same year. Capa summed up his passion this way …

I hope to stay unemployed as a war photographer till the end of my life.

For a war correspondent to miss an invasion is like refusing a date with Lana Turner.

World War II

Capa moved to the U.S. and worked for Life, Time and other magazines. He was a war correspondent for both Life and Collier’s from 1941 through the end of the war. He recorded the Allied wins in North Africa, the landing in Normandie, France, the capture of the German cities of Leipzig, Nuremberg and Berlin. After the war, he, along with Chim (David Seymour) and Henri Cartier-Bresson, founded Magnum. Magnum is a photography cooperative furnishing photos to publications around the world to this day. Capa’s work is represented by Magnum to this day. Capa used small 35mm cameras to approach his subjects in the midst of combat like no one else had before. He changed photojournalism forever.

Israel and the French War in Indochina (Vietnam)

Robert Capa photographed the conflicts surrounding the founding of Israel from 1948 to 1950. In 1954 he was working for Life in Hanoi. He stepped on a land mine. Robert Capa was 41 years old.

Excerpted from Linda Hostetler’s biography of Robert Capa for the International Center of Photography

Read more mini-biographies of influential photographers on Photofocus.