The Photograph Never Forgets

”…he never discussed his deepest affections. He suffered behind the scenes from loneliness, insecurity, heartbreak. He died with a camera in his left hand, his story unexpectedly finished. He left behind a thermos of cognac, a few good suits, a bereaved world, and his pictures, among some of the greatest recorded moments of modern history. He also leaves a legend, for which there is no other description than...Capa.”

Capa, Matisse (1950)
Capa, Matisse (1950)



 Robert Capa (1913-1954) defined the modern visual representation of conflict through the photo.He was known for taking risks to get powerful iconic photographs.He had an Innate ability to use the camera combining technical mastery and capture the expressive qualities within a composition.He was one of the first to understand and exploit the potential in the then new 35mm single lens reflex cameras.

He regarded himself as a ”careless photographer” who was quick to guess the truth and had an uncanny eye for the decisive moment. This meant he would try to capture elements of spontaneity within the composition on which to base the narrative, that lay outside political considerations.

Picasso and Francoise Gilot,1948

Picasso and Francoise Gilot,1948




Less well known are Capa’s qualities as a portraitist. Photos of well known artists such as Picasso, Hemingway, John Steinbeck and Matisse  project Capa’s trademark compassion for the subject and suave style mingled with his personal integrity and charisma. All his portraits are in the same mold as his war photos; the are empathetic and convey intimacy and the immediacy of the moment.

Its hard to fathom whether his bohemian lifestyle and wanderlust  was responsible in part, for being such a great photographer or merely contributed to the myth. His early mentor was Hungarian poet and painter Lajos Kassak, a working class socialist writer, poet ,painter  and advocate of the avant-garde. 

Whether Capa (born Endre Freidmann in Hungary) was a committed leftist or essentially ardently anti-fascist is a point of conjecture, since his work hangs suspended in a world of reconciliation of ideas and sympathy and respect for the individuals he photographed.

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