Iconic “falling soldier” staged – Yeah we know

July 19, 2009
The Capa "falling soldier" image - real or not?

The Capa "falling soldier" image - real or not?

Well, the controversy around Robert Capa’s “falling soldier” image from the Spanish civil war is not settled yet. A Spanish newspaper is now saying that the image was staged. AFP is now running the story globally.

A similar piece appeared in The Guardian a few weeks ago, but didn’t generate the same interest.

Regular readers of Ethical Martini will be aware that I have long been arguing that the photograph was staged. So I’m not really surprised that this is running again.

I said recently that we would have to wait to see what fresh evidence might emerge from the Mexican suitcase before it can be finally resolved.

In May this year the New York International Center for Photography, which houses the Capa archives, reported it could not find the negative for this image in the  Mexican suitcase which did contain many Spanish civil war photographs.

One interesting note from the AFP story:

El Periodico said it based its study on an exhibition–launched in New York in 2007 and now in Barcelona –of 150 Capa photos taken in conflicts during the 1930s and 1940s.

I saw this exhibition at the Barbican Centre  in London last year and I  wrote extensively on the series that includes “falling man” #1 and “falling man” #2.

I first wrote about the Capa image  in 2007. I’ve always had doubts.

En Francais, Andre Gunthert: “Capa vs Google Earth”

En Espanol, farodevigo.es: La mítica fotografía del miliciano de Capa puede ser falsa

For photojournalism students, if you want to see a reasonably interesting discussion about the ethics of the image, click on over to A Photo Editor.

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Robert Capa’s Falling soldier – does the evidence stack up?

November 1, 2008
Sonw in London - October 2008

Update 19 July 2009: Fresh argument erupts

[Traveller’s tip: Don’t miss: This is war! at the Barbican till 25 January 2009]

I was fortunate enough to enjoy a ‘private viewing’ of the Robert Capa and Gerda Taro exhibition at the Barbican this week. Helen and I got doused by a storm walking from Moorgate, but once we were inside, the magic of the Barbican Centre took over. We spent the next 90 minutes immersed in some great war reportage and an installation of contemporary photojournalistic and new media commentaries on Afghanistan and Iraq.

On the way home I was caught in that wonderful (for an expat of 40 years) October snow. It was bitterly cold, but the chance to take this photo made it all worthwhile. The white blobs in the foreground are snowflakes.

Robert Capa and Gerda Taro were an amazing couple as well as great photographers. This retrospective provides hundreds of images showing how they worked together or alone and using a variety of cameras and techniques.

Many of the images in this collection are clearly staged and posed: including many famous images by both Capa and Taro from the Spanish civil war.

They first went to Spain in 1936 and their sympathies were with the Republicans (also known as Loyalists) who were defending their newly established (and left-leaning) government from the Fascist militias led by General Franco.

I don’t doubt Taro and Capa’s political allegiance to the Republicans. That was always the right side of the barricades and many fine socialists, intellectuals, poet, anarchists, workers, women and children died defending and extending working class political rights against the rising tide of European fascism.

But did this ideological sympathy for revolution in Spain create ethical problems for either Capa or Taro? One famous series of images by Robert Capa sheds some interesting light on this debate.

Known universally as ‘the falling soldier’, one iconic image is at the centre of a longstanding question hanging over Robert Capa’s reputation as one of the finest photojournalists of the 20th Century.

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