Robert Capa portrait - Copyright Magnum Photos picture photographers

Robert Capa/ Endre Friedmann

Hungary 1913 - 1954

Photography

www.magnumphotos.com

Robert Capa
Endre Friedmann
Male
Hungary
1913

Arguably the greatest combat and adventure photographer of the 20th century, Robert Capa was a Hungarian artist who photographed five wars over the course of his lifetime and ultimately managed to redefine the genre we now know as photojournalism. Throughout his career, he covered many important historical events, including the rise of Soviet Communism, the Spanish Civil War, the Second Sino-Japanese War and a full survey of the politics and horrors of World War II. The artist’s real name was Endre Friedmann – Robert Capa was a pseudonym based on his childhood nickname Cápa (meaning Shark) that was initially used to conceal his Jewish heritage in post-World War I Berlin[1]. It should also be noted that Robert Capa co-founded the famous Magnum Photos in Paris alongside his fellow seminal photographers David Seymour, Henri Cartier-Bresson, William Vandivert and George Rodger.

Robert Capa - Liberation of Paris, France, August 1944 - Image via pinterestcom
Robert Capa – Liberation of Paris, France, August 1944 – Image via pinterest.com

Before Endre Friedmann Became Robert Capa

Endre Friedmann was born to the Jewish family of Júlia (née Berkovits) and Dezső Friedmann in Budapest, Austria-Hungary, on the 22nd of October in 1913. Around the time he was at the age of 18, Endre was accused of alleged communist sympathies and was forced to flee Hungary in order to avoid jail time. Without many options of where to go, he moved to the neighboring Germany where he enrolled at Berlin University and worked part-time as a darkroom assistant for income. Friedmann soon became a staff photographer for the German photographic agency Dephot and this was his first direct contact with the photo making practice. He originally wanted to be a writer, but after he found work in photography, Endre grew to love the art. However, when the notorious Nazi Party came into power during the early 1930s, Endre Friedmann decided to leave Germany and move to Paris in order to yet again avoid imprisonment, this time due to his religious background[2].

Robert Capa - Mothers of Naples, 1943 - Image via aphotoeditorcom
Robert Capa – Mothers of Naples, 1943 – Image via aphotoeditor.com

Early Photography

Once he arrived to Paris, Capa became romantically involved with Gerda Taro, a German-Jewish photographer who had moved to France in order to get away from the Nazi propaganda as well. Robert also met the aforementioned French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson in the City of Light with whom he shared a darkroom as they were both experimenting with photographic styles. As it was said above, these two artists will later co-found the Magnum Photos cooperative with David Seymour and George Rodger. Soon, the aspiring photographer started to call himself Robert Capa as the more American-sounding name helped Friedmann avoid religious discrimination then fairly common in France and find freelance work more easily. His first published photograph was that of Leon Trotsky making a speech in Copenhagen in 1932 – Capa called it The Meaning of the Russian Revolution. During that time, Robert was still obviously fascinated by the Communistic political current that sat well with him ever since Capa was a young man in Austria-Hungary.

During the rare peaceful interludes in his career, Robert Capa produced portraits of leading cultural figures of the 20th century

Robert Capa - Leon Trotsky Speaking in Copenhagen, 1931- Image via atlasgallerycom
Robert Capa – Leon Trotsky Speaking in Copenhagen, 1931- Image via atlasgallery.com

The Spanish Civil War

Between the years of 1936 and 1939, Capa worked in Spain where he was photographing the Spanish Civil War with his companion Gerda Taro and professional photography partner David Seymour. This experience will prove to be Robert’s first combat photojournalism project and he described it with the following statement: All you could do was to help individuals caught up in war, try to raise their spirits for a moment, perhaps flirt a little, make them laugh… And you could photograph them, to let them know that somebody cared. It was during this war that Capa took the photo now called The Falling Soldier, a terrifying image showing the death of a Republican soldier[3]. This picture was published in magazines in France and then by Life magazine and Picture Post. During this period, Gerda Taro died when the motor vehicle on which she was traveling collided with an out-of-control tank following the dire Battle of Brunete. After the Spanish conflict, the twenty-five-year-old Capa was referred to as the greatest war photographer in the world by many magazines in Europe and on the American soil. In 1938, he traveled to the Chinese city of Hankou in order to document the resistance to the Japanese invasion.

Robert Capa’s most famous photograph that hit the publications was titled as Death of a Loyalist Militiaman and it depicts a Spanish soldier giving his life on the Córdoba front

International beach center organizes for a film festival
Robert Capa – The Falling Soldier, 1936 – Image via alchetron.com

D-Day and World War II

At the start of World War II, Capa was in New York City as he moved there from Paris in order to escape the Nazi persecution – this was the third time the artist was forced to run fo his life in a relatively short period of time. During the war, he was sent to various parts of the European Theatre on photography assignments, taking pictures everywhere between Sicily and Germany. Robert’s most famous images from this period are those from the series titled as The Magnificent Eleven – a collection of photos depicting the event of the infamous D-Day. Taking part in the Allied invasion, Capa was with the first wave of American troops on Omaha Beach. He took 106 pictures whilst being under constant fire – unfortunately, all but eleven were destroyed in a photo lab accident back in London. The prints that survived were included in Life magazine‘s issue on June 19, 1944. As the war was entering its final stages, Capa was there to document every single moment he could[4], regularly risking his life so that he could get the perfect shot whilst, ironically, the Germans were aiming at him with devices that were far from cameras.

Maybe even the greatest war photographer that ever lived, Robert Capa cemented the visuals of WWII into our collective memories

International Normandy day is coming close and the International Center for Film is preparing for it
Robert Capa – Landing of the American Troops on Omaha Beach, France, 1944 – Image via theartofphotography.tv

A Sudden End to a Short Biography

In 1947, Robert Capa traveled to the Soviet Union with his friend, the American writer John Steinbeck. The idea was to go there together and collaborate on a book, with Capa documenting the war-torn nation with his camera. The trip resulted in Steinbeck’s book called A Russian Journal which was published both as an independent book and a newspaper serial. That same year, Capa founded the cooperative venture Magnum Photos in Paris with Henri Cartier-Bresson, William Vandivert, David Seymour and George Rodger. In 1952[5], Robert became the president of this agency in charge of managing work for and by freelance photographers. During the year of 1954, Capa traveled to Japan for an exhibition associated with Magnum Photos. While there, Life asked him to go on an assignment in Southeast Asia where the French had been fighting for eight years in the First Indochina War. In the midst of doing what he loved, Robert Capa was killed when he stepped on a land mine during a combat photo shooting. He was 40 years old at the time of his death.

International center for film and pictures seeks D Day close photographs from Normandy
Robert Capa – Two Republican Volounteers Resting, Barcelona, 1936- Image via atlasgallery.com

The Magic of Robert Capa and His Documentary Photos

Although his career was violently interrupted by the author’s untimely and sudden death, Robert Capa still managed to leave an incredible mark on the genre of photojournalism that was never the same after Endre Friedmann was done with his work. His photographs are nowadays recognized across the entire globe for their critical role in shaping public remembrance of the events that molded our collective modern story regardless of how terrifying or brutal these stories were. Ultimately, Capa established himself as an unparalleled war photographer of the 20th century and set the standard for just how far an artist should go in order to get the most out of their art[6]. Unfortunately, as far as Robert was concerned, no distance was too far and no obstacle too grand – and it was this valiant feature and uncompromising dedication that ultimately ended the photographer’s life.

References:

  1. Capa, R., Robert Capa, Stern, 2012
  2. Whelan, R., Robert Capa: A Biography, Knopf; 1st edition, 1985
  3. Whelan, R., Capa, R., Robert Capa at Work: This is War: Photographs 1936-1945, Steidl/ICP; First Edition, 2007
  4. Capa, C., Whelan, R., Capa, R., Slightly Out of Focus: The Legendary Photojournalist’s Illustrated Memoir of World War II, Modern Library; New edition, 2001
  5. Lebrun, B., Lefebvre, M., Robert Capa: The Paris Years 1933-54, Harry N. Abrams; First edition, 2012
  6. Kershaw, A., Blood And Champagne: The Life And Times Of Robert Capa, Da Capo Press; Reprint edition, 2004

Featured image: Robert Capa – Photo of the artist – Image Copyright Magnum Photos
All images used for illustrative purposes only.

YearExhibition TitleGallery/MuseumSolo/Group
2016Portraits of Pablo PicassoDuncan Miller Gallery, Santa Monica, CA Group
2016Eyes Wide Open! 100 jaar Leica fotografieKunsthal Sint-Pietersabdij, Ghent Group
2016Campo Cerrado: Arte español 1939-1953Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid Group
2016Augen Auf!Versicherungskammer Kulturstiftung, Munich Group
2015Capa in ColorRobert Capa Contemporary Photography Center, Budapest Solo
2015Robert CapaMoscow House of Photography, Moscow Solo
2015Robert Capa, the 101st Year: They All Adored BobTokyo Fuji Art Museum (TFAM), Hachioji City, Tokyo Solo
2015Robert Capa: Photographer of LifeTel Aviv Museum of Art, Tel Aviv Solo
2015Henri Cartier-Bresson e gli altri. I grandi fotografi e l’ItaliaPalazzo della Ragione Fotografia, Milan Group
2015Magnum Contact Sheets showsFoam Fotografiemuseum, Amsterdam Group
201520 Formas De Cambiar El MundoMuseum-Foundation Eugenio Granell, Santiago de Compostela Group
2015Legacy for the FutureKiyosato Museum of Photographic Arts, Kiyosato Group
2015Magnum Contact SheetsRobert Capa Contemporary Photography Center, Budapest Group
2015NgorongoroLehderstrasse 34, Berlin Group
2015Vom Neuen Sehen zur FotokunstWilly-Brandt-Haus, Berlin Group
2015AUGEN AUF! 100 JAHRE LEICA FOTOGRAFIEFotografie Forum Frankfurt, Frankfurt, Main Group
2014Robert Capa: War StoriesPhotographica FineArt Gallery, Lugano Solo
2014Robert Capa: RetrospectiveLucca Center of Contemporary Art, Lucca, LU Solo
2014Robert Capa in Italia. 1943-1944Palazzo Ducale, Genoa Solo
2014Robert CapaDaniel Blau Ltd., London Solo
2014Robert Capa, the 101st YearTokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography, Tokyo Solo
2014Robert CapaMuseo d`Arte di Nuoro, Nuoro Solo
2014Capa in ColorInternational Center of Photography, New York City, NY Solo
2014Robert Capa: In Italia 1943-1944Museo Nazionale Alinari della Fotografia (MNAF), Florence Solo
2014Magnum . Contact SheetsCO Berlin, Berlin Group
2014Augen Auf! 100 Jahre Leica FotografieDeichtorhallen Hamburg, Hamburg Group
2014Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Capa: The Decisive MomentGalerie Obrist, Essen Group
201418th Annual Summer SaleAlan Klotz Gallery, New York City, NY Group
2014Classic Contemporary: Julian Röder & Robert CapaKunsthalle Erfurt, Erfurt Group
2014Les Désastres De La Guerre. 1800-2014Musée du Louvre-Lens, Lens Group
2014Magnum Contact SheetsRobert Capa Contemporary Photography Center, Budapest Group
2014Collected Works: 20th Anniversary ExhibitionAtlas Gallery, London Group
2014Uncommon People In Ordinary LifePhotographica FineArt Gallery, Lugano Group
2014Fotogiornalismo E ReportageGalleria Civica di Modena, Modena Group
2014Chaplin in picturesHelsinki Art Museum, Helsinki Group
2013Robert Capa. La Realta Di FronteVilla Manin. Centro d'arte contemporanea, Codroipo, UD Solo
2013Robert Capa: Death in the MakingAtlas Gallery, London Solo
2013La Valise mexicaine Capa, Taro, ChimHôtel de Saint-Aignan, Paris Group
2013Robert Capa and Gerda TaroYokohama Museum of Art, Nishi-ku, Yokohama Group
2012Robert CapaKunsthal Sint-Pietersabdij, Ghent Solo
2012La Maleta MexicanaCírculo de Bellas Artes de Madrid (CBA), Madrid Solo
2012Goya, the all war historian: The Disasters and war photographyThe National Museum of Art of Romania, Bucharest Group
2012Howard Greenberg, CollectionMusée de l´Elysée, Lausanne Group
2012PHotoEspaña 2012PHotoEspaña, Madrid Group
2012Conmigo, yo mismo, yo.Museo Picasso Málaga, Málaga Group
2011Robert CapaEsterházy Palace, Bratislava Solo
2011Immagini di guerraPalazzo Ducale, Genoa Solo
2011Robert CapaKunsthalle Szombathely, Szombathely Solo
2011Salon StyleAtlas Gallery, London Group
2011Coal + IceThree Shadows Photography Art Centre, Beijing Group
2011Controversies: A Legal and Ethical History of PhotographyGalerie Rudolfinum, Prague Group
2011Eyewitness: Hungarian Photography in the 20th CenturyRoyal Academy of Arts, London Group
2011Eastern European Photography And Its InfluenceChris Beetles Art Gallery, London Group
2011Moments of our TimeAtlas Gallery, London Group
2011Deutscher Fotobuchpreis 2011Forum für Fotografie, Cologne Group
2010Robert CapaPublic Foundation for Modern Art, Dunaujvaros Solo
2010Humanos. Acciones, Historia Y FotografíaCentro de Arte Alcobendas (CAA), Madrid Group
2010Daegu Photo Biennale 2010EXCO, Daegu Group
2010Lebenslust und TotentanzKunsthalle Krems, Krems Group
2010This is the war!Círculo de Bellas Artes de Madrid (CBA), Madrid Group
2010Magnum's FirstMuseum Haus Ludwig, Saarlouis Group
2010Faces of our TimesAtlas Gallery, London Group
2010Kontroversen. Justiz, Ethik und FotografieKunstHaus Wien, Vienna Group
2010No Singing Allowed: Flamenco and PhotographyAperture Gallery, New York City, NY Group
2010The Image Wrought: Historical Photographic Approaches in the Digital AgeHerbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Ithaca, NY Group
2009¡Esto es la guerra! Robert Capa en acciónMuseu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya, Barcelona Solo
2008This Is War!Barbican Art Gallery, London Solo
2008Robert Capa: Images of WarFelix-Nussbaum-Haus, Osnabruck Solo
2007Robert Capa: Images of War and PeaceNobel Museum, Stockholm Solo
2007This is War! Robert Capa at WorkInternational Center of Photography, New York City, NY Solo
2006Robert Capa: Images of WarNobel Peace Center, Oslo Solo
2005Robert Capa: RetrospektiveMartin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin Solo
2004Robert Capa's Unknown WorldFukuoka Asian Art Museum, Fukuoka Solo
2004Robert Capa's Unknown World 50 Years After His Tragic DeathTokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography, Tokyo Solo
2002Capa: Face to Face. Images from the Spanish Civil WarBuda Palace, Budapest Solo
2001Robert CapaMusée de l´Elysée, Lausanne Solo
2000Robert CapaHiroshima Museum of Art, Hiroshima Solo
2000Robert CapaWorcester Art Museum, Worcester, MA Solo
2000Robert Capa: PhotographsTennis Palace, Helsinki Solo
1999Capa: cara a caraMuseo Tamayo, Mexico City Solo
1999Robert CapaHiroshima Museum of Art, Hiroshima Solo
1999Robert Capa: PhotographiesMusée des Impressionnismes Giverny, Giverny Solo
1999Capa, cara a caraMuseo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid Solo
1998Robert Capa. PhotographsScottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh, Scotland Solo
1998Robert CapaInternational Center of Photography, New York City, NY Solo
1997Robert Capa: PhotographsPhiladelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA Solo
1997Robert Capa: FotografiePalazzo delle Esposizioni, Rome Solo
1994Robert Capa: The D-Day PhotographsInternational Center of Photography, New York City, NY Solo
1992Robert Capa: MamuKünstlerhaus Stuttgart, Stuttgart Solo
1991Children of War, Children of Peace: Photographs by Robert CapaInternational Center of Photography, New York City, NY Solo
1987Robert CapaLe Chateau d'Eau, Toulouse Solo
1986Robert CapaMusée de l´Elysée, Lausanne Solo
1986Robert CapaGalerie Fotohof, Salzburg Solo
1986Robert CapaFotografie Forum international, Frankfurt, Main Solo
1985Robert Capa: A Retrospective, 1932–1954International Center of Photography, New York City, NY Solo
1981Robert Capa. Sex fotografierModerna Museet, Stockholm Solo
1964Robert Capa: Menschen im KriegHaus am Lützowplatz, Berlin Solo
1962Robert Capa: War PhotographsNational Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, ON Solo