|Written by Guy Lane|
|17 Oct 2008|
Robert Capa: American soldier landing on Omaha Beach, D-Day, Normandy, France
June 6, 1944
Robert Capa: Death of a Loyalist militiaman, Cerro Muriano, Cordoba Front, Spain
September 5, 1936
As Richard Whelan’s exhaustive and compelling catalogue account demonstrates “Death of a Loyalist militiaman” or “The Falling Soldier” was photographed on September 5th, near Cordoba, soon after Capa and Taro arrived in the area. The picture was first published on September 23rd in Vu; and Regards and La Revue du Medecin followed with other frames from the set, including a second “falling soldier” taken at the same spot. In July 1937 Life magazine used the picture with a caption erroneously stating that the Loyalist was “dropped by a bullet through the head” – a claim probably resulting from the assumption that the tassel of the soldier’s hat was a fragment of skull bone. Capa himself then used the photograph on the dust-jacket, but –curiously- not inside, of Death in the Making, a collection of his and Taro’s work from Spain. In the decades that followed the picture acquired iconic status as an image that appeared to embody the immediacy, proximity and instantaneity of a new kind of war photography. The present participle says it all – falling, not fallen.
But in 1975 a Daily Express journalist claimed that Capa had told him the pictures taken that day were staged by Republican troops after the photographer and others had complained at the dearth of photo opportunities. “Capa told me the way to get lifelike action shots was to have the camera slightly out of focus and to ever so slowly move the camera when making an exposure.”
Whelan rebuts this account, but acknowledges that staged and choreographed news pictures were made. A Daily Express photographer covering the war later recalled being told by a Spanish press officer that “the majority of the pictures which had decorated the back pages of most of the British and foreign newspapers…had been faked.” Indeed Capa and Taro filmed and photographed a staged “attack” on the village of La Granjuela the following year.
This is War!Robert Capa at Work
On the Subject of War
at Barbican Art Gallery until Jan 25th 2009
This is War! Robert Capa at work - Catalogue by Richard Whelan (ICP/Steidl)