Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Optical opus...

One for uncle rupe and photographers everywhere: The Capa Cache. (NY Times) "TO the small group of photography experts aware of its existence, it was known simply as 'the Mexican suitcase'." And in the pantheon of lost modern cultural treasures, it was surrounded by the same mythical aura as Hemingway’s early manuscripts, which vanished from a train station in 1922. The discovery of the suitcase containing thousands of negatives (image left) of pictures by Robert Capa, "one of the pioneers of modern war photography" is "being hailed as a huge event for more than forensic reasons. This is the formative work of a photographer who, in a century defined by warfare, played a pivotal role in defining how war was seen, bringing its horrors nearer than ever —
"If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough"
... was his mantra. Capa practically invented the image of the globe-trotting war photographer, with a cigarette appended to the corner of his mouth and cameras slung over his fatigues. His fearlessness awed even his soldier subjects, and between battles he hung out with Hemingway and Steinbeck and usually drank too much, seeming to pull everything off with panache. Capa established a mode and the method of depicting war in these photographs, of the photographer not being an observer but being in the battle, and that became the standard that audiences and editors from then on demanded.

"The discovery has sent shock waves through the photography world, not least because it is hoped that the negatives could settle once and for all a question that has dogged Capa’s legacy: whether what may be his most famous picture — and one of the most famous war photographs of all time — was staged. Known as 'The Falling Soldier,' [image left] it shows a Spanish Republican militiaman reeling backward at what appears to be the instant a bullet strikes his chest or head on a hillside near C√≥rdoba in 1936. When the picture was first published in the French magazine Vu, it created a sensation and helped crystallize support for the Republican cause."
Photo archive can be seen HERE....and one version setting out to prove it was genuine or not (even now we hear how war correspondents often distorted the truth) HERE...

3 comments:

Paul said...

I'd like to think that Phillip Knightley's claims have finally been debunked. This is one of those photographs that I have been fascinated by as long as I can remember. I posted about it on Rupe's blog a long time ago when we both discovered I've actually owned a book with one of her photographs in for nearly thirty years which also features Capa.

Span Ows said...

Hi Paul, you commented while I was posting about Chavez.

Yes, it's one one 'those' photos that have always stood out. Interesting re that book...I wonder if rupe has any anecdotes or 'disputed images'?

Span Ows said...

Talk of the Devil!...I've just seen THIS in the Times (from Friday)