|Martin-Gropius-Bau Opens Robert Capa Retrospective|
BERLIN, GERMANY.- A cameraman films a photo taken in 1936 by Hungarian-born French war photographer Robert Capa showing a militiaman being shot, 21 January 2005 at the Martin-Gropius-Bau in Berlin. From 22 January to 18 April 2005, the museum shows a retrospective devoted to Capa, who founded the Magnum photo agency together with David Seymour and Henri Cartier-Bresson. Capa documented the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), the Chinese resistance to the Japanese occupation (1938), the Second World War in Europe (1941-1945) including the landing of the Allied forces in Normandy (1944), the first Israeli-Arab war (1948) and finally the war in Indochina (1954), where he was killed by a land mine on 24 May 1954. Photo by JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images.
BERLIN, GERMANY.- An unusual retrospective devoted to the photographer Robert Capa, the great friend of Henri Cartier-Bresson, will be shown at the Martin-Gropius-Bau from January to April 2005. The concept of the exhibition was developed in the Bibliothèque Nationale de France in Paris. It throws a new light on the photographer, who founded the Magnum photo agency together with David Seymour and Henri Cartier-Bresson who was honoured in Berlin with the very last retrospective during his lifetime from May to August 2004.
Robert Capa established his reputation as a war reporter. He was able to give expression to the suffering of the civilian population like no other photographer. The international press named him most important war reporter as early as 1938. Capa documented the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), the Chinese resistance to the Japanese occupation (1938), the Second World War in Europe (1941-1945) including the landing of the Allied forces in Normandy (1944), the first Israeli-Arab war (1948) and finally the war in Indochina (1954), where he was killed by a land mine on May 24, 1954. He was 40 years old when he died. His war reportages without a doubt the most important part of his oeuvre, which has moulded our collective memory have overshadowed other aspects of his work.
For this reason the exhibition will show not only the famous icons of photography, but also a number of relatively unknown works, some of which have never been on public display. In addition to the famous portrait of Leon Trotsky (1936) in Copenhagen, the legendary picture of a fatally shot Spanish freedom fighter or the world famous photos of the landing of the Allies in Normandy on June 6, 1944, there are pictures of pilgrims in Lisieux and of the Tour de France in 1939, for example. Numerous portraits of artists are represented in the exhibition, to which many state and private French collectors have lent their pictures. 300 famous and unknown photographs recall a great legend fifty years after the death of Robert Capa.
On display are for the most part vintage prints. Illustrated magazines from the 1930s and 1940s document the work of the photo reporter who never wanted to be seen as an artist. Not a single exhibition of his works was shown during his lifetime. Robert Capa became known solely through the works he published in the press.
A collection of 96 original prints which the Bibliothèque Nationale bought in 1964 and has continued to expand through its additional purchases forms the nucleus of the exhibition. To these are added vintage prints from other French institutions and private collections. Nearly 500 vintage prints were viewed before the selection was rigorously narrowed down.
Like his friend and colleague Cartier-Bresson, Capa left his mark on the era of great photo journalism that gave expression to a humanistic view of the world in a unique way. Capas war photography is complemented in the exhibition by numerous, mostly unpublished reportages. This first extensive retrospective of Robert Capas work presents above and beyond the icons the unexpected pictures of a witness to our times and committed journalist.
Robert Capa, originally named Endre Ernö Friedmann, was born in Budapest on October 22, 1913 as the son of a Jewish family. Forced to leave Hungary in 1931, he settled in Berlin. He worked for the Dephot agency from 1932-1933 and enrolled in the German College of Politics. In 1932 he made his first photo reportage for Dephot in Copenhagen. He went unnoticed while photographing Leon Trotsky, who was living there in exile, and published the photographs in the Berlin illustrated magazine Weltspiegel. After the Nazis took power in Germany, he was forced to emigrate again. In September 1933 he fled to Paris by way of Vienna. There in the quarter around Montparnasse he made contact with photographers who later became his closest friends and allies: his countryman André Kertész, Davis Seymour (nicknamed Chim) and Henri Bresson-Cartier. In autumn 1934 he met Gerda Pohorylle, a young Jewish photo agent who had also fled from Germany. She became his girlfriend and agent. Due to their very precarious financial situation, they both used a pseudonym in their work: he called himself Robert Capa and she was known as Gerda Taro. Both were engaged as photo reporters in the Spanish Civil War. Robert Capa published his pictures of that war in the magazines Vu and Regards.
On July 12, 1937, Capa published his no doubt most famous photograph, Death in Spain, in Life, Vu and Picture Post. His companion Gerda Taro lost her life in Spain in July 1937. In 1938 Capa published their joint work Death in the Making in her honour.
In 1939 Capa moved to the USA. He worked for the major magazines Colliers and Life, concentrating at first on American topics before leaving for Europe to work for the Americans as a war correspondent from 1940 to 1945. True to his motto If your pictures arent good enough, you arent close enough, he realized his legendary photographs of the landing of the Allies in Normandy in 1944. In 1947 he founded, together with Cartier-Bresson, David Seymour and William Vanidvert, the photo agency Magnum.
Although he took on American citizenship in 1946, he had a special relationship to Paris throughout his life. Nevertheless, this exhibition organized by the Bibliothèque Nationale de France is Capas first major retrospective in France and Germany.
Due to their sensitive, visually and aesthetically convincing fixation of the decisive moment (a term coined by his friend Cartier-Bresson), his photos possess a timeless and comprehensive quality of expression in addition to their newsworthiness. Capas work is also a manifesto against war, injustice and oppression.(from: Prestel Lexikon der Fotografen, 2002).
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