Robert Capa's war shots come to London

Month-long retrospective of war photographer and Magnum agency founder opens at ATLAS Gallery this week
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Robert Capa. Crowds running for shelter after an air-raid alarm sounded, Bilbao, Spain, May, 1937
Robert Capa. Crowds running for shelter after an air-raid alarm sounded, Bilbao, Spain, May, 1937

It seems fair to claim that Robert Capa is the Twentieth Century's most famous war photographer. His precious few remaining shots from the Normandy Landings conveyed the struggle to retake Europe to a US audience, and went on to inspire Steven Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan.

Do we care that Capa's equally famous Spanish Civil War image, Loyalist Militiaman at the Moment of Death, Cerro Muriano, September 5, 1936, might well have been staged? Even though it's hard not to be concerned, the Magnum co-founder's reputation for guts, determination and peerless image making remains undiminished.

Those hankering after a closer inspection of his pictures should try to get along to Death in the Making: Photographs of War by Robert Capa. The show, at the ATLAS Gallery in central London June 7 - July 6 draws together Capa's images from The Spanish Civil War as well the images he shot in Cambodia, at The D-Day Landings, during the liberation of Paris, and the First Indo-China War, right up until his death in Vietnam in 1954. Well-known shots are supplemented with gallery owner Ben Burdett's personal collection of prints.

 

Robert Capa, Republican militia members, Barcelona, 1936
Robert Capa, Republican militia members, Barcelona, 1936

As a collection, it's a great history lesson, as well as a masterclass in reportage. In today's era of 24-hour news and citizen journalism, could one man with a 35mm rangefinder ever hope to bring such artfully conceived work to so wide and receptive an audience? Perhaps. Today's practitioners, such as recent Magnum signing Peter van Agtmael, are continuing to prove the late Robert Hughes' great adage, that, "A determined soul will do more with a rusty monkey wrench than a loafer will accomplish with all the tools in a machine shop."

To find out more about the exhibition go here. For a greater insight into Capa's life and work, take a look at our brilliant Magnum books in which he's well represented. 


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