Written by Photography

This Is War! Robert Capa At Work

There’s a fabulous new exhibition of the work of celebrated war photographer Robert Capa currently on display at The Barbican.
It features, in detail, several key events that Capa covered from the Spanish Civil War through D-Day to the end of the war. Alongside Capa’s work, we also have that of his partner, Gerda Taro, who shot alongside Capa much of the time.
It’s wonderful to see some of the most famous photos of the twentieth century placed in context. So the famous shot of a man being shot and killed in Spain, is surrounded by the shots Capa took before and after it. For some reason, a few people came to question its veracity, but putting it alongside every other photograph that Capa and Taro took that day, makes it clear that it was a horrible accident that Capa caught the moment of the Republican soldier’s death.
Incidentally, like many others, I thought that the photo showed the man’s brains or skull being blown off, but that’s actually a tassle on his cap that we see (I say “we” – but of course the photo’s not mine to reproduce here. You can see a smaller representation at the Barbican’s website in the top right hand corner, or here at the International Center of Photography).
The other standout images are those that Capa took on D-Day where he accompanied the US troops on Omaha beach. An accident when the rolls of film were being rush developed in London following Capa’s return means that we have very few of the photographs Capa took left, and what we do have are not as good as they might be. But they still bring home the horror of war, and they obviously informed Steven Spielberg when he made Saving Private Ryan.