Photographs taken by one of the most important witnesses of 20th century conflict are featured in a new exhibition in Lausanne's Elysée museum. They were taken by Robert Capa, considered the most influential war photographer of all time.This content was published on January 30, 2001 - 15:59
Born in Budapest in 1913, Capa was killed by a landmine in 1954 while on assignment covering the war in Indochina. This exhibition is dominated by his black and white pictures of conflict, especially those taken during the Spanish civil war and the Second World War.
But as it shows, there was much more to his work than war photography. Capa began his career in Paris, covering political demonstrations and street life in general. "He didn't see himself at first as a war photographer," says museum director, William Ewing.
"In fact in the early 1930s he wanted to be a film-maker or even, because of his good looks, a film star."
Ewing acknowledges that Capa's claim to fame is because of his war images, but says the aim of the exhibition is to take a much wider look at his work. For example, alongside the scenes of everyday street life there are stunning photographs of friends such as Pablo Picasso, Ernest Hemingway and Ingrid Bergman.
The gambler in Capa - he always said the risks were calculated - led him in 1936 to an assignment covering the Spanish civil war on the Republican side. About his work there he once declared: "If your photographs aren't good enough you aren't close enough."
Capa's undoubted courage later enabled him to take some of the most memorable photographs of the allied invasion of Normandy in 1944, when he joined US troops storming Omaha beach on June 6.
A co-founder of the cooperative Magnum photographic agency, Capa has had a strong influence on future generations of war photojournalists, not only for the high quality of his work. "He was a passionate man," said Ewing, "and his spirit of engagement will never fade."
by Richard Dawson
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