Robert Capa in Color
Photojournalist Robert Capa has been always considered as a giant of black-and-white photo reportage. Unlike his fellow Magnum colleague, Henri Cartier-Bresson who despised color, he used it on regular basis in the post-war period until 1954.
the International Center of Photography (ICP) is holding an exhibition where a hundred color photographs taken in different places by Robert Capa are displayed . Half of these have never been published, presenting a fascinating look into the color work of the master and showing that Capa was a prolific user of modern techniques.
At that time, color was seen as not only less powerful than black-and-white but also as complicated process since it took a lot of time and effort to develop and print a Kodachrome series. This stigmatisation by photojournalists and magazine editors did not stop Capa from using it. In 1938, he used it for the first time to cover the Sino-Japanese War and during the first two years of World War II, Capa carried both types of film. Some of the reports published in black-and-white were also filed in color.
After WWII, the market for color photography shifted and the magazines were more interested to publish color images featuring glamorous international resorts, celebrities, and even in political reportage. By opposition to the intense black and white war photography, the color was used for subjects with little political gravity reflecting the more peaceful and prosperous vision of the world promoted by the magazines.
The show displays photos Capa took while crossing the Atlantic in 1941 on a board of an Allied ship and similar one while he was traveling from North Africa to Sicily 1943. The feel of the photos is strikingly modern especially the portrait of a sailor in bright blues and whites, the French cavalcade on camelback in the Tunisian desert or the boxing match between English soldiers on a troop ship from England to North Africa.
There’s also the photographs taken after the war depicting peaceful days, travels, vacations and private moments. The French actress Capucine on a Roman balcony or putting her make up. The American girl on skis shot in Switzerland in 1950, whose sunglasses reflect the mountain’s slope with a clear blue sky. The Norwegian Lapps family in traditional dress, photographed while sharing a kiss.
Capa took portrait of his friends in color; Pablo Picasso playing with his son, Claude, on a French beach. Truman Capote and Jennifer Jones on an Italian film set. Ernest Hemingway sitting on the ground across from his son, Gregory, in Sun Valley in Idaho, USA. All these reveals another side of Capa beyond the master photoreporter we know, the portraitist.
Robert Capa (1913-1954), née Andre Friedmann, was born in Budapest in 1913. As a student in the thirties, he was involved in the political turmoil of the period, and had to leave Hungary at the age of 18. He moved on to Berlin and then Paris, where David Seymour “Chim” persuaded the editors of Regards to give Capa a job covering the Front Populaire movement.
In 1936, Capa went to Spain to cover the Spanish Civil War with his friend Gerda Taro, nee Gerda Pohorylles. By that time, he was using the camera as a means of expression and setting on film the political life around him. Her tragic death ended her photographic career and left a deep scar on Capa’s personality. Capa went on to cover the Second World War from 1941 to 1945 in European theatre, and received the Medal of Freedom Citation from General Dwight D. Eisenhower. His photographs of the D-Day landing are classics. He became known as the quintessential war photographer though war was not the only subject of his camera.
In 1947, with his friends, David Seymour “Chim”, Henri Cartier-Bresson, George Rodger and Bill Vandivert, he began a picture agency named Magnum. He spent the next few years making Magnum into a successful cooperative, and photographing the good times with his artist friends, including Picasso, Ernest Hemingway and John Steinbeck.
While visiting pre-war friends in Japan he was called to replace another photographer on a LIFE assignment in Indochina. Capa took the assignment, and was killed after stepping on a land mine, the first American correspondent to die in Indochina in 1954.
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