Robert Capa: Photographs
ICP Midtown: March 14 - June 7, 1998
This exhibition pays tribute to the work of legendary photojournalist Robert Capa. The approximately 160 images in Robert Capa: Photographs represent the full range of Capa's work not only as one of the greatest war photographers but also as a photographer who memorably celebrated the joys of peace. The exhibition of Capa's photographs will also be accompanied by an installation of 25 of Capa's vintage prints of the Spanish Civil War and 12 vintage prints by his friend and colleague Gerda Taro, who was killed in Spain in 1937.
Robert Capa: Photographs premiered at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in October 1997; it was organized by Michael E. Hoffman, Adjunct Curator of Photographs as the museum's Alfred Stieglitz Center. Richard Whelan, biographer of Robert Capa, is guest curator for the exhibition.
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."
"Bob's compassion was for all sufferers in war," Cornell Capa has written of his brother, "and his photographs captured not only the crucial moments in these events, but also the hearts and imagination of those who have viewed his work. What he left behind is the story of his unique voyage and a visual testimony affirming his own faith in humankind's capacity to endure and occasionally to overcome."
Although Capa is best known for his war images, his focus extended far beyond the scope of the battlefield. As Richard Whelan has written, "The common denominator in these photographs...is not war but people--and Capa's extraordinary sensitivity to and sympathy for the human condition."
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.
Initial funding for the exhibition was provided the The Pew Charitable Trusts. The ICP showing of this exhibition is generously supported by The Durst Organization, Dominique and Samuel L. Millbank, Ethel and Irvin Edelman Foundation, Alex Hillman Family Foundation, Bicky and George Kellner, and Nina Rosenwald.
The accompanying catalog, Robert Capa: Photographs, published by Aperture 1996, received the generous support of Lynne and Harold Honickman and of Claire and Richard Yaffa. The catalog includes a foreword by Capa's close friend, the photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson, a remembrance by Cornell Capa, the artist's younger brother and founding director of the International Center of Photography, and an historical essay by Richard Whelan.
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