There was a man who lived most of his life in war. He left many masterpieces depicting the cruelty and violence of war. His tool to show war’s truth was a ‘Camera.’ Many people call him a brave war correspondent, but he was actually really afraid of war. Also, he was a great humanitarian known in modern society for his war correspondence. His name is Robert Capa. The year of 2013 marks the centenary year of his birth. Also, it is the 60th anniversary of the end of the Korean War by truce. Now, let’s look at the nearest war to us through Capa’s eye.
Robert Capa, the Man Who Loved…
Before looking at his pictures more closely, we should know the answer to, “Who is Robert Capa?” We can’t categorize him as just a war correspondent. According to his friend John Steinbeck, an American writer, “His pictures have warm heart and sympathy.” Also, Henri Cartier Bresson, a great photographer and founder of MAGNUM* like Capa, said, “Capa was caught up in a whirling vortex of emotion for himself and the others.” Like his friends’ sayings, we can see Capa’s humanity. He always attempted to capture in photos human existence. Moreover, he wanted to criticize war’s unfairness. With these two hopes of him, he wanted to enjoy peace and express those wittily and poetically through his photos.
1936 Spanish Civil War : Death of a Loyalist Militiaman
The Spanish Civil War was the first war Capa sold his photos under his own name Robert Capa. At the beginning of the Spanish Civil War, he went to Spain with his lover, Gerda Taro. At the front of Cordoba, Spain, he took the picture titled Death of a Loyalist Militiaman and the picture landed him the job of photographer with LIFE magazine. In the picture, Capa managed to capture the moment of death during war with a calm attitude. This scene showing peace is ironic. Through the picture, we know how death is just a moment in time. On the face of the soldier, there is no pain of death. We can see how war makes death seem unimportant and simple through this photo.
1944 the Second World War : Normandy Invasion
On June 6th, 1944, Capa landed at Normandy Omaha Beach, France with the U.S. military. He took photos of the Normandy Invasion on site. The pictures, taken at that time, made Capa a famous photographer. Some photos were slightly out of focus, but LIFE magazine published them along with his articles. After publishing the out-of-focus photos, people saw the intensity of the Normandy Invasion and could sense secondhand Capa’s fear during the invasion and the air during the war itself. Also, if you watch the movie, Saving Private Ryan, you will feel the atmospheres of Capa’s photos and that movie are similar. The photos were utilized in the film because of photos’ realistic character. Afterward, Capa wrote an autobiography titled Slightly Out of Focus. Photographers claim his book meant ‘out-of-focus’ depicts reality.
1954 Indo-China War : His Last Photo
On May 25th, 1954, Capa said, “If your photographs aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.” He was photographing for LIFE in Thai-Bihn, Indochina. Although the area was dangerous, Capa went there to take photos in the field of battle. However, that was where he took his last breath. He stepped on a landmine and was killed. As he lay dying, he grabbed his camera. The camera was sent to America, and those were his last photographs. Looking at his last photos, we realize how connected he was to the soldiers on the field. In the last picture taken, soldiers are seen stepping carefully because of landmines, but Capa stepped on one. Risking his life, he endeavored to inform people about the destructiveness of war though his photos. Now, his attitude is engraved throughout the word as Capaism, meaning the professional act of courage and no fear of death.
What did He Really Want to Do?
In 1938, Picture Post published The Greatest War Photographer in the World: Robert Capa with a spread of 26 photographs taken during the Spanish Civil War. Like this, the war gave Capa wealth and fame, but he hated war and even feared it. What does war mean to us? To Koreans, it is both the near and far. However, we think about war too simply. This exhibition celebrates Capa’s 100th birthday and the Korean War’s 60th anniversary. Koreans need to think about the connection between Capa, who lived all his life with war, and the Korean War. War continues today on the peninsular of Korea. Why did Capa detest hate war? “War should not exist.” Robert Capa passes on this message through his work Slightly Out of Focus and his life. After visiting the exhibition, think about why war has to disappear from Capa’s perspective.