Posts Tagged ‘Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center

24
Nov
19

European photographic research tour exhibition: ‘Lartigue: Life in Color’ at the Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center, Budapest

September 2019

Exhibition dates: 7th June – 1st September 2019

 

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Lartigue: Life in Color' at the Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center, Budapest

 

Installation view of the exhibition Lartigue: Life in Color at the Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center, Budapest

 

 

A posting on this exhibition with some iPhone images I took in Budapest. I was lucky enough to see the exhibition the day before it closed.

What struck me most was Lartigue’s restrained use of colour. Mainly family portraits and landscapes, these photographs integrate a reduced colour palette with the line and form of the image. Subtle yet dynamic, the whimsical and poetic Ektachrome photographs were a revelation. You could say that there is seemingly nothing unusual about any of these photographs but just look – look at the light that radiates across Florette in Venice, the donkey and the washing, the green umbrella and tree laden with snow or the boys looking around to stare at the camera – and there is, indeed, something uncanny in the everyday. Just to see those two birds flying towards you in The Appian Way, Rome, Italy, January 1960 and to raise your camera to capture them mid-flight perfectly framed between the trees – what a moment!

While the original transparencies have faded, digital technology and restoration allows us to see them in all their glory: sometimes low depth of field, but always with a strong visual structure, these photographs form a holistic feeling as a body of images, a portrait of life in colour. Lartigue’s sense of fun is also evident in many images. There is no sense of the ego of the photographer in any of these images… they are, just so. Considered, concise and in colour (which is unusual for this time period) they possess an inimitable joie de vivre. This posting also features Lartigue’s early Autochromes which were interesting but nowhere as important as his later Ektachromes.

With a careful eye for composition, colour, and geometry, Lartigue’s background (in which he saw everything with his painter’s eye) is clearly translated in the pictorial construction of these sublime photographs.

Marcus

.
Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (1894-1986) was the best-known “amateur” in the history of photography, famously discovered by the art world and given an exhibition at MoMA in New York when he was in his late sixties. He began by recording the pastimes and customs of his wealthy Parisian milieu, indulging his fascination with sports and aviation, and throughout his long life he was never without his camera. His friendships extended to the superstars of French culture, but he also made thousands of photographs of his family, wives, and lovers. His work was irresistibly warm and engaging.

Although known for his black-and-white work, Lartigue loved colour film, experimenting with the Autochrome process in the teens and twenties and embracing Ektachrome in the late 1940s. His colour work, reproduced here for the first time, is astonishingly fresh: the French countryside, the women in his life, famous friends (Picasso, Fellini), and glimpses from his travels all come alive in this delightful book. (Text from the Amazon website)

 

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Lartigue: Life in Color' at the Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center, Budapest

Installation view of the exhibition 'Lartigue: Life in Color' at the Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center, Budapest

Installation view of the exhibition 'Lartigue: Life in Color' at the Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center, Budapest

Installation view of the exhibition 'Lartigue: Life in Color' at the Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center, Budapest

 

Installation views of the exhibition Lartigue: Life in Color at the Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center, Budapest

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (1894-1986) 'Around Pau' France, December 1912 (installation view)

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (French, 1894-1986)
Around Pau (installation view)
France, December 1912
Autochrome
6 x 13 cm

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (1894-1986) 'Mrs Folletête, Rico, me, Sim, Manik and Mummy' Rouzat, France, September 16, 1913 (installation view)

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (French, 1894-1986)
Mrs Folletête, Rico, me, Sim, Manik and Mummy (installation view)
Rouzat, France, September 16, 1913
Automchrome, triggered
6 x 13 cm

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (1894-1986) 'Simone Roussel driving the "two-wheeled bob"' Rouzat, France, September 1913

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (French, 1894-1986)
Simone Roussel driving the “two-wheeled bob”
Rouzat, France, September 1913
Autochrome
6 x 13 cm
© Ministère de la Culture France/Association des Amis de Jacques Henri Lartigue, France

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (1894-1986) 'M. Folletête and Henry Lartigue' La Baule, France, May 1915 (installation view)

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (French, 1894-1986)
M. Folletête and Henry Lartigue (installation view)
La Baule, France, May 1915
Autochrome
6 x 13 cm

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (1894-1986) 'Bibi at the Château de la Garoupe' Cap d'Antibes, France, 1920 (installation view)

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (French, 1894-1986)
Bibi at the Château de la Garoupe (installation view)
Cap d’Antibes, France, 1920
Autochrome
6 x 13 cm

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (1894-1986) 'Bibi' Cap d'Antibes, France, May 1920 (installation view)

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (French, 1894-1986)
Bibi (installation view)
Cap d’Antibes, France, May 1920
Autochrome
6 x 13 cm

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (1894-1986) 'Bibi' Rouzat, France, 1920 (installation view)

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (French, 1894-1986)
Bibi (installation view)
Rouzat, France, 1920
Autochrome
6 x 13 cm

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (1894-1986) 'Bibi and Germaine Chalom' Cannes, France, 1927 (installation view)

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (French, 1894-1986)
Bibi and Germaine Chalom (installation view)
Cannes, France, 1927
Autochrome
6 x 13 cm

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (1894-1986) 'Bibi in l'île Saint-Honorat' Cannes, May 1927

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (French, 1894-1986)
Bibi in l’île Saint-Honorat
Cannes, May 1927
Autochrome
6 x 13 cm
© Ministère de la Culture France/ Association des Amis de Jacques Henri Lartigue, France

 

 

Lartigue’s autochromes comprise a colourful reunion with all our favourite characters. We recognise Lartigue’s older brother Zissou with his glider (1914), and his beloved cousin Simone in her (blue!) bobsled wearing a stylish green ensemble (1913). But the plane is no longer airborne. And Simone is keeping still not to ruin the picture, instead of crashing down a gravel road with her tongue out, like she would in sepia. Due to the long exposure time dictated by the autochrome, Lartigue’s relatives are stalled in their playful banter to accommodate the sluggishness of the early color process.

“Is this still Lartigue? Are we disfiguring an artist?” curator Martine Ravache asks in the accompanying exhibition catalogue Lartigue: Life in Color, recently published by Abrams. Apart from the occasional leaping dog or bobsled, the subject matter is often quaint, even sentimental. The colour prints display exactly the pictorial quality for which Lartigue’s black-and-white work had been deemed antithetical. This realisation, which is as fascinating as it is uncomfortable, is downplayed by presenting Lartigue as a painter at heart who proclaimed to “see everything with my painter’s eye.”

Yet the picturesque subject matter is not enough to undermine his status as the lovechild of modernity – on the contrary. From the pink pastel of Bibi’s dainty hands (1921) to the fiery red nails of Florette and her glossy magazine (1961), the prints testify to Lartigue’s eagerness to experiment with any new photographic process he could get his hands on. The colour work constitutes more than the diaristic musings of a man in love. Marcelle “Coco” Paolucci is conspicuous by her absence, a hiatus that speaks more to the stalled development of colour photography than disaffection for his second wife. Discouraged by the sluggishness of the autochrome process, Lartigue stopped photographing in colour in 1927. He did not start again until 1949, after two world wars and the development of Ektachrome film. …

Tracing the incremental disclosure of Lartigue’s albums since Szarkowski reveals the making of an artist through careful curation. And so the exhibition texts about Lartigue’s love for the seasons or his relationship with God sidestep the more uneasy subtext: the jerky trajectory of Lartigue’s colour photographs from the amateur album to the museum wall.

Hinde Haest is a photography curator based in Amsterdam.

Hinde Haest. Lartigue: Life in Color,” on the Aperture website February 3rd, 2016 [Online] Cited 08/11/2019

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Lartigue: Life in Color' at the Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center, Budapest

 

Installation view of the exhibition Lartigue: Life in Color at the Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center, Budapest showing original Ektachrome transparencies

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (1894-1986) 'Cycling race between Nice-La Turbie France, March 1954' (installation view)

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (French, 1894-1986)
Cycling race between Nice-La Turbie (installation view)
France, March 1954
Ektachrome
6 x 6 cm

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (1894-1986) 'Florette' Venice, May 1954

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (French, 1894-1986)
Florette, Venice, May 1954
Ektachrome
6 x 6 cm

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (1894-1986) 'Havanna, Cuba, 1957'

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (French, 1894-1986)
Havanna, Cuba, 1957
Ektachrome
6 x 6 cm

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (1894-1986) 'Cádiz, Spain, 1957' (during his trip to Cuba) (installation view)

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (French, 1894-1986)
Cádiz, Spain, 1957 (during his trip to Cuba) (installation view)
Ektachrome
6 x 6 cm

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (1894-1986) 'Saint-Dalmas de Tende France, 1958' (installation view)

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (French, 1894-1986)
Saint-Dalmas de Tende, France, 1958 (installation view)
Ektachrome
6 x 6 cm

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (1894-1986) 'Manfredonia, Italy, February 1958' (installation view)

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (French, 1894-1986)
Manfredonia, Italy, February 1958 (installation view)
Ektachrome
6 x 6 cm

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (1894-1986) 'Via del Mandrione, Rome, Italy 1958' (installation view)

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (French, 1894-1986)
Via del Mandrione, Rome, Italy 1958 (installation view)
Ektachrome
6 x 6 cm

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (1894-1986) 'Ascoli Piceno, Italy 1958' (installation view)

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (French, 1894-1986)
Ascoli Piceno, Italy 1958 (installation view)
Ektachrome
6 x 6 cm

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (1894-1986) 'Ascoli Piceno, Italy 1958'

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (French, 1894-1986)
Ascoli Piceno, Italy 1958
Ektachrome
6 x 6 cm

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (1894-1986) 'Vendeé, France 1958' (installation view)

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (French, 1894-1986)
Vendeé, France 1958 (installation view)
Ektachrome
6 x 6 cm

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (1894-1986) 'San Sebastian, Spain, 1958' (installation view)

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (French, 1894-1986)
San Sebastian, Spain, 1958 (installation view)
Ektachrome
6 x 6 cm

 

 

One of the surprise-oeuvres of photography is that of the French painter Jacques Henri Lartigue (1894-1986), who was born 125 years ago. He became a world-renowned photographer at the age of 69, following his extremely successful solo exhibition showcased at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York, immediately becoming unevadable in the history of photography.

He was documenting his life from the age of 6, keeping an “optical notebook.” He is interested in everything, his curiosity knows no limits. He is mesmerised by the possibility of capturing the one-time, unreproducible experiences, situations, and the observed visual interrelations in his photographs. He is not only seized by the joy of seeing, or the creation of images, but also by using the technical device itself, the camera, and the vast repository of possibilities it offers.

His main subjects were the achievements of technical innovation, flying, car races, speed, social life, women, beauty, and traveling. He magically turned the small miracles of everyday life, the enchanting conjunctions of objects and lights into a common memory for all of us. He disregarded photographic conventions; he followed his heart when taking photographs, he enjoyed observation, photography, and life itself.

Lartigue is a photographer of the bright side of life, whose visual diary reveals a history of the 20th century filled with beauty and joyful moments.

His full photographic oeuvre consists of 120,000 negatives, glass plates, slides, moving pictures, and 126 photo albums with the accompanying texts.

The Life in Color exhibition showcases a selection of the colour images making up about one-third of the oeuvre, providing an overview of not only the most determining relationships he had, his journeys and his everyday life, but also his experimentation with the various techniques of colour photography. (Gabriella Csizek, curator)

Text from the Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center website [Online] Cited 09/11/2019

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (1894-1986) 'The Appian Way, Rome, Italy, January 1960' (installation view)

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (French, 1894-1986)
The Appian Way, Rome, Italy, January 1960 (installation view)
Ektachrome
6 x 6 cm

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (1894-1986) 'Florette' Piozzo, Italy, 1960 (installation view)

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (French, 1894-1986)
Florette (installation view)
Piozzo, Italy, 1960
Ektachrome
6 x 6 cm

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (1894-1986) 'Park Bagatelle, Paris, France, June 1960' (installation view)

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (French, 1894-1986)
Park Bagatelle, Paris, France, June 1960 (installation view)
Ektachrome
6 x 6 cm

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (1894-1986) 'Étretat, France, June 1960' (installation view)

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (French, 1894-1986)
Étretat, France, June 1960 (installation view)
Ektachrome
6 x 6 cm

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (1894-1986) 'Sylvana Empain, Juan-les-Pins' France, 1960

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (French, 1894-1986)
Sylvana Empain, Juan-les-Pins
France, 1960
Ektachrome
6 x 6 cm

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (1894-1986) 'Brittany, 1960'

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (French, 1894-1986)
Brittany, 1960
Ektachrome
6 x 6 cm

 

 

Driven by his curiosity and his perpetual search for innovation, Lartigue adopts color processes shortly after their commercialization. The Kodachromes (24 x 36) and the Ektachromes (6×6) followed the autochromes of its beginnings (dated 1912), which delighted 20th century photographers, both amateurs and professionals. Colour therefore adds a new dimension to the speed and immediacy that are at the heart of Lartigue’s work. His painter’s eye finds in this practice, which allows him to take visual “notes” to rework afterwards, a formidable transcription of his pictorial research.

His predilection goes to the subjects of his immediate environment: his life within his family, his games at the castle of Rouzat, sports of all kinds. Fascinated by nature as a whole, and particularly by flowers, the artist continually fixes its changing nuances, both on canvas and on film. This obsession is also found in the repetition of the views from his window in Opio (Alpes-Maritimes), and in the many images of Florette, his wife for forty years.

Little by little, Lartigue opens himself to other subjects, applying himself to testify to the daily life of the privileged and the more popular classes. This coincided with a period of openness to the world: from 1955, Lartigue multiplied his travels, discovering new landscapes and confronting the unknown. Leaving the seaside resorts where he used to spend his holidays (Basque Country, French Riviera or Normandy), it is Italy, Venezuela, Mexico and Cuba which are photographed in turn in black and white and in colors by Jacques Henri Lartigue.

Extract from the press release from the Musée de l’Elysée

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (1894-1986) 'Florette's hands, Brie-le-Néflier' France, June 1961

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (French, 1894-1986)
Florette’s hands, Brie-le-Néflier
France, June 1961
Ektachrome
6 x 6 cm

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (1894-1986) 'Puerto Cabello, Venezuela, February 1962'

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (French, 1894-1986)
Puerto Cabello, Venezuela, February 1962
Ektachrome
6 x 6 cm

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (1894-1986) 'On board the Christoforo Colombo during the New York-Cannes trip' May 1962 (installation view)

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (French, 1894-1986)
On board the Christoforo Colombo during the New York-Cannes trip (installation view)
May 1962
Ektachrome
6 x 6 cm

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (1894-1986) 'Opio, France, 1963' (installation view)

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (French, 1894-1986)
Opio, France, 1963 (installation view)
Ektachrome
6 x 6 cm

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (1894-1986) 'Florette' 1964

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (French, 1894-1986)
Florette
1964
Ektachrome
6 x 6 cm

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (1894-1986) 'Parma, Italy 1965' (installation view)

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (French, 1894-1986)
Parma, Italy 1965 (installation view)
Ektachrome
6 x 6 cm

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (1894-1986) 'Bretagne, France, 1965' (installation view)

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (French, 1894-1986)
Bretagne, France, 1965 (installation view)
Ektachrome
6 x 6 cm

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (1894-1986) 'Florette and Stéphanie' Opio, France, Spring 1964 (installation view)

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (French, 1894-1986)
Florette and Stéphanie (installation view)
Opio, France, Spring 1964
Ektachrome
6 x 6 cm

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (1894-1986) 'Florette, Megève March 1965'

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (French, 1894-1986)
Florette, Megève, March 1965
Ektachrome
6 x 6 cm

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (1894-1986) 'Brittany, 1965'

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (French, 1894-1986)
Brittany, 1965
Ektachrome
6 x 6 cm

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (1894-1986) 'Brittany, 1970'

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue (French, 1894-1986)
Brittany, 1970
Ektachrome
6 x 6 cm

 

 

Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center, Budapest
8 Nagymező Street, 1065 Budapest, Hungary
Phone: +36 1 413 1310

Opening hours:
Monday – Sunday: 11 am – 7 pm

Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center, Budapest website

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15
Nov
19

European photographic research tour exhibition: ‘The Photojournalist Robert Capa II’ at the Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center, Budapest

September 2019

First gallery

Installation view of the exhibition 'The Photojournalist Robert Capa II' at the Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center, Budapest

 

Installation view of the exhibition The Photojournalist Robert Capa II at the Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center, Budapest

 

 

I didn’t have time on my European photographic research tour to post about this exhibition at the Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center, Budapest.

Let me say right off bat, that I’m not a great fan of Capa’s work and the larger, 1990s non-vintage prints presented in this exhibition were unimpressive.

I admire Capa’s courage in order to get the shot (“If your photographs aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough”), but his photographs leave me cold. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but his objectivity, his reportage, is just that. Looking back 80 years later, we must remember how raw, how radical and confronting these photographs would have been when viewed in Life magazine and Picture Post at the time: authentic representations of war and death straight from the front. But in terms of the image, what you see is what you get. The framing is not particularly good, the angles are pretty conventional and front on, the occurrences direct and focused. The immediacy of the image, that is their strength.

For me they don’t leave a lasting impression, never have done. Yes, the D-Day landings because he was there; The death of a Loyalist militiaman because it is so famous; the shaving of the women collaborators heads because they are so vile … but you wonder, does his greatness come from the fact that, time and time again, he got the job done and produced the goods (as in a saleable image). That and the reality that he was a great self promoter: labelled the ‘Greatest War Photographer in the World’ by Picture Post in 1938. But was he a good image maker?

They are what they are. That’s really all you can say.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'The Photojournalist Robert Capa II' at the Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center, Budapest

Installation view of the exhibition 'The Photojournalist Robert Capa II' at the Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center, Budapest

Installation view of the exhibition 'The Photojournalist Robert Capa II' at the Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center, Budapest

Installation view of the exhibition 'The Photojournalist Robert Capa II' at the Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center, Budapest

Installation view of the exhibition 'The Photojournalist Robert Capa II' at the Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center, Budapest

Installation view of the exhibition 'The Photojournalist Robert Capa II' at the Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center, Budapest

 

Installation views of the exhibition The Photojournalist Robert Capa II at the Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center, Budapest

 

"La Guerre Civile en Espagne,' in Vu Magazine No. 445 September 23, 1936

"La Guerre Civile en Espagne,' in Vu Magazine No. 445 September 23, 1936

 

 

“La Guerre Civile en Espagne,’ in Vu Magazine No. 445 September 23, 1936

Caption: “Le jarret vif, la poitrine au vent, fusil au poing, il dévalaient la pente couverte d’un chaume raide.. Soudain l’essor est brisé, une balle a siffle – une balle fratricide – et leur sang est bu par la terre natale … ”

“His step quick, his chest to the wind, his rifle in his hand, he hurtled down the steep slope. Suddenly the boom was broken, a bullet whistled – a fratricidal bullet – and their blood is drunk by the homeland … ”

The caption as published in LIFE magazine: “Robert Capa’s camera catches a Spanish soldier the instant he is dropped by a bullet through the head in front of Cordoba.”

Installation view of the exhibition The Photojournalist Robert Capa II at the Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center, Budapest

 

Robert Capa. 'September 5, 1936. The death of a Loyalist militiaman' 1936

 

Robert Capa (American-Hungarian, 1913-1954)
September 5, 1936. The death of a Loyalist militaman
1936
Gelatin silver print

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'The Photojournalist Robert Capa II' at the Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center, Budapest

 

“The Spanish War Kills Its First Woman Photographer,” in LIFE magazine (Gerda Taro, July 1937)

 

 

Gerda Taro (1910-1937)

Gerta Pohorylle (1 August 1910 – 26 July 1937), known professionally as Gerda Taro, was a German Jewish war photographer active during the Spanish Civil War. She is regarded as the first woman photojournalist to have died while covering the frontline in a war.

Taro was the companion and professional partner of photographer Robert Capa. The name “Robert Capa” was originally an alias that Taro and Capa (born Endre Friedmann) shared, an invention meant to mitigate the increasing political intolerance in Europe and to attract the lucrative American market. A significant amount of what is credited as Robert Capa’s early work was actually made by Taro.

Coverage of the Spanish Civil War

When the Spanish Civil War broke out in 1936, Taro travelled to Barcelona, Spain, to cover the events with Capa and David “Chim” Seymour. Taro acquired the nickname of La pequeña rubia (“The little blonde”). They covered the war together in northeastern Aragon and in the southern Córdoba province. Always together under the common and using the bogus signature of Robert Capa, they succeeded in publishing through important publications (the Swiss Zürcher Illustrierte, the French Vu). Their early war photographs are distinguishable since Taro used a Rollei camera which rendered squared photographs while Capa produced rectangular pictures using a Contax camera[citation needed] or a Leica camera. However, for some time in 1937 they each produced similar 35 mm pictures under the label of Capa&Taro.

Subsequently, Taro attained some independence. She refused Capa’s marriage proposal. Also, she became publicly related to the circle of anti-fascist European and intellectuals (such as Ernest Hemingway and George Orwell) who crusaded particularly for the Spanish Republic. fr:Ce Soir, a communist newspaper of France, signed her for publishing Taro’s works only. Then, she began to commercialise her production under the Photo Taro label. Regards, Life, Illustrated London News and Volks-Illustrierte (the exile edition of Arbeiter-Illustrierte-Zeitung) were amongst the publications that used her work.

Reporting the Valencia bombing alone, Taro obtained the photographs which are her most celebrated. Also, in July 1937, Taro’s photographs were in demand by the international press when, alone, she was covering the Brunete region near Madrid for Ce Soir. Although the Nationalist propaganda claimed that the region was under its control, the Republican forces had in fact forced that faction out. Taro’s photographs were the only testimony of the actual situation.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

“So nobody will forget your unconditional struggle for a better world” (epitaph in French and Catalan on her tomb in Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'The Photojournalist Robert Capa II' at the Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center, Budapest

Installation view of the exhibition 'The Photojournalist Robert Capa II' at the Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center, Budapest

 

“The Spanish War Kills Its First Woman Photographer,” in LIFE Magazine (Gerda Taro, July 1937)

 

 

Robert Capa

(Endre Ernő Friedmann)
22 October 1913, Budapest, Hungary – 25 May 1954, Thái Bình, Vietnam

He never avoided challenges – he brought his restless, adventurous spirit and toughness from Hungary. He hardly had anything else in his luggage when he left his native country in 1931. He made photo-history with his war reportage on the Spanish Civil War, WWII, China, and Vietnam. His stories and, in particular, his slogan – “if your photographs aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough” – made him a legendary person. But he made a mistake in Thái Bình. He went too close.

His brother wrote about him: “He lived a lot and suffered a lot during his short life. He was born poor and died poor. He bequeathed us the chronicle of his unique career along with the visual proof of his conviction: not only can mankind endure a lot but it is able to win every now and then.”

His parents – Júlia Berkovits and Dezső Friedmann – were tailors, who ran a prosperous show-room in Budapest. Their first child was László, followed by Endre and five years later by Kornél. After a Lutheran elementary school, Robert Capa went to study at Madách Secondary School. Inspierd by Lajos Kassák, he became interested in journalism in 1929, one year before his matriculation. After 1930, he was a photographer.

He was a good friend of Suzanne Szász, i.e. Székely Zsuzsa, already in Budapest. He lived at the same house as Éva Besnyő, who was his first childhood love.

He was shortly imprisoned because of his leftist connections and his participation in a leftist demonstration on 1 September 1930. In prison, he learnt the methods of the infamous investigator Péter Hain, who beat him so hard that he lost consciousness. He was released through his parents’ connections and he almost immediately left the country.

According to one of the legends, he only had a stick of salami in his luggage when he left. His train ticket to Vienna was paid by the Jewish Community of Pest, from there he went on to Prague through Brno and somehow he eventually arrived in Berlin. He left in July 1931 and it took him two or three weeks to get to the German capital. He studied journalism at the German Political College (Deutsche Hochschule für Politik). Since his parents were becoming poor and were not able to support him, he went to work as a photo lab assistant at the photo agency Dephot (Deutscher Photodienst). In the beginning, almost everybody spoke Hungarian at Dephot. No wonder since it was founded by Simon Guttmann and its financial manager was László Fekete, known as Ladislaus Glück at that time.

There were László Czigány (Taci) and György Markos among his fellow-workers and friends. He received his first camera at this time, a Voigtländer 6×9 from György Kepes. Later he got a Leica from Guttmann to carry out smaller assignments.

In 1932, he was sent by Guttmann to make the report which made him famous: he took the photo of Leon Trotsky at the Socialist Congress in Copenhagen. He was the only one to succeed in taking a photo of Trotsky, since photography was strictly forbidden at the meeting. The photo was published by Weltspiegel on a full page.

He was assisted in adapting himself to the foreign city and culture by his friends from Budapest, György Kepes and Éva Besnyő. They often invited him for dinner at their home, actively contributing to his subsistence besides his spiritual development. (At this time he stealthily ate the everyday roast-meat chop of his landlady’s dachshund.) He had to leave Berlin in 1933, which became more and more dangerous for left-wing Jewish intellectual immigrants. He went to Vienna and from there to Budapest by boat. He went to court schoolgirls at Lajos Pécsi’s studio in Dorottya Street almost everyday with his friends from the Munka-kör (Work Circle), among them Lajos Kassák. He worked for photographer Ferenc Veres in Budapest, taking photos of Budapest for touristic leaflets and publications. But he did not do it just howsoever! He did it by the metre. The photographer bought the exposed and developed Leica-films by 26 frames, i.e. by the metre from Endre Friedmann. We do not know what happened to these pictures or those he made in 1933 at the World Scout Jamboree in Gödöllő. Some of them were certainly taken to Paris, where a photographer friend of his tried to sell them to French photo agencies – without any success.

He moved to Paris in September 1933, still not as Capa, but neither as Bandi Friedmann any more; he tried to sell his photos under his new name André Friedman – with little success. He was starving more often than eating well. The young Hungarian with many names yet being actually an unknown photographer was helped by André Kertész with work, connections, his friendship and – knowing Capa – certainly with some money, too. (Later – already in America – he designed Capa’s book titled Death in the Making [Így készül a halál] from Gerda Taro’s and Capa’s photos taken in Spain.) He came into contact with Gisèle Freund, Hans Namuth and Chim at this time. Soon after he made friends with Henri Cartier-Bresson.

His first photo report was published in 1934 in Vu Magazine. He changed his name to Capa around this time almost together with his girlfriend Gerda Pohorylle, whose name became Gerda Taro. Foreign literature wrongly put together the name of Robert Capa from those of Robert Taylor and Frank Capra, but, to our knowledge, he was called Cápa (shark) because of his big mouth and pushy behaviour already at secondary school in Budapest. All he did abroad was to make it sound English by dropping the accent. The change of his name was also motivated by financial interests, since Gerda was able to sell the photos of a successful American photographer at a price three times higher than those of André. His appearance was also significantly transformed together with the change of his name. He had his long hair cut and he began to wear well-ironed suits, believing that it would be the seal of his success. However, it was difficult for him to work up the change of his name and the radical transformation of his appearance mentally.

He went to record the Spanish Civil War in 1936/37 together with Gerda Taro (whom he taught photography), assigned by Regards, a leftist French weekly magazine. And why should he not have received accreditation when his commissioner, Regards had a Hungarian editor, Pál Aranyossy writing under the name of Falus? Dezső Hoffmann was also working here at this time. Gerda died during an air-raid, but Spain became the springboard to world-wide fame for Capa since his photo titled “The Falling Soldier” irrevocably became a classic.

He worked in London, Paris and returned to Spain to take photos at the fall of Barcelona. He was everywhere where the sky was resounding. Besides the weekly magazine Regards, his photos were also published in LIFE. A countless number of his photos were published by Stefan Lorant in his journals, in Weekly Illustrated and in Picture Post. Lorant coined the slogan “The Greatest War Photographer in the World: Robert Capa,” which accompanied him all through his life.

He spent six months in China with film director Joris Ivens and cameraman John Fernhout during the Japanese occupation. He learnt English from the Dutch in the middle of China and he taught them songs of Hungarian highwaymen in exchange. By the way, Fernhout was Éva Besnyő’s first husband, whom she met earlier in the Spanish Civil War.

Capa returned to Paris, then went back to Spain again to take the series of photos published on 11 pages in Picture Post, two pages in LIFE and five pages in Regards.

After his father died in Budapest, he had nothing else binding him to Europe, so he moved to the United States in 1939 following his mother and his younger brother. Not only his photography, but also the typical Hungarian “lecho” (lecsó) dish cooked by Júlia Friedmann became a legend in the larger group of their friends. He preserved his Hungarian bonds: in his writing “Why have I left home?” he wrote about the conspiracy with his secondary schoolmates under the pillars of the Chain Bridge in Budapest. At the time, he mostly made reportage for LIFE, for example about the presidential elections in Mexico, where he met Kati Deutsch again, a former pupil of Hungarian photographer Lajos Pécsi.

He authored a book in 1941 together with writer Diana Forbes-Robertson about the air battle of London, entitled The Battle of Waterloo Road. After Hungary’s declaration of war, for being a citizen of an enemy state, he was not allowed to leave a ten-mile range of New York and he was also forbidden to take photos. However, in a rather short time, as perhaps the only alien enemy, he achieved to be accredited by the U. S. Army. He only had these personal documents at that time: U. S. residence permit, a Hungarian passport and letters of assignment from various journals. It did not pose an unsolvable problem to him, since he already succeeded in crossing international borders with an expired passport and a nicely decorated Hungarian restaurant menu – and with his big talk – already ten years earlier.

He took photos in England, North Africa, Sicily and in other parts of Italy. He landed with the first American troops on D-Day. He covered the last German offensive in Belgium and took photos about the fall of Leipzig. In the last day of the war he was asked by the Paris correspondent of the American Army’s radio to read an appeal in Hungarian on the air to persuade the population of besieged Budapest to turn against the Germans. Capa accepted to do it; however, by this time his Hungarian had become so rusty that he had to give it up in disgrace. After this incident, his friends were teasing him unmercifully about being a fake Hungarian. At this time Hemingway’s saying became a classic: “Capa speaks seven languages, but all of them poorly.”

At the end of the war, he was about to have a business-card printed with the title “Robert Capa, war photographer, unemployed.” Being aware of the course of world history since that time and Capa’s life story, he could hardly have distributed a lot of these cards. He received U. S. citizenship after the war, officially under the name of Robert Capa.

He went to the Soviet Union in 1947 with John Steinbeck, who wrote about him: “Capa was able to see and use what he had discovered. He was able to show the whole population’s hatred on a child’s face… Capa’s work is the proof of his great heart and his exuberant compassion… I frequently travelled and worked with Capa. He may have had much closer friends but nobody liked him as much as I did. He liked to seem to be easy and carefree in his work. But he was not. His photos are not accidental.”

In the same year, he founded Magnum in New York with Henri Cartier-Bresson, David Seymour, George Rodger, Maria Eisner, William Vandivert and his wife. Organising the agency, getting clients and making money took much of his time. He wrote to Maria Eisner around 1950: “I enjoy so much to be able to take photos again that I think I will get into to the habit.” After his death, Magnum was taken on and managed by his younger brother, Kornél Friedmann – or as he is better known: Cornell Capa.

In 1947, Robert Capa went to Turkey with a 16 mm film camera. A little bit later he covered the birth of the State of Israel. In Tel Aviv he met a lot of Hungarian acquaintances and then, guided by Paul Goldmann, a photographer of Hungarian origins, he took pictures of the heroic defence at the Kibbutz Negba in the Negev Desert. He also recorded the immigrant Hungarian battalion fighting for the liberation of Jerusalem.

In 1948, he spent six weeks in Hungary, taking photos of the war-torn country with the more and more evident signs of communist influence. At this time reconstruction works were implemented under the first three-year plan. He was accompanied by György Markos, his friend in Berlin and then in Paris. He took photos at the Ganz Shipyard, he recorded the first rice harvest in Békés County and the city of Budapest reviving from the ruins. “The day before I left, I went to get my exit visa. The sergeant who handled foreigners studied my passport very thoroughly. After stamping my exit visa, he asked me which school I went to. I told him the name of my secondary school in Budapest and he promptly listed my teachers and found out the year of my matriculation. He attended the same school, which he finished two years later than me. He gave back my passport and said: “If you had been born two years later with your talent, you either would not be alive today or you would be a secretary of a minister. This way, however, you are only a troubled Western liberal. This is historical materialism.”” This story, entitled “Conversation in Budapest” was published a year later in Holiday Magazine.

Until 1952, he mostly reported about his travels on assignment by Holiday Magazine, often writing the articles as well. Although he never grew rich, he was always full of ideas hiding opportunities to make a lot of money. Once he said: “I will never make millions. You make millions if you have one good idea. When you have twenty a day, you have to share them.” He was proud of his shrewdness that he attributed to being Hungarian. He reversed the well-known slogan from Hollywood, quoted earlier. In his version he said: “It is not enough to have talent, you also have to be Hungarian.”

In 1954, he was sent to Indochina by LIFE to cover the French colonies. On 25 May, he stepped on a land-mine and died. He was honoured with a posthumous Croix de Guerre by General René Cogny.

Capa’s memory has not faded – neither in Hungary, nor abroad. This is, not the least, due to his younger brother who, after the deaths of Capa, Bischof and Chim, felt that he did not have a more important task in his life than ensuring eternal life for these geniuses of photography. His zeal is attested by several exhibitions and books. His work was not without success: almost thirty years after Capa’s death, one of the best Hungarian writers, Ferenc Karinthy wrote about the photographer in his book The End of the World (Vége a világnak). Also András Simor wrote a poem as an homage to the photographer and to the soldier he made immortal. Film director Miklós Jancsó wrote an essay for the fortieth anniversary of Thái Bình. And above all: there is no photographic history or textbook without mentioning both of their names with Robert Capa on the top.

Károly Kincses (2005) “Robert Capa,” on the Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center website [Online] Cited 03/11/2019

 

Please note: according to Capa’s birth entry his fathers name was Dávid Friedman (one n) and he was named Endre Ernő Friedman (one n). According to my friend György Németh whom this information came from, he later used his name with two N. As György says, it’s a bit of a mess as he used all kind of spelling throughout his life. Thank you György!

 

Robert Capa's birth entry

 

Robert Capa’s birth entry

 

Second gallery

Installation view of the exhibition 'The Photojournalist Robert Capa II' at the Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center, Budapest

 

Installation view of the exhibition The Photojournalist Robert Capa II at the Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center, Budapest

 

Robert Capa (American-Hungarian, 1913-1954) 'Fountain rubble in city square, Stalingrad, USSR' August 1-31, 1947

 

Robert Capa (American-Hungarian, 1913-1954)
Fountain rubble in city square, Stalingrad, USSR
August 1-31, 1947
Gelatin silver print, printed 1990s
50 x 40 cm

 

Robert Capa (American-Hungarian, 1913-1954) 'Student civil-defense volunteers assisting the wounded, Guangzhou, China' July-September 1938

 

Robert Capa (American-Hungarian, 1913-1954)
Student civil-defense volunteers assisting the wounded, Guangzhou, China
July-September 1938
Gelatin silver print, printed 1990s
40 x 50 cm

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'The Photojournalist Robert Capa II' at the Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center, Budapest

Installation view of the exhibition 'The Photojournalist Robert Capa II' at the Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center, Budapest

Installation view of the exhibition 'The Photojournalist Robert Capa II' at the Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center, Budapest

Installation view of the exhibition 'The Photojournalist Robert Capa II' at the Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center, Budapest

Installation view of the exhibition 'The Photojournalist Robert Capa II' at the Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center, Budapest

 

Installation views of the exhibition The Photojournalist Robert Capa II at the Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center, Budapest

 

Robert Capa (American-Hungarian, 1913-1954) 'Funeral procession for victim killed on the day of the presidential elections, Mexico City, Mexico' July 9, 1940

 

Robert Capa (American-Hungarian, 1913-1954)
Funeral procession for victim killed on the day of the presidential elections, Mexico City, Mexico
July 9, 1940
Gelatin silver print, printed 1990s
40 x 50 cm

 

Robert Capa (American-Hungarian, 1913-1954) 'Man and cat outside an air-raid shelter, London, UK' June-July 1941

 

Robert Capa (American-Hungarian, 1913-1954)
Man and cat outside an air-raid shelter, London, UK
June-July 1941
Gelatin silver print, printed 1990s
40 x 50 cm

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'The Photojournalist Robert Capa II' at the Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center, Budapest

Installation view of the exhibition 'The Photojournalist Robert Capa II' at the Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center, Budapest

 

Installation views of the exhibition The Photojournalist Robert Capa II at the Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center, Budapest

 

Robert Capa (American-Hungarian, 1913-1954) 'Medical transport craft for men wounded in the first wave of American troops landing on D-Day, off Omaha Beach, near Colelville-sur-Mer, Omaha Beach, Normandy, France' June 6, 1944

 

Robert Capa (American-Hungarian, 1913-1954)
Medical transport craft for men wounded in the first wave of American troops landing on D-Day, off Omaha Beach, near Colelville-sur-Mer, Omaha Beach, Normandy, France
June 6, 1944
Gelatin silver print, printed 1990s
50 x 40 cm

 

Robert Capa (American-Hungarian, 1913-1954) 'German soldiers captured by American forces burying some of the men killed during the D-Day landings, near Colelville-sur-Mer, Omaha Beach, Normandy, France' June 1944

 

Robert Capa (American-Hungarian, 1913-1954)
German soldiers captured by American forces burying some of the men killed during the D-Day landings, near Colelville-sur-Mer, Omaha Beach, Normandy, France
June 1944
Gelatin silver print, printed 1990s
50 x 40 cm

 

Robert Capa (American-Hungarian, 1913-1954) 'American soldiers guard a group of captured Germans, southwest of Saint-Lð, Normandy, France' July 26-30, 1944

 

Robert Capa (American-Hungarian, 1913-1954)
American soldiers guard a group of captured Germans, southwest of Saint-Lð, Normandy, France
July 26-30, 1944
Gelatin silver print, printed 1990s
40 x 50 cm

 

Robert Capa (American-Hungarian, 1913-1954) 'Cow in the middle of a street lined with ruined buildings, Normandy, France' June-July 1944

 

Robert Capa (American-Hungarian, 1913-1954)
Cow in the middle of a street lined with ruined buildings, Normandy, France
June-July 1944
Gelatin silver print, printed 1990s
40 x 50 cm

 

Robert Capa (American-Hungarian, 1913-1954) 'Soldiers leading a French woman who had collaborated with the Germans to the Préfecture de Police to have her head shaved, Chartres, France' August 18, 1944

 

Robert Capa (American-Hungarian, 1913-1954)
Soldiers leading a French woman who had collaborated with the Germans to the Préfecture de Police to have her head shaved, Chartres, France
August 18, 1944
Gelatin silver print, printed 1990s
40 x 50 cm

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'The Photojournalist Robert Capa II' at the Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center, Budapest

Installation view of the exhibition 'The Photojournalist Robert Capa II' at the Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center, Budapest

Installation view of the exhibition 'The Photojournalist Robert Capa II' at the Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center, Budapest

 

Installation view of the exhibition The Photojournalist Robert Capa II at the Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center, Budapest

 

Robert Capa (American-Hungarian, 1913-1954) 'German soldiers captured by American forces during the Battle of the Bulge, south of Bastogne, Belgium' December 23-26, 1944

 

Robert Capa (American-Hungarian, 1913-1954)
German soldiers captured by American forces during the Battle of the Bulge, south of Bastogne, Belgium
December 23-26, 1944
Gelatin silver print, printed 1990s
50 x 40 cm

 

 

Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center, Budapest
8 Nagymező Street, 1065 Budapest, Hungary
Phone: +36 1 413 1310

Opening hours:
Monday – Sunday: 11 am – 7 pm

Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center, Budapest website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, a photographic archive and form of cultural memory, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Mask’ 1994

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