Capa file photo [620]

Robert Capa

Given NameRobert
Died25 May 1954
CountryUnited States


ww2dbasePhotographer Robert Capa arguably captured some of the most enduring images of modern conflict. Among these is a collection of "slightly out of focus" pictures taken on June 6, 1944 at Omaha Beach. Capa said about his work: "If your pictures aren't good enough, you're not close enough." He "covered five different wars: the Spanish civil war, the Japanese invasion of China, World War II across [Africa and] Europe, the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, and the First Indochina War."

ww2dbaseRobert Capa's name was actually Andrei Friedmann and he was born in Budapest in 1913. At age 18, he left Hungary and found work as a darkroom apprentice in Berlin. When Hitler came to power, Friedmann left for Paris. To get work, he and his fiancée, Gerda Taro

"decided to form an association of three people. Gerda was to serve as secretary and sales representative; Andrei was to be a darkroom hired hand; and these two were to be employed by a rich, famous, and talented (and imaginary) American photographer named Robert Capa, then allegedly visiting France. The 'three' went to work. Friedmann took the pictures, Gerda sold them, and credit was given the non-existent Capa. Since this Capa was supposed to be so rich, Gerda refused to let his pictures go to any French newspaper for less than 150 francs apiece, three times the prevailing rate."

ww2dbaseAnd so Robert Capa was born. In 1936 and after his rouse was discovered, "[his] coverage of the Spanish Civil War appeared regularly in [several publications, including Life]. His…picture of the Loyalist soldier falling to his death brought him international reputation and became a powerful symbol of war."

ww2dbaseCapa literally jumped feet first into his World War II assignments, parachuting with the 82nd Airborne Division into Sicily, and prior to this, documented the Allied war efforts in Africa. His Omaha Beach photos on D-Day are perhaps his most extraordinary.

"Stumbling ashore [with the men of Company E, 16th Regiment of the 1st Infantry Division] under heavy fire, he exposed four rolls of the most famous films in history. As luck would have it, all but eleven frames were ruined in Life's London darkroom when the emulsion ran in an over-heated drying cabinet. However, Life, and the world press, published the surviving images, calling them 'slightly out of focus' from the blurred emulsion."

ww2dbaseCapa wrote about his experience on the beach in the book Slightly out of Focus:

"The men from my barge waded in the water. Waist-deep, with rifles ready to shoot, with the invasion obstacles and the smoking beach in the background gangplank to take my first real picture of the invasion. The boatswain, who was in an understandable hurry to get the hell out of there, mistook my picture-taking attitude for explicable hesitation, and helped me make up my mind with a well-aimed kick in the rear. The water was cold, and the beach still more than a hundred yards away. The bullets tore holes in the water around me, and I made for the nearest steel obstacle. A soldier got there at the same time, and for a few minutes we shared its cover. He took the waterproofing off his rifle and began to shoot without much aiming at the smoke-hidden beach. The sound of his rifle gave him enough courage to move forward, and he left the obstacle to me. It was a foot larger now, and I felt safe enough to take pictures of the other guys hiding just like I was."

ww2dbaseAfter shooting 106 total exposures, Capa turned from the action on the beach and ran toward an incoming landing craft, where he intended to warm his hands for a few minutes. From there it was back to England and publication of his photos. A short time later, he returned to Normandy and his work followed Allied operations until the end of the war.

ww2dbaseMagnum Photos, the company Capa founded in 1947, maintains an extensive archive of this work here. He died in 1954 after stepping on a land mine while at work in Thai-Binh, Indochina.

ww2dbaseSources: 225th AAA Searchlight Battalion (Skylighters) at,,,, and wikipedia.

Last Major Revision: May 2005

Robert Capa Timeline

1 Jan 1913 Robert Capa was born.
25 May 1954 Robert Capa passed away.

Photographs Taken by Robert Capa

Chinese troops in Hankou, Hubei Province, China, Mar 1938Chinese militiamen near Guangzhou, Guangdong Province, China, mid-1938Troops taking cover behind German beach obstacles, Normandy, 6 Jun 1944

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