|gerda taro||chim (david seymour)|
Robert Capa was born in Budapest in 1913. Exiled from Hungary at the age of seventeen because of leftist student activities, he fled to Berlin. With no money, no profession, and no knowledge of German, he turned to the camera as a means of earning a living. Beginning in 1936, he gained an international reputation for his coverage of the Spanish Civil War.
Robert Capa's bravery often led him to the front lines of battle. Sometimes arriving by parachute or crawling to shore with the first wave of troops, Capa managed to document five of the major wars of this century. He covered the heroic Republican struggle in Spain, the Chinese resistance to the Japanese invasion in 1938, the major North African and European battles of World War II, including the Allied landing in Normandy on D-Day (June 6, 1944), the Israeli War for Independence in 1948, and the end of the French Indochina War in 1954. Capa covered these conflicts with a fearless determination that lent credence to his motto "If your pictures aren't good enough, you're not close enough." In 1938, when he was only 25 years old, the British magazine Picture Post had the confidence to call him "The Greatest War-Photographer in the World."
During the late 1940s and early 1950s, Capa traveled around the world as a correspondent for Magnum Photos, the agency he founded in 1947 with Henri Cartier-Bresson, David Seymour "Chim," William Vandivert, and George Rodger. The exhibition also includes portraits of some of Capa's famous friends from this period, among them Ingrid Bergman, John Huston, Ernest Hemingway, and Pablo Picasso.
Capa's commitment to producing the most immediate images of war ultimately cost him his life when he stepped on a landmine in Indochina in 1954.
Because of his leftist student activities during the spring, Friedmann is arrested by the secret police but released the following day on the condition that he leave Hungary after finishing the school year. In July, he moves to Berlin, where he enrolls that fall at the Deutsche Hochschule für Politik as a student of journalism. Late in the year, he learns that because his parents’ dressmaking business has been badly hurt by the worldwide economic depression, they can no longer send him money for tuition, room, and board.
Friedmann's Hungarian friend Eva Besnyö, living in Berlin, helps him obtain a job as an errand boy at Dephot, an important photo agency. He is soon promoted to darkroom assistant. The agency's director, Simon Guttmann, recognizes his talent and, in December, sends him to Copenhagen to photograph Leon Trotsky delivering a lecture to Danish university students.
Friedmann flees Berlin after Hitler assumes dictatorial powers in the wake of the Reichstag fire (February 27). He travels first to Vienna, then obtains permission to return to Budapest. During the summer, he lives at home and photographs the city for picture postcards. In September, he leaves for Paris, where he will struggle for several years before becoming a successful photojournalist.
Friedmann meets Gerta Pohorylle, a young German who becomes his lover and business manager. He begins to teach her the rudiments of photography.
Friedmann works in Spain on several photojournalistic assignments arranged for him by Simon Guttmann.
Friedmann and Pohorylle invent a glamorous and successful American photographer named Robert Capa, under whose name Friedmann sells his photographs. The ruse is soon discovered and he begins calling himself Robert Capa; Pohorylle adopts the name Gerda Taro. Capa covers the tumultuous events in Paris surrounding the election of the leftist coalition Popular Front government headed by socialist Leon Blum. The Spanish Civil War breaks out in July. In August, Capa and Taro go to Spain to cover the Republican government’s resistance to Franco's fascist rebels. He makes a second trip to Spain in November (without Taro) to photograph the Loyalist defense of Madrid.
Capa visits various fronts in Spain, alone and with Taro, who is herself becoming an independent photojournalist. In July, while Capa attends to business in Paris, Taro covers the fighting at Brunete, west of Madrid. During a confused retreat, she is fatally injured by a Loyalist tank. Capa, who had hoped to marry her, never fully recovers from his grief. In September, he makes his first trip to the United States, to visit his mother and brother Cornell in New York and to negotiate a contract with Life magazine.
Capa spends seven months in China with filmmaker Joris Ivens documenting Chinese resistance to the Japanese invasion.
Capa covers the fall of Barcelona. After the end of the Spanish Civil War, in March, he photographs the defeated and exiled Republican soldiers in internment camps in France. He then works on various stories in France, including an extensive one about the Tour de France. After the outbreak of World War II, he sails for New York, where he begins to work on miscellaneous stories for Life.
Capa spends several months in Mexico, covering the Mexican presidential election for Life.
Capa spends the summer in London documenting the city’s recovery from the Blitz. In October, he travels to Sun Valley, Idaho, to visit his friends Ernest Hemingway and Martha Gellhorn, whom he had first met in Spain.
Capa crosses the Atlantic in a convoy carrying American planes to England. He works on numerous stories about the Allied war effort in Britain.
From March to May, Capa covers the Allied victories in Tunisia. During July and August, he photographs the Allied conquest of Sicily. For the rest of the year, he documents the fighting in mainland Italy, including the liberation of Naples.
In January, Capa participates in the Allied landing at Anzio, south of Rome. On D-Day (June 6), he lands with the first wave of American troops on Omaha Beach (Normandy), then accompanies American and French troops throughout the campaign that culminates in the liberation of Paris (August 25). In December, he covers the Battle of the Bulge in the Ardennes.
Capa parachutes with American troops into Germany and chronicles the Allied capture of Leipzig and Nuremberg. In June, he meets Ingrid Bergman in Paris and they begin a two-year affair.
Capa becomes an American citizen. He spends several months in Hollywood, writing his war memoirs (on which he intends to base a screenplay) and working as an apprentice producer-director. He soon decides that he does not like the movie business and leaves Hollywood. Late in the year, he travels to Turkey to direct a film for Time Inc.'s March of Time series.
Together with his friends Henri Cartier-Bresson, David Seymour ("Chim"), George Rodger, and William Vandivert, Capa founds Magnum, a photo agency run as a photographers’ cooperative. He spends a month traveling in the Soviet Union with his friend John Steinbeck, and also visits Czechoslovakia and Budapest.
Capa makes three trips to Israel. On the first, he photographs the declaration of Israel's independence and covers the fighting that follows. On the two subsequent trips, he concentrates on the plight of refugees arriving in the country. In the fall, he visits Hungary, Poland, and Czechoslovakia with Theodore H. White and photographs the former concentration camps at Auschwitz and Birkenau.
Capa lives in Paris and serves as president of Magnum, devoting much time to the agency's business and to the recruitment and promotion of young photographers. His close friends include director John Huston, novelist Irwin Shaw, and columnist Art Buchwald. He enjoys a glamorous life, of afternoons at the Parisian racetracks, evenings at nightclubs with beautiful women, and skiing vacations in Switzerland. He photographs and writes texts for amusing articles about his travels to Norway, Deauville, Biarritz, and Alpine ski resorts, as well as about his weekend visit with the Dutch royal family. Because of allegations that he had been a communist, the U.S. government suspends his passport for several months in 1953, during which time he is unable to travel on work assignments. That year he is hospitalized for severe back pain.
In April, Capa spends several weeks in Japan as the guest of the Mainichi press, which is launching a new camera magazine. His pictorial work focuses on Japanese children. At the end of April, while still in Japan, he receives a request from Life to fill in for its photographer in Indochina. He accepts the assignment and arrives in Hanoi early in May. From there he travels to Luang Prabang, Laos, to photograph the wounded French soldiers who had been captured at Dien Bien Phu and released by the Vietminh. Back in Hanoi, he spends several days photographing the life of the city. On May 25, he accompanies a French convoy whose mission is to evacuate two indefensible outposts in the Red River delta, where Vietminh activity is increasing. While the convoy is halted at one point, Capa wanders with a detachment of soldiers into a field beside the road. He steps on a landmine and is killed.