BBC Culture

Robert Capa at 100: The war photographer’s legacy

  • Writing history with a camera

    Famed war photographer Robert Capa was born Andre Friedmann in Budapest on 22 October 1913. His portfolio is marked by close-up, 'from the trenches' realism - the camera recording the unvarnished truth - but his professional persona was actually a fabrication. Settling in Paris in 1934 after fleeing the Nazis, Friedmann adopted his school nickname, 'cápa', Hungarian for 'shark'. Capa also sounded American, like the Hollywood film director Frank Capra, making it easier to sell photos beyond Paris. Soon his girlfriend and business partner Gerda Taro was marketing his photos as taken by the "great American photographer, Robert Capa". (Robert Capa/International Center of Photography/Magnum Photos)

  • Front row view

    In 1932, still using the name Andre Friedmann, Capa published his first photo as a freelance journalist: an image of Leon Trotsky giving a speech in Copenhagen called The Meaning of the Russian Revolution. It established a precedent for his work. He would forego aesthetic framing and compositional clarity - the ex-Bolshevik leader's face is partly obscured by his gesticulating hand - in favour of dramatic immediacy. (Robert Capa/International Center of Photography/Magnum Photos)

  • A soldier falls

    In 1936, Capa went to Spain with Gerda Taro to document the Spanish Civil War. While embedded with a republican militia he took his most famous and controversial image, called Loyalist Militiaman at the Moment of Death, Cerro Muriano, September 5, 1936 - usually called The Falling Soldier. José Manuel Susperregui of the University of País Vasco has since said it could not have been taken at Cerro Muriano, on the Cordoba front, but was actually snapped miles away . Some have alleged that Capa caused the man's death by having him pose for a photo, making him vulnerable to a sniper. Japanese journalist Kotaro Sawaki claims computer analysis of the image shows Gerda Taro took the photo, not Capa, and that the subject did not die but merely lost his footing during a war exercise. (Robert Capa/International Center of Photography/Magnum Photos)

  • Horror of war

    The publication of The Falling Soldier in Life magazine exposed the cruel bloodshed of the Spanish Civil War - and made Capa famous. His fiancee Gerda Taro was killed in the conflict in 1937, but Capa remained in Spain. In Barcelona 18 months later, he photographed this woman running for shelter because of an air raid by Franco's forces. The city endured heavy bombing as the Fascist troops approached. (Robert Capa/International Center of Photography/Magnum Photos)

  • Documenting D-Day

    Capa was embedded with Allied troops in Europe during World War II. As a Hungarian national, he was the only 'enemy alien' granted this access, Hungary being an Axis power. Capa even took photos like this one while storming Omaha Beach alongside the second wave of American troops that landed in Normandy on D-Day, 6 June, 1944. His D-Day photos exemplify the maxim he proclaimed throughout his career: "If your photographs aren't good enough, you're not close enough." (Robert Capa/International Center of Photography/Magnum Photos)

  • Remains of the day

    During the D-Day landing, Capa took 106 photographs - however, all but 11 of these were destroyed in a developing accident. The ones that remain, called The Magnificent Eleven, are a priceless record of the turning point of World War II. Steven Spielberg has said that Capa's D-Day photographs inspired the look of Saving Private Ryan's Omaha Beach opening. (Robert Capa/International Center of Photography/Magnum Photos)

  • Paris burning

    After D-Day, Capa continued to follow the Allied invasion of Nazi-occupied France. During the Liberation of Paris, he snapped images of cheering crowds on the Champs-Élysées. But he did not neglect less exuberant scenes, either, like this shot of a Parisian harassing a captured German soldier. (Robert Capa/International Center of Photography/Magnum Photos)

  • V for victory

    At the Battle of the Bulge, from 23-26 December 1944, Capa photographed a German soldier surrendering at gunpoint to an American. After World War II, Capa would continue to document conflict, first during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, then during the First Indochina War. (Robert Capa/ International Center of Photography/Magnum Photos)

  • From Normandy to Notorious

    Capa did not take all of his photos from the trenches. During World War II he met Ingrid Bergman as she entertained the Allied troops throughout Europe -and they began a love affair. In 1946 she invited him on the set of Alfred Hitchcock's thriller Notorious. In this picture, Hitchcock supervises his cameraman's close-up framing of Bergman's hand. Capa and Bergman broke up shortly after the end of shooting on Notorious. (Robert Capa/International Center of Photography/Magnum Photos)

  • Life beyond war

    Capa encountered many artists and intellectuals on his travels. He went to the Soviet Union in 1947 with John Steinbeck, photographed Henri Matisse in his studio, and, as seen in this candid shot from August 1948, spent summer with Pablo Picasso, seen here holding his son Claude. Capa died on May 25, 1954, after stepping on a landmine in Vietnam. His younger brother, Cornell, established the International Center of Photography in New York in 1974, in part to house Robert's collection of extraordinary photographs and to preserve his legacy. (Robert Capa/International Center of Photography/Magnum Photos)