Robert Capa born Friedmann Endre on October 22, 1913, was a Hungarian war photographer and photojournalist who covered five different wars: the Spanish Civil War, the Second Sino-Japanese War, World War II across Europe, the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, and the First Indochina War. He documented the course of World War II in London, North Africa, Italy, the Battle of Normandy on Omaha Beach and the liberation of Paris.
In 1947, Capa co-founded Magnum Photos in Paris with David "Chim" Seymour, Henri Cartier-Bresson, George Rodger and William Vandivert. The organization was the first cooperative agency for worldwide freelance photographers.
Robert Capa at first wanted to be a writer but he soon developed a love for art when he found work in Berlin as a photographer. Due to the rise of Nazism in Germany, he fled to France however it became difficult for him to find a freelance photojournalist job over there. Soon he became accustomed and also changed his name and sold photos. Leon Trotsky in Copenhagenon delivering a speech in 1932, was Capa’s first published image.
Along with Gerda Taro and David Seymour, Capa worked in Spain from 1936 until 1939, documenting the Spanish Civil War. During this time, Capa became well-known worldwide for a photo title Falling Soldier. There had been much debate about this photo’s authenticity. In 1938, he went to Hankow, China to cover the Japanese invasion.
During the World War II, Capa embarked on many parts of the European Theatre to document areas of intense fighting in Europe. In 1943 during July and August, Capa was with America troops in Sicily, where he took one photograph that became prominent to the eyes of viewers.
The Magnificent Eleven was Capa’s most popular photos. They are a collection of images of the D-Day on Omaha Beach. Capa took 106 images, however almost all were destroyed in a studio in London.
Robert Capa then traveled in 1947 to the Soviet Union with John Steinbeck, his friend and a writer from America. Capa captured photographs in Batumi, Stalingard, Tbilisi, Kiev and Moscow. A year later, his photos were illustrated in A Russian Journal.
Later, in the 1950s, Japan became the next destination of Capa and that too for an exhibition related to his company Magnum Photos. Life magazine sent him on a photographic assignment to cover the Indo-China War. In 1954, Capa went on another war scene for photographic documentation however he accidently stepped on a landmine and lost one of his legs. When he was being taken to the hospital, upon arrival he was announced as dead.
Cornell Capa, his younger brother (photographer) worked to promote and preserve Robert’s legacy along with developing his own style and identity in the world. Robert Capa also believed in preserving photography. Apart from this, the Robert Capa Gold Medal in his honor was created by the Overseas Press Club.
Robert Capa is well-known to date for redefining photojournalism of war. He coined Generation X, a term given to young males and females who were nearing adulthood right after World War II. This was an “unknown” generationrn as described by Capa in Holiday and Picture Post.
Even after his death, scholars were suspicious over his image, The Falling Soldier and in 2003 a reporter working for a Spanish newspaper claimed that the photographed was staged. In 2009, a professor from Spain also accused Capa’s photography of not being real, in Shadows of Photography, his book.
In 2007, Benjamin Traver who had collected around 4,500 negatives of the photos by Capa, Chim and Gerda Taro. The collection was given to the International Center of Photography a museum in Manhattan founded by Cornell Capa.
The same museum organized a traveling retrospective – This is War: Robert Capa at Work - of Capa’s creative approaches as a photojournalist.