“What’s the point of getting killed if you’ve got the wrong exposure?”
Robert Capa founded Magnum Photography, and as such is included in this series. Calling Capa Street Photographer does not do him or his work justice. Capa was a journalistic war correspondent. I include him in this series as his photos capture human activity and life on the streets. As Street Photographers, we can learn a lot from him.
Capa was one of the few photographers to cover the D-Day landings. His images are blurred, the technical settings incorrect, and I cannot for a minute believe his lens was clean. As the soldiers struggled onto the shoreline carrying arms and backpacks, Capa was alongside them with his camera. His photos of this battle are iconic, they are close, raw and personal, conveying the horror of war. More importantly, they are one of the very few sets of photos of the landings that exist. The negatives were burned while in the darkroom drier, further impairing the quality of the final prints.
Capa was no stranger to War Photojournalism, having covered the Spanish civil war from 1936 to 1939. Again, he was at the front lines of the battle. Today we are used to seeing images of photographers in flack jackets, however, at the time this was unusual. His work does not only focus on the action of soldiers, and he would often engage in the panic of fleeing women and children.
His most famous quote is that,”if your pictures are not good enough, then you’re not close enough.” Did he mean this literally? I think there is another level to this quote, maybe he meant personally, emotionally or politically close? Don’t just take a photo, try to learn a little about your subject matter and the people you study.
Capa took sides. He had an opinion and his photos expressed this. Too often I have read that to make a blog popular you should not be political, and to make your pictures safe. This is not true, take sides and let your photos show an opinion. Images reflect a viewpoint. What do your pictures say about you?
Good is sometimes good enough. Your photos do not have to be perfect if the subject is strong. Some of my photos get ‘cleaned up’ in Photoshop, achieving fewer distractions. Removing distractions makes a more commercial photograph, but lately I have been reversing this trend, particularly for the more journalistic photos try I try to capture.
Be there! Capa went to great lengths to position himself in the thick of the action. Access, paperwork, and finance would have been obstacles to overcome. The world is a small place, we have access to spectacular locations, and an alarm clocks so we can wake up in time for the best light. Be there, with the right gear, at the right time, and all that is left is to click the shutter!
Capa was killed by a landmine in Indochina in 1954. I don’t believe in the idea of dying while doing what you love. Personally, I would like to live to a ripe old age, looking back and enjoying the photos I have taken during my life. With that in mind, the last learning point is to stay safe, enjoy your work, and…
keep clicking, Chris