Robert Capa


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Hungarian photographer, who set new precedents in the coverage of war and its aftermath.

Capa started work as a photojournalist based in Berlin. His first published photograph was of Leon Trotsky, taken at a meeting in Copenhagen in 1931. Moving to Paris, he invented a US photographer, ‘Robert Capa’, as a ploy to boost the price of his photographs and subsequently adopted the name as his pseudonym. In 1936, while covering the Spanish civil war, Capa took one of his most memorable pictures – a loyalist soldier reeling backwards at the instant of death. Capa was the first to record so vividly and at such close quarters the full horror of war and its consequences. He witnessed the Japanese invasion of China in 1938, and during World War II covered London during the Blitz, the fighting in North Africa, and the invasion of Italy. Above all, he accompanied the first wave of US assault troops onto the Normandy beaches and moved with the Allied front to record the liberation of Paris and the closing stages of the war.

In 1947, Capa, together with Henri Cartier-Bresson, David Seymour (1911–56), and George Rodger, founded Magnum Photos, a cooperative freelance photographic agency, through which Capa actively promoted the work of young photographers. Capa covered the Arab-Israeli conflict in Palestine during the late 1940s, but most of his attention was now devoted to the agency. In 1954 Life magazine commissioned him to photograph the war in Vietnam. Capa was killed by a land mine while accompanying the French forces. He was posthumously awarded the Croix de Guerre with Palm, the highest French military honour. His books include Slightly Out of Focus (1947) and Images of War (1964).

Subjects: Art.

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