Robert Capa: In History
On the occasion of the 110th anniversary of Robert Capa’s birth (October 22nd, 1913) Mudec pays tribute to the great Hungarian photographer with a solo exhibition encompassing his major war and travel reportages. A journey through Capa’s 20-year career, which unfolded during some of the crucial moments in the history of the 20th century.
The exhibition was made possible thanks to a collaboration with the Magnum Photos agency and it brings together an exceptional body of photographs: more than 80 original prints, some of which have never been shown in an Italian exhibition before, accompanied by some documents from the Magnum’s collection dating back to the same period.
The exhibition includes seven sections and a diachronic itinerary through the most important black-and-white reportages by Robert Capa, from the beginning of his career in Berlin and Paris (1932-1936) to the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939); from the Japanese invasion of China (1938) to World War II (1941-1945); from his travel reportage in the Soviet Union (1947) to the one about the birth of Israel (1948-1950), and, finally, his last assignment as a war photographer in Indochina (1954).
In his 20-year career, Capa has narrated History as it unfolded, while always staying true to his famous aphorism: “if your pictures are not good enough, it means you were not close enough.”
Action – with all its dynamism and propulsive force – can be perceived in all shots, as a thin red line unraveling also in the portraits on display, whose number has been kept deliberately small based on a careful selection aimed at showing visitors the very faces of History, such as the face of Trockij as an ardent orator, or offering a glimpse of Capa’s personal history, as with his photograph of Picasso, taken in his Paris studio where he had remained even during the occupation, and of his friend Steinbeck, with whom he undertook the journey beyond the Iron Curtain in ’47.
About the Author
Robert Capa (born Endre Ernő Friedmann; October 22, 1913 – May 25, 1954) was a Hungarian-American war photographer and photojournalist as well as the companion and professional partner of photographer Gerda Taro. He is considered by some to be the greatest combat and adventure photographer in history.
Capa had fled political repression in Hungary when he was a teenager, moving to Berlin, where he enrolled in college. He witnessed the rise of Hitler, which led him to move to Paris, where he met and began to work with Gerta Pohorylle. Together they worked under the alias Robert Capa and became photojournalists. Though she contributed to much of the early work, she quickly created her own alias ‘Gerda Taro’ and they began to publish their work separately. He subsequently covered five wars: the Spanish Civil War, the Second Sino-Japanese War, World War II across Europe, the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, and the First Indochina War, with his photos published in major magazines and newspapers. He was killed when he stepped on a landmine in Vietnam.
During his career he risked his life numerous times, most dramatically as the only civilian photographer landing on Omaha Beach on D-Day. He documented the course of World War II in London, North Africa, Italy, and the liberation of Paris. His friends and colleagues included Ernest Hemingway, Irwin Shaw, John Steinbeck and director John Huston.
In 1947, for his work recording World War II in pictures, U.S. general Dwight D. Eisenhower awarded Capa the Medal of Freedom. That same year, Capa co-founded Magnum Photos in Paris. The organization was the first cooperative agency for worldwide freelance photographers. Hungary has issued a stamp and a gold coin in his honor.
Although he covered the fighting in Palestine in 1948, most of Capa’s time was spent guiding newer members of Magnum and selling their work. He served as the director of the Magnum office in Paris from 1950 to 1953. In 1954 Capa volunteered to photograph the French Indochina War for Life and was killed by a land mine while on assignment. His untimely death helped establish his posthumous reputation as a quintessentially fearless photojournalist. Publications featuring his photographs include Death in the Making (1937), Slightly Out of Focus (1947), Images of War (1964), Children of War, Children of Peace (1991), and Robert Capa: Photographs (1996).
Robert Capa: In History
November 11th, 2022 – March 19th, 2023
Mudec – Museo delle Culture – Milan – Italy
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(cover picture credit: Women Stalingrad, 1947 © Robert Capa © International Center of Photography – Magnum Photos)