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Robert Capa speaks for himself: 'The camera was far above my head'

By dpreview staff on Nov 2, 2013 at 08:00 GMT

'If your pictures aren't good enough, you aren't close enough', said famed photographer Robert Capa. He was certainly close enough to take his iconic 'Falling Solider' photograph during the Spanish Civil War. In a recently discovered radio interview from the 1940s, Capa is heard explaining how he took the photo that many have since alleged was staged.

'That was probably the best picture I ever took. I never saw the picture in the frame because the camera was far above my head', Capa said on the NBC radio show 'Hi! Jinx' in 1947. 

Death of a Loyalist Militiaman, Córdoba front, Spain, September 1936. (Robert Capa/International Center of Photography/Magnum Photos)

In the interview, Capa recounts that he was in a trench in Andalusia, Spain with soldiers trying to attack a machine gun post. He said there were several unsuccessful attempts to rush the gunner, but each time the soldiers moved out they were mowed down.

Capa goes on to say:

'This thing repeated itself about three or four times, so the fourth time I just kind of put my camera above my head and even didn't look and clicked a picture when they moved over the trench. And that was all. I didn't ever look at my pictures there and I sent my pictures back with a lot of other pictures that I took.

I stayed in Spain for three months, and when I came back I was a very famous photographer because that camera which I hold above my head just caught a man at the moment when he was shot.'

Lucky for Capa he got out alive, but was eventually killed in 1954, covering the war in Southeast Asia. The 1947 recording was found by the chief curator of the International Center of Photography Brian Wallis. It was released to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of Capa.

What do you think of Capa's account? What's your favorite Capa photo?

Comments

Total comments: 128
12
Scorpius1
By Scorpius1 (5 months ago)

We will never the truth about this shot(excuse the pun).but its clear that it has become an iconic image which is synonymous with war and Robert Capa himself.

0 upvotes
english_Wolf
By english_Wolf (5 months ago)

Many photographs at the time many were posed, faked or edited. Just like today's.

Capa is a 'big' name and his work has been questioned long before anyone here was born. No one does question if he took it but questions where and when and quite frankly it makes no difference what you believe or do not believe, it is not important.

0 upvotes
mzillch
By mzillch (5 months ago)

So you think fakery in photojournalism is not unethical, then, and is unimportant to question or discuss. Check.

Comment edited 8 minutes after posting
4 upvotes
mcshan
By mcshan (5 months ago)

You assume too much. Apparently you don't know how old some of us are.

1 upvote
D B Morris
By D B Morris (5 months ago)

Why do we presume to doubt Capa's words ?

1 upvote
SeeSystems
By SeeSystems (5 months ago)

Wikipedia posts quite a bit about the validity of the image, both pro and con. We may never know.

It is a haunting photograph nonetheless.

0 upvotes
idnab
By idnab (5 months ago)

"We may never know"?

These days anyone can say anything - anywhere - anytime, again and again, etc.

This may be why many have hard time accepting that one can say something profound without "manipulation", just by experience of having been in a situation or close enough to it, as Robert Capa liked to say.

Distinction between deeds and words may still matter here and there.

Comment edited 5 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
Pat Cullinan Jr
By Pat Cullinan Jr (5 months ago)

"The lie is sacred." --V. I. Lenin

3 upvotes
idnab
By idnab (5 months ago)

As more and more prefer strong personal opinions over accepting others experiences - the value of understanding each other will decrease in general.

4 upvotes
RichRMA
By RichRMA (5 months ago)

You photograph enough people in battle zones getting shot and shooting, you are bound to capture one happening at the time it happens. Armchair critics aren't too far off from the people who analyzed shadows in Moon landings, pronouncing the landings as false.

9 upvotes
chooflaki
By chooflaki (5 months ago)

And to add to the poor composition the picture is not centred and the rifle butt is out of frame. His feet are missing and also is the crucial banana peel.

Comment edited 2 minutes after posting
5 upvotes
SAERIN
By SAERIN (5 months ago)

My God.

Capa's camera above is head.

How can one have good composition shooting like he did.

Not centered. Why do some camera folks think the image must be centered.

The negative space the to right makes this image.

The rife butt is out of frame --- his feet are missing. I seen some of you images. Seems you like feet.

"My God" again. This image was taken in a War Zone in the heat of a battle.

With do respect, I think you do not have any editorial photography experience.

I had nearly 60 years. Now retired. I always have a camera with me to snapped visual moments that excite my brain.

0 upvotes
dimar
By dimar (5 months ago)

It always amaze me how good thise photos with extremely bad technical quality, like many of famous shots of Cartier Bresson or Capa's Omaha Beach photo

Comment edited 33 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
slante999
By slante999 (5 months ago)

Spanish newspapers, including the Barcelona newspaper El Periódico de Catalunya sent reporters to Espejo who returned with photographs showing an almost perfect match between the present day skyline and the background of Capa's photographs.

1 upvote
GaryJP
By GaryJP (5 months ago)

The question is whether there is any such "almost perfect match" near Cerro Muriano. The location of Capa's photographs of Cerro Muriano refugees on the same roll/batch of film has been identified and suggests he was in that area.

Google "capa-and-refugees-of-cerro-muriano"

Also "robert-capa-in-cerro-muriano-day-in"

Comment edited 3 minutes after posting
1 upvote
slante999
By slante999 (5 months ago)

In his 2009 book, Sombras de la Fotografía ("Shadows of Photography"), José Manuel Susperregui of the University of País Vasco concluded that the photograph had not been taken at Cerro Muriano but at another location about 35 mi (56 km) away. Susperregui determined the actual location of the photograph by examining the backgrounds of other photographs from the same sequence as the Falling Soldier, in which a range of mountains can be seen. He then e-mailed images to librarians and historians in towns near Córdoba, asking if they recognized the landscape, and received a positive response from a community called Espejo.

Since Espejo had been at some distance from the battle lines when Capa was there, Susperregui said that this meant that the Falling Soldier photograph was staged, as were all the others in the same series supposedly taken on the front.

3 upvotes
GaryJP
By GaryJP (5 months ago)

The article from which you are cutting and pasting has already been referenced. It does not however provide a definitive answer. (And one article also points out there is some political point scoring at work too when it comes to denigrating non-Spaniards coverage of the Civil War).

1 upvote
GaryJP
By GaryJP (5 months ago)

Incidentally there is also research that shows he WAS at Cerro Muriano that day, because the places where he photographed the refugees have been painstakingly identified.

Google "capa-and-refugees-of-cerro-muriano"

And "robert-capa-in-cerro-muriano-day-in"

People will be going back and forth on this story for decades more.

Comment edited 5 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
mcshan
By mcshan (5 months ago)

It doesn't matter if it was faked or not...the important thing is the weak bokeh.

20 upvotes
Kerpal
By Kerpal (5 months ago)

you made me spit coffee on my keyboard....

1 upvote
magneto shot
By magneto shot (5 months ago)

while hilarious...this has to be the epic comment of the year

1 upvote
new boyz
By new boyz (5 months ago)

Fake or not, he died as a true war photographer.

3 upvotes
Cal22
By Cal22 (5 months ago)

Capa's approach to this lucky shot (I'm not cynical!) is similar to how Cartier Bresson made his famous shot of a pedestrian jumping over a puddle. Looking at his photograph makes you think of "The Decisive Moment", but the photographer had actually not seen what he was photographing there. He was standing behind a wooden wall and the hole in it was just big enough for the lens of his Leica. The photo was made by luck!

1 upvote
rfsIII
By rfsIII (5 months ago)

You make your own luck, as both these photographers continued to show during their entire careers. They knew how to set up their cameras for the depth of field and the shutter speed they wanted, studied the location (sometimes for days or weeks) and then, yes, somehow got lucky in places and situations where others came away with nothing.

2 upvotes
Cal22
By Cal22 (5 months ago)

Generally speaking you might be right. But in my view Capa and Cartier Bresson were not of that kind of photographers. They made good photos, because they photographed much. They had their skills in recognizing scenes to catch for a picture. And photographing people gave them pictures with 'human interest', that sell well.
In YouTube videos you can see Cartier Bresson photographing: walking down the street, carrying his Leica, maybe talking to someone and suddenly taking a picture in point and shoot mode; casually as it seems. Cartier Bresson gave the film rolls to 'his' lab technician, who , as far as I know, by himself decided which shots to work out.

It's always the public and the market who want myths. Myths on photographers can be supportive in aiming to establish Photography as an art. But such myths aren't always helpful if you want to become a good photographer yourself.

Capa's photo is an icon that made Capa an idol. To question the photographer is not unfair!

0 upvotes
WinRa
By WinRa (5 months ago)

Great Historical Photo but !!!
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1201116/How-Capas-camera-does-lie-The-photographic-proof-iconic-Falling-Soldier-image-st

2 upvotes
fad
By fad (5 months ago)

I don't think it matters much whether this photo was faked.

Why? What makes this photo memorable is not its documentary quality, but that it captures the idea of war in general, and of this war in this place and time in particular. No one cares, outside of the photo, who the subject was. And no one is using it for forensic purposes.

The Iliad is still the supreme poem of war, even if there never were an Achilles, or a Hector, or a Priam or a Helen. Why? It captures the idea of war in all its complexity, its glory and its horror. An inferior poem that was historically accurate would not be as great.

Many of the great street photos we admire were faked. But they have artistic truth.

Now if Muybridge faked his horses or George Roger has created a fake death camp, that would be a different matter. But here the reality of what happened does not matter.

Comment edited 29 seconds after posting
15 upvotes
Petrogel
By Petrogel (5 months ago)

Very well said.

1 upvote
Cal22
By Cal22 (5 months ago)

I'm not sure whether our common view at The Iliad is right. We don't even understand contemporary Modern Art, it's more a believe it or not, isn't it? And since we are so far away from Homer's world, how can we assume that we understand what he told his coevals in his artistic way? History of Ideas is a history of misunderstandings and of belief - in some respect. By way of example: 'War Of The Worlds" by H.G. Wells, wellknown as novel and as movie, is understood as a story about the invasion by Martians. But Wells was a sociologist and in my view his novel is a metaphor of the industrial revolution with the very sudden beginning of machine age changing the old world into a new world.
You're right though that Capa's photo has become part of the world of ideas, part of our cultural heritage so to say, therefore the question of his photo is fake or not is without any matter.
But this website is for photographers and many of them do want to know what the famous Capa did and how he did it.

1 upvote
mcshan
By mcshan (5 months ago)

Yes Cal but dropping the Iliad into a comment connotes deep thinking.

3 upvotes
fad
By fad (5 months ago)

mcshan

You are easily impressed. ;~)

0 upvotes
SAERIN
By SAERIN (5 months ago)

"Many of the great street photos we admire were faked. But they have artistic truth."

Name them. Post them. If you do state the citation.

What is artistic truth. A fact or opinion.

Opinions exceed mores than facts.

1 upvote
MarcLee
By MarcLee (5 months ago)

CSI has a lot to answer for. Now everyone who has ever seen an episode is a forensic specialist.

2 upvotes
jsandjs
By jsandjs (5 months ago)

Only experienced photographer got good shot when he put his camera above his head.

5 upvotes
SAERIN
By SAERIN (5 months ago)

I do at some times --- it's a "Hail Mary' grab.

1 upvote
Pat Cullinan Jr
By Pat Cullinan Jr (5 months ago)

It was staged. Even the New York Times revealed this. Read http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/18/arts/design/18capa.html?ref=arts, if you dare.

5 upvotes
babola
By babola (5 months ago)

"It was staged..."

The article talks about speculation and doubt. You seem to know more than the historians and experts quoted in it.

Good for you, Junior.

17 upvotes
GaryJP
By GaryJP (5 months ago)

The NY Times article ends by saying: "“There is enormous speculation,” he added, “but there is very little to hang your hat on and say, ‘This is what we know.’ There are just too many moving parts and pieces that you can’t verify or prove.”

And that is very different from your pronouncement.

Comment edited 30 seconds after posting
10 upvotes
AlpCns2
By AlpCns2 (5 months ago)

Another "expert" without a shred of proof.

5 upvotes
Jahled
By Jahled (5 months ago)

We'll take your word for it then.

Comment edited 17 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
Nishi Drew
By Nishi Drew (5 months ago)

Why do you think that? Have you ever been to a battlefield, do you believe it's too great or impossible for a shot such as this to be captured?? Is it because you don't see any photos of modern day soldiers right when they're shot? Those photos just don't make the rounds, they would be unpopular and anyone sharing those would be hated, especially if the person in the photo could be identified and relatives are around. But terrible war photos exists, and I'm sure if you know where to look all sorts of things will be around, especially now with so many more cameras and video running all of the time

0 upvotes
mike051051
By mike051051 (5 months ago)

Oh, and as if the NY Times was such a bastion of truth in journalism...

0 upvotes
Pat Cullinan Jr
By Pat Cullinan Jr (5 months ago)

Looks like I struck a nerve.

2 upvotes
BigCatDaddy
By BigCatDaddy (5 months ago)

so "spray and pray" indeed works

1 upvote
MarcLee
By MarcLee (5 months ago)

When you are shooting film without a motor drive, good luck "spraying".

3 upvotes
InTheMist
By InTheMist (5 months ago)

Even more praying than today, tho!

1 upvote
Clueless Wanderer
By Clueless Wanderer (5 months ago)

..The body position and everything about the shot seem to not be staged and genuine.
BUT. The guy is pretty damn clean to say he has just risen out of a trench held down by gun fire. Not even a spot of dirt on his knees or shirt. Hmm...

Comment edited 11 minutes after posting
1 upvote
christian jacob
By christian jacob (5 months ago)

There is dirt on his knees, if you look carefully. It's just that the trouser legs move up (sorry, don't know how to say that better), because of the bending of his knees, so the dirt is on the trouser a little above his knees.
And there is dirt on the end of the trouser legs. I guess the earth was drier then at the somme or the other places better known for trench warfare, so it doesn't show as much as we're are used to from war movies.

2 upvotes
MJJSevilla
By MJJSevilla (5 months ago)

In Andalucia in September the weather is pretty dry, so no mud, and the soil tends to be chalky and often light coloured. It´s powdery so it comes off easily. I´ve spent a lot of time hillwalking and the like round here and sure a lot of the time I´ve ended up with dirt on my trousers BUT I´m not sure I´d look dirty enough in a photo for it to show obviously. Like Christian said, it´s not the same conditions as the Somme round here. Maybe in the winter rainy period it would be different but this was September, still the tail end of the long, dry mediterranean summer.

Comment edited 8 minutes after posting
3 upvotes
Clueless Wanderer
By Clueless Wanderer (5 months ago)

oookay.. there goes my 'theory' :-)

0 upvotes
57even
By 57even (5 months ago)

Is this why so many people on DPR want a tilt screen LCD?

10 upvotes
GaryJP
By GaryJP (5 months ago)

DPReview users trash one of the world's greatest war photographers. Excuse me while I laugh.

30 upvotes
AlpCns2
By AlpCns2 (5 months ago)

There are very few photographers here, if you'd ask me.

9 upvotes
montoniphotography
By montoniphotography (5 months ago)

"It's not enough to have talent, you also have to be Hungarian"

0 upvotes
Kerpal
By Kerpal (5 months ago)

C'mon man.... they just want to see 100% crops and ask a deceased photog what lens he was using :)

1 upvote
SAERIN
By SAERIN (5 months ago)

You so right.

Not many Pro's linger on this site.

It's about gear.

0 upvotes
lemonadedrinker
By lemonadedrinker (5 months ago)

The 'Idols' series from Taschen(?) shows 2 versions of this photograph. Make of that what you will. Those of us with a more paranoid cast of mind will also have read that these were Republican prisoners that Capa was photographing and that makes the story a lot more awkward.

Why would a soldier leave his trench to go up against a machine gun just carrying his rifle in that casual manner, without his finger on the trigger,or the strap round his forearm?

I made up my mind a long time ago about this image.

1 upvote
PepsiCan
By PepsiCan (5 months ago)

a) These were militia, not trained soldiers. Mind you this is 1936 at the start of the war.
b) Look at the Great War. Soldiers leaving their trench to run (or walk in the case of the Somme battles) at machine guns was common practise. It happened at Verdun, the Somme, Ieper, etc. Millions lost their lives by doing this.

1 upvote
Madaboutpix
By Madaboutpix (5 months ago)

Being neither a forensic pathologist nor a historian - and it's amazing how many of them seem to be dpreview readers - I can only take the story for what it struck me, as a useful pointer to an intriguing Guardian story.

Seriously, I'm awed by some of the background knowledge that some commentators obviously have about the topic. But regardless of whether the shot was fabricated or not, there is no denying the simple fact that this iconic picture has made history and has helped shaping our view of the Spanish Civil War, or any war, for that matter.

Other great photographers have been found to have manipulated photographs extensively - take Frank Hurley, for example (lhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hsZOsvWTmI0) Does this diminish his marvellous photographs of Shackleton's Endurance Expedition altogether, when he couldn't resist tampering with some of his shots? Well, he may have been flawed, seriously so, but he was still an immensely gifted photographer, like Capa was.

Comment edited 46 seconds after posting
1 upvote
Strat13
By Strat13 (5 months ago)

I'd like to see that roll of film's contact sheet before I make up my mind. A contact sheet seems to exist because it was printed in one of the early biographies of Capa.

3 upvotes
km25
By km25 (5 months ago)

Capa, Ikonic...nothing more or less.

0 upvotes
leopardskin
By leopardskin (5 months ago)

That explains the strange composition.

0 upvotes
RetLaEnvEmp
By RetLaEnvEmp (5 months ago)

Several things noted in this picture. People/animals shot by a rifle bullet usually just drop down/collapse into a heap or jump up/stiffen then collapse with a fatal shot. A rifle bullet, with enough velocity, causes a reverse in blood flow in the body - hence the bleeding from the nose and mouth and broke blood vessel on bare skin often found when the body trunk is shot. Also a machine gun likely would have struck the body of the soldier with more than one bullet thus pushing the body backwards.

Possible explanations (if photo real) - Soldier shot multiple times by machine gun (at least twice) evidenced by body moving backwards and being airborne; the body stiffen/jumped up evidenced by rifle being flung by soldier; the Soldier was killed evidenced by dark color of face, broken blood vessel in skin, compared to color of ears which would not have the immediate blood rupturing flow from the fatal machine gun wounds.

0 upvotes
Deliverator
By Deliverator (5 months ago)

I'm not sure why you think the body is airborne. It appears to me from the way that his knees are bent and both feet are on the ground that he's falling backwards awkwardly; it's almost like he's sitting down.

0 upvotes
RetLaEnvEmp
By RetLaEnvEmp (5 months ago)

Body is moving in wrong direction in relation to "charging a machine gun" - you are right the soldier is falling backwards in this picture. Best guess is that the picture was take immediately/1 or 2 seconds after the soldier was struck by bullets - the soldier stiffened/muscles contracted and he fell or was knocked backwards. Entry wounds would not be seen; exit wounds are on the backside of the soldier not photographed; dark face indicates he was likely shot in face/head area; turned and twisted body at the shoulders also indicates likely also hit in left shoulder/left lung area also with rifle in extended right arm and right hand.

0 upvotes
Nishi Drew
By Nishi Drew (5 months ago)

Bullets barely transfer any of their kinetic energy to a body as they shoot right through. If anyone "flies" it would be while the person is in motion, if they're running then they will likely fall in a certain direction

3 upvotes
b craw
By b craw (5 months ago)

From the American Civil War onward, speculation of staging in war contexts and, in fact, most forms of photojournalism are prevalent (Lange and Evans depression era images certainly come to mind). I do respect the opinions of those who place value veracity, but it seems to me what is often absence in the dialog is an acknowledgement of structural demands of the media in such contexts as well as extensive academic discourse on the nature of image and its limitations in representing the real. Given this, I feel comfortable seeing many of these images as, at least in part, allegorical - perhaps less the literal reality and more some essence of circumstance.

0 upvotes
Nishi Drew
By Nishi Drew (5 months ago)

Staging would have probably been speculated a lot back then when cameras used to be giant boxes that were hardly portable. They were difficult to operate on the go and not for capturing the moment, especially with slow shutter speeds preventing action from being sharp

0 upvotes
tjbates
By tjbates (5 months ago)

One of Cartier Bresson's most famous photographs is of a man jumping over a puddle. When interviewed he said the photograph was taken "blind" from a very low angle between pickets on a fence. And so it is.
Some of my best action shots have been taken chasing my kids around the garden with auto focus and motor drive. 1 in 100 and I nail it.
It's entirely believable to me that the photo is real.

7 upvotes
SteB
By SteB (5 months ago)

I think this quote from the interview sums it up "Because when you shoot, nearly every picture is the same to you, and a press picture is born in the imagination of editors and the public who see them".

This along with how he took the image is simply saying he was partly lucky, and it was more what the world made of that image, rather him having great credit for that. Nevertheless he had some considerable input and was doing his job to get the shot in dangerous circumstances.

4 upvotes
Alejandro Ruiz
By Alejandro Ruiz (5 months ago)

Well the main argument is that Capa died from his work, walking on a mine when following French troops in Vietnam.
That proves that he was, at least often, close enough to take the famous photo.

13 upvotes
The Andy G
By The Andy G (5 months ago)

A few items. Firstly, Capa and others were shooting a lot of material, boxing it and posting it with minimal notes. People didn't have access to 4G networks in the 1930s. For him, an scribbled 'falling soldier, Spain' may have been enough. Copy editors looking to sell editions may have been guilty of 'broken telephone' and sexing up the caption.

I wonder what would have happened if the editors contacted him before printing: 'Monsieur, we need more about this falling dead soldier.'

'Dead? He was staggering back to barracks after a night of drinking and he fell. If he'd been shot don't you think I'd have mentioned it in the note?'

'Merde!'

At the time, it was within the ethical norms to improve photos. Apparently WeeGee occasionally kicked a gun closer to the corpse. Today we'd call that tampering with a crime scene. And, of course, the raising of the US flag over Iwo Jima was an after-the-fact reconstruction but being right about that wins one no points in a discussion.

1 upvote
GaryJP
By GaryJP (5 months ago)

Except, as he said, he did not even look at the pictures himself.

4 upvotes
Mark Rosen
By Mark Rosen (5 months ago)

It would be interesting to see the other images on the same role of film, in the order they were shot.

2 upvotes
Toccata47
By Toccata47 (5 months ago)

Watch the video and look for the tall man in white shirt and linen pants in each frame. The progression is apparent and obvious.

1 upvote
mzillch
By mzillch (5 months ago)

Staged:
-split second timing which would be nearly impossible to duplicate even in a studio setting, by hand [no triggers], without the pressure of being under enemy gunfire and getting your camera hand blown off, in one take.

-the soldiers face, a major point of interest, falls EXACTLY at a "rule of thirds" intersection despite the camera being aimed with an awkward, over the head grip, with NO viewfinder use to compose such accuracy.

-no camera blur, subject blur, full frame focus, good exposure, no visible gunshot wound [not that there has to be, but seeing it would add to the credibility]

-"overhead shot"? Looks more like tripod height to me, but who knows

-no negatives nor contact sheets have ever been seen, showing for example the shots leading up to this one (the flubs)

- " O. D. Gallagher, of the London Daily Express, "was sure" that Capa posed it: "While sharing a room, Capa apparently taught Gallagher how to fake a good action shot too."

1 upvote
baldeagle21b
By baldeagle21b (5 months ago)

No proof just opinion. You've got nothing.

12 upvotes
smorti
By smorti (5 months ago)

Actually, plenty of camera blur. Exposure & focus would have been pre-set (focus presumably at hyper focal). Composition would have been fairly easy - even though he was shooting above his head he could have had a good idea of where everything was. There wouldn't have been a visible gunshot wound so soon. Also, this was the film age - there wouldn't have been loads of dud shots before hand, photos were spaced out and thought out.
(And why is the fact that the London Daily Express alleges it, a good reason to think it's staged?!)

3 upvotes
Glen Barrington
By Glen Barrington (5 months ago)

Look at how the rifle is leaving his hand. That gun is in the process of leaving the soldier's control.

NO healthy living soldier lets go of his weapon like that, even in peace time because it is certainly a safety issue and the sergeant will kick your a$$. And certainly not in war, you never let yourself get into a position where you can't return fire.

Soldiers and veterans, would YOU take part in something like that on or near the front lines? I won't even mention the creepy feeling and the assumption of bad luck the soldier might feel doing something like this. Nobody is more superstitious than someone in harm's way.

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 8 minutes after posting
7 upvotes
mzillch
By mzillch (5 months ago)

"And why is the fact that the London Daily Express alleges it, a good reason to think it's staged?!"

Because the author, Gallagher, once a roommate of Capa's, says he received instructions on how to fake, stage, action shots, FROM Capa himself. Google the text I quoted in that earlier post for the source, iconicphotos.worldpressDOTcom

1 upvote
mzillch
By mzillch (5 months ago)

More evidence it was staged:

Here's one of the flubbed pics. Exact same framing, same soldier position, same premise, DIFFERENT SOLDIER [non-white shirt, gun gripped differently behind trigger, not in front of it like on the famous shot]

alistairscottDOTcom/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/capa-02.jpg

replace DOT with a period

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 9 minutes after posting
4 upvotes
GaryJP
By GaryJP (5 months ago)

Well, on your second point you are saying it's fake because it's too perfect (and you forget shooting is not cropping) and on your third you are saying it's probably fake because it's not perfect enough.

"Capt. Franks told me in conversation that the fact that the fingers are somewhat curled toward the palm clearly indicates that the manís muscles have gone limp and that he is already dead. Hardly anyone faking death would ever know that such a hand position was necessary in order to make the photograph realistic. It is nearly impossible for any conscious person to resist the reflex impulse to brace his fall by flexing his hand strongly backward at the wrist and extending his fingers out straight."

1 upvote
GaryJP
By GaryJP (5 months ago)

"Because the author, Gallagher, once a roommate of Capa's, says he received instructions"

Gallagher was a liar/mistaken and never told the same story twice. He did not share a room with Capa at the time he said he did.

http://wwwdotpbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/episodes/robert-capa/in-love-and-war/47/

(Replace the "dot" with a full stop)

" It was about five o’clock when Borrell was fatally shot. That time accords with the long shadows in Capa’s photograph.

In July 1998, at the time of a Robert Capa retrospective exhibition in London, Phillip Knightley came out with an article dismissing Brotóns’s discovery and stating, “The famous photograph is almost certainly a fake — Capa posed it.” He goes on to argue fatuously, “Federico could have posed for the photograph before he was killed."

Comment edited 5 times, last edit 15 minutes after posting
1 upvote
mzillch
By mzillch (5 months ago)

"Capt. Franks told me in conversation that the fact that the fingers are somewhat curled toward the palm clearly indicates that the manís muscles have gone limp and that he is already dead. Hardly anyone faking death would ever know that such a hand position was necessary in order to make the photograph realistic"

Except for everyone who just read the above sentence.

Capa: "When I yell BANG I want you to go limp and collapse to the ground as if shot dead, except keep your fingers stiff and extended because I haven't read that sentence and apparently it's rocket science to think that the fingers are curled in slightly when the hand is relaxed. Got it, soldier number two?"

Comment edited 43 seconds after posting
1 upvote
kitsap2
By kitsap2 (5 months ago)

If this was the fourth time for the scramble to attack a machine gunners nest, I would presume to see the bodies, or left over debris, of the previous three scrambles/attacks. The scene shows a completely empty scape.

But then, I wasn't there.

1 upvote
Toccata47
By Toccata47 (5 months ago)

Well, you can see the shell casing in one frame that weren't there the frame before (in the video). Fake or not, who cares? Every frame is a lesson in what makes photography great.

2 upvotes
Rylee Isitt
By Rylee Isitt (5 months ago)

According to the wikipedia entry on the soldier that is believed to be show in this photo, he was the first of two casualties in that area that day.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Federico_Borrell_Garc%C3%ADa

As you said, we weren't there. And Capa isn't around to answer our questions either. This will probably remain a "conspiracy theory" forever.

0 upvotes
Tom Nokin
By Tom Nokin (5 months ago)

Capa was certainly a very influential and great war photographer. However, it is beyond reasonable doubt, that the picture, strangely displayed her again, that made him famous was staged. That is totally unacceptable and diminishes him as a photographer pretending to document the war close to zero. Credibility has to be unquestionable in this context.
The rolls with this picture were found a few years ago and they show, that it "happended" at a different place, where no combat took place at the time and that the scene was repeated several times. You can do this as a matter of art or in a Hollywood movie, but not as a war photographer. Completely unacceptable. Picture should not be displayed without warning: Staged scene. Did not happened.

5 upvotes
Fabian2
By Fabian2 (5 months ago)

Robert Capa is the name of the fictional character invented by the pairing of Ernö Friedmann and Gerda Taro. Images taken by both were signed either with the same pseudonym so no one knows who was the author of them. However, it has always been associated more with Gerda Ernö that known work.

Ernö Friedmann was born in Budapest, Hungary. While Gerda was born in Stuttgart, Germany. They were known for portraying as one some of the most significant wars of the twentieth century. If Cartier Bresson decisive moment looked like few layer approached the picture as anyone. In fact it was the first war correspondent to use small format cameras to tell what was happening on the front.

http://www.xatakafoto.com/fotografos/robert-capa-lo-suficientemente-cerca

Comment edited 5 minutes after posting
1 upvote
mike051051
By mike051051 (5 months ago)

It might be that I just can't stop laughing after reading your post and that's affecting my judgement, but...you're being sarcastic, right?

0 upvotes
aroundtokyo
By aroundtokyo (5 months ago)

I saw this picture many years ago, and the question I have always wanted answered was, who was the man that fell? Everyone knows the picture and the photographer, but I doubt anyone knows/remembers the man. That is something I find incredibly saddening.

3 upvotes
sands70
By sands70 (5 months ago)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Federico_Borrell_Garc%C3%ADa

0 upvotes
lecoupdejarnac
By lecoupdejarnac (5 months ago)

The References section on that Wikipedia page has some interesting citations about this photo's credibility.

0 upvotes
jadot
By jadot (5 months ago)

*Random Opinion about an historical event I have no first hand experience of presented as fact*

etc.

- Many of the comments here.

12 upvotes
castelnuovo
By castelnuovo (5 months ago)

Later on Capa photographed with camera above his head on number of occasions, like in Omaha beach D-Day 1944
What is there to doubt about this iconic photograph "Falling soldier", one of many outstanding photographs he took
Once and for all, those false allegations should stop

2 upvotes
chooflaki
By chooflaki (5 months ago)

If he was shot it must have been from behind. Being shot by a high powered rifle will cause the victim to fall in the direction to where the shot was coming from. IMO I believe the photo is genuine.

Comment edited 1 minute after posting
1 upvote
GossCTP
By GossCTP (5 months ago)

Yeah, people said that about Kennedy too. The reality is that people contort from having holes tunneled through their bodies. "Knock down power" has always been a myth.

7 upvotes
lbuclk=
By lbuclk= (5 months ago)

I agree, its real just because its a grab shot taken at a time when he could not stand & was hoping to get something.at a fatal explosion once I had to set my wide angle lens & camera on auto( yes ! gasp, horror), with the camera hanging from my neck to get a shot(s) because a group of firemen did not want photos taken, once I got back to the paper & out of the darkroom I found a few shots that were usable. side note I friend in California. caught a glimpse of me on CNN. the armchair photographers can call the shot as they wish but luck does factor in in more than you think.

Comment edited 4 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
whawha
By whawha (5 months ago)

I was not aware of that interview and I had never heard his actual voice before.
Spine tingling...

1 upvote
Chuck Lantz
By Chuck Lantz (5 months ago)

The photos on these links make the story even murkier:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/misteriosa-rosario/2166811854/sizes/o/in/photostream/

http://www.flickr.com/photos/misteriosa-rosario/2166811854/

Comment edited 2 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
babalu
By babalu (5 months ago)

These type of photographs, however famous, and however famous the photographer - and Capa, along with Doisneau and Burke, just to name a very few was surely and rightly one of the best ever - should only be used as a monument against war . In that context, it's of lesser interest whether staged or not, we all know that wars aren't staged, they're real.
Please- no likes. Leave this just as is.

3 upvotes
Tom Nokin
By Tom Nokin (5 months ago)

Well, it does matter very very much whether the picture was staged or not. Capa knowingly lied about it, when he staged it but pretended it actually happened. A war photographer has to document what is real, that is the whole point You can not pile up bodies, take a picture and say, hey, look how horrible war is.
If Capa would have said, look I have staged a scene of war, that happens so often in war whitout a picture being taken, what do you think would have been the effect of this? That is the whole point.

2 upvotes
graybalanced
By graybalanced (5 months ago)

I think of all those who fought in the forum flame wars about whether optical viewfinders are better than electronic viewfinders.

Robert Capa photographed a real war, and he didn't even need his viewfinder to become a more famous photographer than you.

Comment edited 35 seconds after posting
22 upvotes
WT21
By WT21 (5 months ago)

Could there be a shallower comment?

4 upvotes
mzillch
By mzillch (5 months ago)

He lied about the nature of this photograph so I suspect he very much DID use the viewfinder, hence the nearly identical composition in the flubbed, outtake shot I found earlier:

Exact same framing, same soldier location relative to the background, same premise, DIFFERENT SOLDIER [non-white shirt, gun gripped differently behind the trigger, not in front of it like on the famous shot (where it is also flying from his grip, instead of being retained once he's collapsed dead)]

www.alistairscott.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/capa-02.jpg

"No, see, that was right where the guys were being shot and that's just another guy that got shot at that same spot that day after they pulled away the first body."

Grow up.

Comment edited 5 times, last edit 13 minutes after posting
1 upvote
AnHund
By AnHund (5 months ago)

He must have been running down hill but still falls the other way - is that likely? It also looks cloudy, but there is still a big shadow behind the man..hmmm.

1 upvote
PixelMover
By PixelMover (5 months ago)

If someone hits you in the back, your back arches in reflex, to pull away from the source of danger. Same as being stabbed in the back or shot. If you get hit in the stomach, you double over.
So what if there are clouds behind him? Never seen a partially clouded sky? Do not adjust your tinfoil hat...

0 upvotes
AnHund
By AnHund (5 months ago)

Sure. That could be an explanation. Still think it looks a bit odd including the position of the rifle.

Comment edited 2 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
Ben-Ami
By Ben-Ami (5 months ago)

And there is light on front of his shirt, so no problem with the shadow on the earth and the darker back side of his pents.

0 upvotes
FRANCISQUAN
By FRANCISQUAN (5 months ago)

1. Cloudy? ...... The whole foreground is bright and his shirt is brilliant white!

2. Running downhill means running on your heels, weight slightly behind so if the poor guy is killed instantly he will drop back.

3. Look at his face which shows no agony, just a surreal peacefulness as if everything has shut down as he drops to the ground while at the same time obviously losing a grip on his rifle.

4. If you are killed instantly, your body will not react to any reflex.

0 upvotes
M Lammerse
By M Lammerse (5 months ago)

A great find for all are interested in Capa's work like myself. Hopefully stops the discussions if the photo is staged or not.

Many times in the past all kinds of people from photography historians to that of police men specialized in homicide mentioned already that it never could be a staged photograph. One of the visual proofs of it is the position of the body at the moment of truth.

3 upvotes
Glen Barrington
By Glen Barrington (5 months ago)

I can't help but wonder if the soldier was ever identified. This was a great photo, and all. But the soldier died for a cause, he needs to be remembered, for more than being the subject of a cool photo, I think.

3 upvotes
M Lammerse
By M Lammerse (5 months ago)

Yes, the man who was killed, his name was Federico Borrell Garcia.
A popular man in the Alcoy militia he fought in, he was the only one killed that day

Comment edited 2 minutes after posting
8 upvotes
falconeyes
By falconeyes (5 months ago)

Hmmmh, only person killed. This interview has "each time the soldiers moved out they were mowed down". Strange at least.

Maybe, the "several" attempts were on several days. Has this been analyzed?

3 upvotes
M Lammerse
By M Lammerse (5 months ago)

@falconeyes: the photograph itself has been analyzed to death...literally.

"In that part of the front" only 1 person was killed that day, and that was Mr. Borrell Gacia. coming form Alcoy (Alcoi)

3 upvotes
Tom Nokin
By Tom Nokin (5 months ago)

Look, point is, he didnot die when the picture was taken. There was no combat at the at this place. Capa lied about the place to start with. The man did this scene several times until Capa had his shot. It is staged and only worth remembering for a increcible fraud.

1 upvote
lecoupdejarnac
By lecoupdejarnac (5 months ago)

According to some accounts (http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2008/sep/27/photography.pressandpublishing) he was shot while posing for a staged scene at Capa's request.

Certainly an interesting theory.

2 upvotes
GaryJP
By GaryJP (5 months ago)

" Capa lied about the place to start with. " Capa at no point said where the image was shot. He took some shots of refugees at the battlefront later on that roll, and his editors assumed the two were at the same location.

1 upvote
Rick Knepper
By Rick Knepper (5 months ago)

Depending on how one defines the word "stage" in photography terms, most photos are staged in one respect or another even in some so-called candid photography. In this case though, it appears unlikely that the subject was "pretend dying" for the camera which is the prevalent concern for PJ.

Comment edited 3 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
CeleryBeats
By CeleryBeats (5 months ago)

hehe! I know all about staging photographs because i do it on a weekly basis. :) But yes, in this case staged as in, a guy pretending to die. It's not that unbelievable. I like to believe it's real though. Just pointing out what i red.

0 upvotes
CeleryBeats
By CeleryBeats (5 months ago)

Intrestingly I red that this photograph was likely staged.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Falling_Soldier

1 upvote
digitall
By digitall (5 months ago)

"Intrestingly I red that this photograph was likely staged."

As in nature being red in tooth and claw?

0 upvotes
Total comments: 128
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