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Robert Capa

Born Endre Ern? Friedmann on October 22, 1913, Hungarian photographer Robert Capa gave the world vivid pictures of war. He is the world's legendary combat/war photographer who was able to witness and cover five wars that include the Spanish Civil War, the Second Sino-Japanese War and World War II where he traveled all across Europe capturing pivotal moments in London, North Africa, Italy and documenting flashes of the historical Battle of Normandy on Omaha Beach and the liberation of Paris.

Robert Capa
Photographer Robert Capa

Robert Capa was also able to take photographs of the 1948 Arab-Israeli War and the First Indochina War.

In addition, he was the co-founder of the very first cooperative agency for worldwide freelance photographers, Magnum Photos. Among the founding personalities for this organization was the French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson.

The young Friedmann was brought up in an environment of poverty, conflict and animosity in his family, particularly between his parents. Growing up, he was an observer to the constant clashes between his father and mother. As a teenager, he experienced discrimination as a Jew. It was in these times when he also became involved with leftist revolutionaries.

Robert Capa left home at the age of 18 and ended up studying photojournalism after pursuing thoughts of writing. Right around 1932, he got his first break. He was assigned to cover Leon Trotsky's address in the Copenhagen stadium on "The Meaning of the Russian Revolution." So vivid were his photos with dramatic, intense, intimate and somehow imperfect qualities, which made them all the more genuine to his audience.

These same photo traits became his trademark as photographer. Friedmann changed his name to the American sounding "Robert Capa" right around the time he moved to France from Germany as Nazism rose to power. The decision to change his name proved to be wise as he was able to sell his photographs more effectively.

Falling Soldier
The Falling Soldier

His subsequent magazine covers catapulted his career further to celebrated status. Among his most notable works is "The Falling Soldier" (pictured above) taken in Spain. It was a picture of a militiaman about to fall on the ground after a gunshot. Although there still stands some controversy regarding its authenticity as some claim the scenario was staged, it still is one of Capa's most remarkable shots.

Capa's infamous photographs of D-Day on Omaha Beach during World War II where he moved alongside troops, treading on dangerous waters, only prove his passion for real-time, intense pictures. He also took images for the book, "Report on Israel," soon after that nation's establishment.

Subsequently, in 1954, Robert Capa traveled to far-flung Southeast Asia and covered the First Indochina War for Life magazine. Unfortunately, it was here where his untimely demise happened after he stepped on a landmine.

Capa remains as one of photojournalism's and modern photography's formidable personalities influencing a great many of today's photographers. His works are well published and publicized.
Omaha Beach
Omaha Beach

Cornell Capa preserved his older brother's legacy by establishing the International Fund for Concerned Photography, which through its museum, research center and school in New York seeks to honor those in the field of photography and help future role models establish themselves.

 

The Rumor Mill

The rumor mill about Robert Capa is a sordid one. Besides the biography already presented, there is a long yarn woven about how one time Mr. Capa may have actually beaten Kung Fu Panda in the Kung Pao chicken dance. Or not.


 


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