As I mentioned in my post about the Revistas y Guerra 1936 - 1939 book there are fine exhibitions of Robert Capa and Gerda Taro on view at the International Center of Photography in
This Is War: Robert Capa at Work is a 250+ page examination of Capa’s career from his early beginnings to the defeat of
The book is divided into six chapters of Capa’s war coverage from the Spanish Civil War, The Japanese invasion of China, the D-Day landing and Leipzig, Germany towards the end of Europe‘s involvement in WWII. Much is given to enlighten the circumstances surrounding some of Capa’s most famous and in turn most controversial images. The controversy over the famous fallen loyalist soldier image is discussed in great detail and the evidence, in the form of Capa’s recollections of the events of the day to Whelan’s detailed analysis of the photographs and their sequence, is mulled over with almost forensic attention.
The same attention is given to attempt to recreate Capa’s movements during his accompaniment of the first wave of landings on
Whelan also does his best to deflate the image of heroic action that Ernest Hemingway projected with his coverage of the day’s events. According to Whelan, Hemingway wrote as if he was the steady hand that guided the landing craft he was riding in safely to the beach and afterwards went ashore with the troops. In truth, Hemingway never left the landing craft and immediately returned to the safety of his transport ship. Whelan goes further to emasculate Hemingway by recounting a story of Martha Gellhorn, a female correspondent who was forbidden to cover the invasion. So determined to go along, she stowed away on a hospital ship and actually went ashore to help search for un-rescued wounded soldiers.
Besides the fine narrative voice of Whelan, it is all of the ephemera reproduced in this book that make it such a great tribute and study of the medium’s most famous war photographer. This gives an insider’s look into an archive of unfamiliar images as well as the full magazine stories and the detritus of his process. The book’s design and quality of reproductions are excellent.
I am curious if the book ends prematurely due to Richard Whelan’s death earlier this year. Although what is covered in this book are the main subjects of Capa’s experiences at war, in the last nine years of his life from where this book leaves off, he did go on to photograph conflict in Israel and in Indochina just before he was killed.
Gerda Taro until recently had been but a footnote to her companion, Robert Capa’s intriguing life story. With the recent exhibition and book called Gerda Taro just published by Steidl and the ICP, her relationship to Capa and importance as a photographer in her own right has finally been given the deserved full treatment.
The two met and fell in love in
In his essay, Richard Whelan does his best to separate the two to give a full impression of Taro’s talents as a photographer. This separation proved to be a more complicated endeavor than one might imagine. Much of the print archive apparently paves the way for some confusion as to who’s images where who’s, as the credits were given jointly and then ‘corrected’ at a later time. Their individual contributions of the coverage of the Spanish Civil War, made into the 1938 book Death in the Making, are also not individually cited. The title page simply credits Photographs by Robert Capa and Gerda Taro. Capa took no personal credit for images of the war made even when Taro was safely in
This book covers her entire career which can be summed up to the years 1936 and 1937 while covering the Spanish Civil War. Like the Robert Capa book which could be seen as a companion piece, the design and reproductions are beautifully done. The design reproduces the original weathered and worn prints as objects.
The images reproduced in this book belie the fact that Taro was very new to the medium having only three or four years of experience with photography before she was killed in 1937. Her skill, not to mention bravery, makes us think of what might have become of her had she not been killed at 24 years old. Perhaps if she hadn’t, we would be crediting her as history’s ‘greatest war photographer.’ Unfortunately, she will always be known as the first woman photographer to be killed covering conflict.Buy online at Steidlville (This is War)
Buy online at ICP (This is War)
Buy online at Steidlville (Gerda Taro)
Buy online at ICP (Gerda Taro)