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SCL Photo Podcast 19: "Photographs", Robert Capa, Book Review

SCL PodcastRobert Capa - one of the greatest Photographers of the Twentieth Century. In this episode I look at a collection of some of his images.

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Show notes:

Featured Posts:

Sonys Range of dSLR cameras.

Secret Life of Cutlery.

Istock Photo Diary #3.

Photowalk 46 - Shapes.

Book Review : Robert Capa - Photographs

Robert Capa: Photographs (Aperture Monograph)

My Notes:

Robert Capa - Photographs, Published by Aperture, forward by hcb, remembrance by Cornell Capa, intro by richard whelan.

Start with forward by hcb.

Born Budapest, 1913, died in 1954, after stepping on a land mine while on assignment in Indochina, or Vietnam as its now known.

But this book isn't a biography, its all about the photographs, really nice reproduced, at a good size and on great glossy paper.

Robert Capa was an assignment photographer who passionately believed in the causes he was taking pictures of. He's probably one of the worlds finest war photographers - two seminal shots are the image of a Soldier being shot during the Spanish civil war, and the grain, spoiled photos from D-day, the invasion of Normandy to liberate France from Germany.

Lets start at the beginning. The book follows Capas career in Chronological order, starting with his work in France. Here we have fantastic shots of Paris street life, demonstrations, parades, and daily life in the capital, Paris.

We then move on to his coverage of the Spanish Civil War, from 36-39. The civil war was a fight between the democratically elected leftist / liberal govt, and the monarchists and fascists, led by General Franco. The Govt was helped by volunteers from all over the world, fighting for freedom and democracy, whereas Franco got help from the Nazis in Germany.

Capa believed that the only way to portray the feeling of battle was from the front line, shooting with his camera, while real bullets were zipping around his head.

We see the development of modern warfare, with images of bombed out cities and shell-shocked civilians.

Some of my favourite photos are those of the civilians always looking up for the aerial dogfights between the fighter planes and the bombers, the new fear from the skies.

The next chapter is from China,, another country gripped in war, both civil, then against the Japanese. Capa captures ordinary street life, the drama of air attacks, bombed out towns, and you can really see the emotion on peoples faces.

Next up is Mexico, a Life Magazine assignment to cover the violent elections in 1940.

Capas right there, among the demonstrations and riots, and at the funerals of the fallen.

Capas coverage of WWII starts in North Africa, 1943, and continues with the invasion of Italy. He's once again on the front lines, right among the soldiers. There's a fantastic photograph of a US radio man, pressing himself into the mountainside to stay under cover, perhaps trying to get some rest.

Capa doesn't just photograph the soldiers - he goes into the towns. we see the dejected citizens, the rubble, and the wounded.

D-Day. June 6th 1944. The biggest sea-borne assault the world had ever seen, 130,000 men thrown against Hitlers Fortress Europe - some dropping in from the skies, most onto beaches defended by concrete fortifications, barbed wire, mines and 2 years of preparation.

Capa chose to go in with the first wave on Omaha Beach - the bloodiest of the landing beaches, where US forces became bogged down against seemingly unbreakable defences. Capa was in the water, bullets splashing around him, dead bodies being rocking to and fro in the swell, shells exploding, wounded screaming and the thunder of naval gunfire flying overhead.

Capa shot dozens of pictures in those first few hours. Nobody had ever recorded that sort of battle before, right in the thick of it. He struggled back to a landing craft and his rolls of film were rushed to London for developing. Imagine you were the lab technician, in the dark room, watching these wonderfully horrific photographs start to appear in front of you, images the like that had never been seen before. Then imagine that in your excitement to develop the negatives, you turn up the heater too high. Imagine that you ruin all but a handful of those photographs. That's what happened.

We still have a few frames, and they're represented in this book, and maybe their grainy, blurred quality adds to their realism, and the impact they have on us, the viewer.

Capa follows the allied armies through France and into Germany, with some truly brilliant photos, especially the ones that seem to freeze a moment. There's a street scene in Paris, where three men have thrown themselves to the ground to avoid sniper fire. Two are looking up, trying to see their attacker, while the third is looking straight at the camera.

We have civilians greeting their liberators, the captured enemy, collaborators being persecuted, but my favourite has to be a photo of us paratroopers near Wessel, Germany. Its a picture of a field, backed by a hedge row,About a dozen troops are in the scene, some lying low to avoid fire, others striding along. What looks like a gun emplacement is behind the, but whats really amazing is the troop carrying glider overhead, coming in to crash land at a steep angle, the chaos of the battle field perfectly captured.

There's heart-breaking pictures of dead troops, and perhaps the most poignant image, that of a US machine-gunner shot by German snipers right at the end of the war.

The books goes on to record capas assignments in Eastern Europe, the new state of Israel, and fantastic shots of his contemporaries. Check out his portraits of Gary Cooper, Gene Kelly and John Huston for true inspiration.

We travel on through Western Europe and post war Japan, but Life Magazine sent Capa to Indochina, Vietnam as its now called, to cover the war between the French and the Communists. The book ends with capas last photograph before he stepped on a landmine. The convoy he was travelling in had stopped, and rather than wait in the safety of the vehicles, he grabbed his camera and headed out with the troops on patrol, we see then spread out across field, carrying their weapons, an armoured vehicle in the distance.

end with remembrance by Cornell capa.

Fantastic book - order it from your library, or if you've got the cash buy it. Just flicking through the prints will inspire you, and make you feel like you're touching history.

Technique challenges (No Time Limit):

No Sky Landscapes

Fill The Frame!

Dawn / Dusk shots

A Landscape Style Shot With Strong Foreground Interest

Remember to email me your photos if you'd like to me work on them for the Photo Workbench.

To contact me, just click on the link near the top of the page under the big picture.

Thanks for listening, see you on Flickr!

Join the Flickr Group!

Cheers, Rob.

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