Whenever I interview someone, I usually ask them about their greatest influence. You can learn a lot about a person from their influences. What qualities attract us? How do these individuals shape our style, workflow, methodology, and etc? Maybe this influential person is someone in our field, or maybe it’s someone we know well.
I had been involved in photography for a few years before I had learned about Robert Capa, but when I had watched a documentary about his life, I became fascinated with the way he worked, his courage, and his incredible talent. Capa was a Jewish Hungarian photojournalist as well as one of the founding partners of Magnum Photos cooperative. As a young man, Capa witnessed the violence that was consuming Europe. He was part of a generation that watched Spain fall into civil war and Hitler rise to power in Germany. Capa was undaunted by the danger all around him. For example, during World War II, Capa parachuted with American troops where they were dropped into Germany. Hundreds of paratroopers died and Capa could have easily died with them, but it never stopped him from capturing footage of the war. Because of Capa, we have a glimpse of what these heroic soldiers endured.
Capa’s work quickly garnered international attention. Sadly, he died at the age of 40, while covering the beginning of the Vietnam War. He stepped onto a landmine and died instantly.
I could never be as brave as Capa. He paid a heavy price to do the work that he did. The love of his life and photojournalist, Gerda Taro, was killed while covering the Spanish Civil war. During one of his assignments, Capa was shot, and he actually considered taking a break from covering wars.
I believe that one of the elements that made Capa such an unforgettable photographer was that he immersed himself in what he was photographing. He was a very mobile photographer. He didn’t just stand in one place and rely on his zoom lens to get close to the subject. His photographs are very intimate and they resonate with people because he knew how to capture humanity in the face of crisis and despair. Since learning about Capa, I really try to move more and look for the more interesting angles. It takes courage to be a great photojournalist. Sometimes you take chances, even risks, to share something extremely important to the world.
I encourage people, especially photographers, to learn more about Robert Capa. His work and his life story is extremely fascinating. Who knows what more he would have accomplished if he hadn’t died at such a young age.