Robert Capa

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Robert Capa in the Spanish Civil War , photo: Gerda Taro , 1937

Robert Capa (actually Endre Ernő Friedmann , in other spellings also André Friedmann or Andrei Friedmann ; * October 22, 1913 in Budapest , Austria-Hungary ; †  May 25, 1954 in Thái-Bình in the province of Thái Bình , French Indochina ) a Hungarian - American photographer . Capa was best known as a war reporter . Several of his recordings of theaters of war achieved iconic significance in the public consciousness, such as those of the Spanish Civil War or the landing of the Allied forces on the beach in Normandy (on D-Day in World War II ).


Childhood and youth

Capa was born the second of three sons to a Jewish tailor family. His younger brother was called Cornell Capa . After Robert Capa had become involved in the left-wing political spectrum at an early stage, after a brief stay in prison in 1931, after being arrested at a demonstration against the Hungarian ruler Miklós Horthy , he was faced with the choice of leaving Hungary or being brought to justice, whereupon he emigrated to Germany .

Exile in Europe (1931-1939)

In Berlin , he began to study journalism at the German University of Politics and worked as a photo laboratory assistant at Ullstein Verlag and in 1932/33 as a photo assistant for the German Photo Service (Dephot), which was encouraged by his childhood friend, the photographer Éva Besnyő . In 1932 his first photos were published in a newspaper, the Berliner Weltspiegel . The photos show Leon Trotsky giving a speech in Copenhagen .

After the National Socialists came to power in 1933, he first went to Vienna , then to the Saar area - where he took part in the discussion on reintegration into the German Reich in 1935 (see the history of the Saarland ) - and finally to Paris . There he met the photographers André Kertész , David "Chim" Seymour and Henri Cartier-Bresson , with whom he became friends.

In Paris, in autumn 1934, Friedmann met Gerta Pohorylle , who had also fled Germany because of her socialist convictions and Jewish origins. She became Capa's partner and student. In order to be able to sell his pictures better, the two invented the character "Robert Capa", a wealthy American photographer living in Paris. After an editor discovered the hoax, Friedmann adopted the invented name, and Gerta Pohorylle became Gerda Taro. In 1935 Capa was sent to Spain with Taro and David Seymour by his photography teacher Simon Guttmann for a photo reportage.

During the Spanish Civil War , Robert Capa and his friends documented the struggle of the republican troops against the rebellious Francoist troops. The recordings were published in the US magazine Life , among others , and made him known. On September 5, 1936, the photograph of a falling Republican soldier at the moment of his death was taken, which became the most famous single image of the civil war and a photographic icon of the 20th century.

The picture appeared together with similar scenes in the French magazine VU on September 23, 1936 , and similar pictures shortly afterwards in Regards magazine . The Spanish documentary La sombra del iceberg (Eng. The shadow of the iceberg ) claims that the depicted war man is not, as believed, the anarchist Federico Borrell García . As a closer look by historians at the recordings in VU and Regards shows, the assumed location of the event is also incorrect. The Spanish researcher José Manuel Susperregui identified the landscape visible in the background as that around Espejo , where no deaths have been recorded at the time in question. As early as the mid-1970s, an old colleague Capas, who had often met him in Spain, claimed that the photo showed a recreated scene.

Capa's biographer Richard Whelan wants evidence that during a break at the front of soldiers, Capa played action scenes that also included shooting. Having become aware of the shots, enemy soldiers managed to give one of the posing soldiers a fatal headshot while jumping.

On July 25, 1937, during an attack by the German Condor Legion near Villanueva de la Cañada on the Brunete Front , Gerda Taro was run over by a Republican tank after she had slipped off a footboard of a truck that was being used to flee the combat region. One day later she died of her injuries in the English hospital in El Escorial. Capa learned of her death from the newspaper in Paris.

Capa traveled to China in 1938 and reported on the Chinese resistance to the Japanese occupation . In 1939 Capa photographed the Tour de France .

Life in america

In 1939 Capa moved to the United States, where he received US citizenship in 1946 .

During the Second World War , as a war correspondent for Time , Life and Collier’s magazines, he took photos in North Africa , Sicily , and when Allied soldiers landed in Normandy on June 6, 1944, on Omaha Beach . This is where his most famous pictures were taken, along with the photo of the fallen Republican soldier. Due to an error in the development of the films in the London photo lab, there are only eleven usable photos of the invasion ( Operation Neptune ).

On April 18, 1945, during the occupation of Leipzig , Capa took the photo The Last Dead of the fallen US soldier Raymond J. Bowman , who had died in Jahnallee 61, later known as Capa-Haus . In April 2015, the section of Erich-Köhn-Straße in Leipzig-Lindenau , which is opposite the house, was renamed Capastraße.

Capa had a relationship with actress Ingrid Bergman in 1945 . He said nothing about it. It was finally passed down by Ingrid Bergman. The story was described by Chris Greenhalgh in the 2012 novel Seducing Ingrid Bergman .

In 1947 Capa founded the Magnum photo agency with Henri Cartier-Bresson , David Seymour and George Rodger . He continued to take photos, but increasingly avoided war reporting. In the same year he traveled with John Steinbeck on behalf of the New York Herald Tribune through the Soviet Union to document the life of the common Soviet people after the Second World War.

In 1948 he accompanied the establishment of the State of Israel with his camera and was an eyewitness to the outbreak of the first Middle East war .


Capa's grave in Amawalk, New York

In 1954, Capa returned to war reporting when Life was in dire need of a photojournalist during the First Indochina War . There he died after stepping on an anti-personnel mine . His last photographs show a mine search party near Thái Bình . There is a black and white and a color version, taken with a Nikon . The photos show a wall on the right, on which Capa stepped on the deadly mine shortly after the photo was taken.

Robert Capa was buried in a family grave in Amawalk Hill Cemetery, a Quaker cemetery in Amawalk, Westchester County , New York State.

In his honor, the Overseas Press Club of America donated the Robert Capa Gold Medal in 1955 , which annually honors the best photo reportage that requires special courage and entrepreneurial spirit.

Photographic heritage

To preserve the photographic legacy of Robert Capa - 70,000 negatives - and other photographers, his brother Cornell Capa founded the International Fund for Concerned Photography in 1966 . To give this collection a home, he founded the International Center of Photography in New York in 1974 . Since 2008, his estate has also contained over 3,000 long-lost negatives of Capa, Taro and Seymour from the Spanish Civil War, which were brought to safety by a general after the war in Mexico. The long sought negative of the shot of the fallen militiaman is not among them.


The "golden rule" of photojournalism comes from Robert Capa :

  • "If your pictures aren't good enough, you weren't close enough."
  • "The truth is the best picture."
  • " Hollywood is the biggest shit I've ever stepped into." (After Robert Capa: In Love and War )


For the opening scenes of Saving Private Ryan , which show the landing of the Allied troops on Omaha Beach , the director Steven Spielberg relied frame by frame on the footage of Capa landing in Normandy. Spielberg: “I did everything I could to my camera to get June 6 44 to look like Bob Capa's photographs.” (Eng .: “I did everything so that the pictures from June 6, 1944 look exactly like the photos of Robert Capa. ")

The song Kamikaze Cappa of Falco on the album Emotional is a tribute to Robert Capa.

The song Taro by the British group Alt-J on their album An Awesome Wave (2012) tells about the death of Robert Capa and his relationship with Gerda Taro.

In the film drama Salvador by Oliver Stone (1986), the journalist John Cassady cites the dictum of Capa "If your pictures are not good enough, you were not close enough." He then takes a meaningful photo of evidence and is shot dead.


  • Death in the Making . Covic, Friede, New York 1938 (photos by Robert Capa and Gerda Taro, layout by André Kertész ).
  • The Battle of Waterloo Road . Random House, New York 1941.
  • Slightly out of focus . Henry Holt, New York 1947.
  • A Russian Journal . Viking, New York 1948 (text by John Steinbeck ).
  • Report on Israel . Simon and Schuster, New York 1950.


Monographs, Biographies and Catalogs

- chronological -

Novels about Robert Capa


Exhibition room in the café of the Capa-Haus in Leipzig, 2016


See also

Web links

Commons : Robert Capa  - Collection of Images

Counterfeit debate

Individual evidence

  1. Biography: The Life of Robert Capa. ( Memento of March 30, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) In: International Center of Photography (ICP), 2009, (English).
  2. Loyalist soldier at the moment of his death. Original title Loyalist Militiaman at the Moment of Death , also known as The Falling Soldier .
  3. ^ Gerhard Paul: The war of the photographers. The photographic war reporting in the Spanish Civil War 1936 - 1939 , in: Ute Daniel (Ed.): Eyewitnesses. War reporting from the 18th to the 21st century . Göttingen 2006, p. 158.
  4. Uli Wendelmann: About the "death of a Spanish militia officer". ( Memento from March 25, 2013 in the Internet Archive ). In: MDR artour , July 2, 2009.
  5. Merten Worthmann: Forged ?! In: Die Zeit , July 23, 2009, No. 31.
  6. a b Alan Posener : A picture is more than a thousand words. In: Die Welt , October 18, 2008.
  7. Wieland Freund : Robert Capa at the Tour de France: You are coming! In: Die Welt , July 17, 2016.
  8. z. B. this landing photo , 1944.
  9. ^ Daniela Bensch: The Foundation. The Capa House and its history. ( Memento of February 4, 2017 in the Internet Archive ). In: Leipziger Denkmalstiftung , February 4, 2017.
  10. ^ Documentary: Robert Capa - war photographer. On ARD , broadcast on August 30, 2014.
  11. ^ Robert Capa - Indochina, May 25, 1954. In: Magnum Photos . Retrieved August 1, 2018 .
  12. ^ Zeit online , dpa : The Mexican Fund. Thousands of negatives by the legendary war photographer and founder of the Magnum photo agency Robert Capa discovered in Mexico. In: Die Zeit , January 24, 2008.
  13. Quoted in the documentary: Robert Capa: In Love and War in the Internet Movie Database (English), director: Anne Makepeace, 2003.
  14. ^ JD Leigh: Through A Lens Darkly. Robert Capa and D-Day. In: Sabotage Times , June 6, 2012.
  15. Julia Schulz: Introducing: Alt-J. ( Memento from April 18, 2013 in the web archive ) In: arte , July 19, 2012, interview with the band.
  16. ^ Exhibition: Robert Capa - Retrospective. In: Berliner Festspiele , 2005, archive.
  17. ^ Exhibition: Robert Capa. War photographs 1943 to 1945. ( Memento from July 26, 2015 in the Internet Archive ). In: Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden ( SKD ), 2015.
  18. Jan Frederik Vogt: Fading. A radio play film by Alina Cyranek and Jan Frederik Vogt. 2015.