War-hating war photographers is in Izmir. A founder of Magnum, one of the biggest photography agencies, he is regarded as the world’s best war photographer, despite his utter distaste for wars.
He is a passionate and incorrigible lover, an adventurer, an adrenaline junkie. Robert Capa’s photographs are in Turkey for the first time. He rose to fame, made a living, and even met the love of his life in wars, and lost them all to wars, with the exception of his fame.
Turkey’s biggest art gallery Folkart Gallery is getting ready to exhibit Capa’s memorable photographs in March 2016. We live in an era when photography and taking photographs is getting easier.
We hundreds of photos on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and so on, and we forget some of them immediately, some within the first five minutes, and others by the end of the day. Think about it for a minute; what did photographs mean to you before cameras became so easily attainable? It there a photograph that has marked your memory?
Think about a photograph:
It is set in your memory to come to your mind first when you think about “war.”It throws in your face the fact that it takes only a second to cross the thin red line between life and death.Put yourself in the place of the man taking that photograph. Try to feel what he must have felt at that moment... Then, ask yourself if taking photographs is an easy task. “The Falling Soldier” is the name of that photo. It depicts the death of a Republican soldier, fighting against General Franco during the Spanish Civil War. It was taken by the war photographer Robert Capa, who ran from front to front in the most tumultuous times of the world, and lost not only his love, but also his life to war.
Endre, not RobertIn some way, Robert Capa is the name of a project that was developed to get more money when selling photographs. Capa’s real name was Endre Ernö Friedmann. Born in Budapest, Endre was an independent, outgoing, and adventurous young man. He decided to become a journalist; however, was exiled by the oppressive Hungarian administration in 1929 due to his political views. Determined to work as a journalist, Endre came to Berlin and began studying journalism. He had to quit school a year later, and went through hard times until he found a job at the Dephot agency. He assuaged his hunger by drinking sugared water. He was left homeless. But he never gave up. While working as a darkroom assistant, he had a lucky break and on his first assignment, he used a borrowed camera to photograph Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky during his speech to young people in Denmark.
Der Weltspiegel featured the photographs full page, and Endre took his first steps towards becoming a professional photojournalist. Now, he was meeting important photographers and moving forward to becoming Capa. Nevertheless, poverty was still an issue for him, and on top of that, anti-semitism was on the rise in Germany. Like other German Jews, he ended up in Paris, the city of opportunities. And Capa is bornHe wanted to be a good photographer. He was working very hard, but he wasn’t able to make a good living. Photography editors didn’t give him work and paid little money for his stories. He even had to steal food to put something in his stomach. Once, he fried a muddy River Seine fish in hair gel. In one of his days of misery, he met Gerda Taro, a young woman who had escaped Germany like he did. Endre was immediately taken by this smart and cheerful woman. They fell in love. “I’ve never been this happy in my life. You will have to use a pickaxe and shovel to separate me from Gerda now,“ he said. He and Gerda devised a plan to sell the stories more easily. Endre would become a rich American photographer named Robert Capa, and Gerda his assistant, to sell Endre’s photographs at a high price. The plan worked. Photos that sold for 50 francs with the Friedmann last name were now worth 150 francs with the Capa last name. The name Robert was taken from the famous actor Robert Taylor, and Capa, by taking out a letter from Frank Capra’s last name. As luck would have it, Capa also means “pickaxe and shovel” in Hungarian.
After a while, it came out that Robert Capa was Endre Ernö Friedmann. Nevertheless, he continued to use the name Robert Capa. The two lovers, now war photography icons, went to photograph the Spanish Civil War which began in 1936. Gerda learned to take photographs and began working as a professional photographer in her own right. Capa photographed the front, whereas Gerda took pictures of daily life, and their work was published in magazines such as Vu, Weekly Illustrated, and Life. Capa took his most significant photographs during the Spanish Civil War. Capa’s “The Falling Soldier” photograph, an iconic work in the war photography history, shows the moment of a Republican soldier getting shot dead. It caused a great stir after it was published in Vu Magazine on September 23, 1936. There has been a long debate as to whether or not it was staged, with Capa making his case countless time. In any case, the photograph is regarded as an icon. Capa replied to the questions by saying, “There’s no need for trickery for photographs in Spain.
You don’t have to get anyone to pose. The photos are already there, you just capture the truth itself.“ The Spanish Civil War cost Capa the love of his life. Gerda got run over by a tank and suffered critical wounds near Madrid where she had gone without him. Surgery could not save her, and she died. Capa (pickaxe and shovel) takes Gerda away from Robert. Following Gerda’s death, the war photographer wants to be without a job for the first time in his life. “War is like an aging actress. more and more dangerous and less and less photogenic,“ he said.
Devastated by Gerda’s death, Capa left Spain for a while only to come back and meet Ernest Hemingway, who later became his close friend. Hemingway was writing “For Whom The Bell Tolls” while also supporting the Republicans. Adrenalin junkie Capa followed various events through China, Mexico, and London until the start of the Second World War. He photographed the war at many fronts and participated in the Normandy landings. He dodged hundreds of bullets in one and a half hours on Omaha Beach, and sent the two rolls of film he took there to Life Magazine. Nevertheless, the magazine editor’s haste caused the two rolls of films to melt, and only eight blurred photographs were saved. Even those frames alone were enough to illustrate the severity of the attack. Then, the war was over, and the anti-war war photographer Capa was finally out of work. Great love affair with Ingrid BergmanCapa returns to Paris after the war ends. At the hotel, he and his friend Irwin Show saw Ingrid Bergman, the most popular actress of the era. Bergman was in Paris to heal the wounds of war and boost American soldiers’ morale. While resting in her room, Bergman received a note. The note from Capa and Show sparked off a great love. The note said:“This is a community effort. The community consists of Bob Capa and Irwin Shaw. We were planning on sending you flowers with this note inviting you to dinner this evening - but after consultation we discovered it was possible to pay for the flowers or the dinner, or the dinner or the flowers, not both. We took a vote and dinner won by a close margin. It was suggested that if you did not care for dinner, flowers might be sent. No decision has been reached on this so far. Besides the flowers we have lots of doubtful qualities. If we write much more we will have no conversation left as out supply of charm is limited. We will call you at 18:15. We do not sleep.
Signed: Two love and war veterans... Bergman accepted the invitation with this charming note and took a liking to Capa during dinner. Meanwhile, Capa fell head over heels in love with Bergman. He once lost the love of his life because of the work he did and said, “Another woman? Never!” Capa was in love again. Furthermore, he followed her all the way to California, despite knowing that the woman he loved was married and had children. Capa and Bergman had a great love affair and defied all risks as they could not resist their feelings of love. Paris evenings, dinners at upscale cafes, walks along the River Seine, barefoot dancing, secret hotel meetings and all. It was time to return to Hollywood; however, Bergman didn’t want to leave her lover behind. She came up with a solution by finding him a job on the film set. Having spent years chasing dismembered dead bodies, Capa was now a set photographer. He spent his days on the set. The days of no war gave Capa the chance to photograph many celebrities, particularly Bergman, and others like Hitchcock, Cary Grant, Gary Cooper, Picasso, and Matisse. Hitchcock shot the movie Rear Window with the inspiration he drew from the two. He came to Turkey to shoot a documentary in 1947. During that time, he handled many subjects, from the fishermen at the Bosphorus to President İsmet İnönü. Turkey reminded Capa that he was a journalist. So, while he was in Turkey, he came up with the idea of establishing a photography agency.
He didn’t like the fact that big magazines held the copyrights themselves. On his return, he established Magnum, one of the world’s most prominent photography agencies, with Henri Cartier-Bresson, David Seymour, and George Rodger. From now on, he would hold the rights to his photographs. Life ended by a landmineIn 1954, he went to Japan for six months. Life Magazine asked him to cover the war in French Indo-China. Capa needed the money. So he immediately took the offer. In the morning of May 25, he was walking along a small convoy toward the Doaitha region. They frequently stopped because of snipers and landmines. Those in the team didn’t want to go into the fields. Capa ignored the warnings and entered a field. That was the last photograph of his life. He stepped on a landmine. His left leg was severed and he didn’t make it to the hospital. The truth is Capa was an incorrigible gambler. He kept betting on the moment and won.Nevertheless, he lost the bet he made on his life. He was 41. Thousands of his photographs depicting the futility of war survived him. On March 4, 2016, Folkart Gallery will put on display, for the first time in Turkey, photographs that depict not only the front lines, but also behind lines by Robert Capa, the anti-war photography virtuoso. The exhibition consisting of 103 photographs will be featured from March 1 to May 15, 2016.