Olli Thomson

The Myth of Capa

Here is a fascinating article calling into question the accepted narrative concerning Robert Capa’s images from the D-Day landings. It seems that even some of those who have been pushing this narrative for decades are now accepting that at least some elements of it are dubious, including John Morris, Capa’s photo editor at Life magazine. It would be interesting to read a response to the arguments made by Coleman from others who still maintain the truth of the story.

Debunking the Myths of Robert Capa on D-Day

Capa himself is not being accused of faking the images but of indulging in a degree of myth making and self aggrandisement. What is more concerning is that the current curator of the Capa Archive at the International Center for Photography continues to promulgate the standard narrative without offering any evidence for its veracity in the face of Coleman’s critique, something she is in a position to do, at least to some degree, since the Archive holds the original negatives. It would also be interesting to know where Magnum, the photo agency founded after the war by Capa and a number of others, stands on this.

How much Capa himself contributed to the story is difficult to know. It’s entirely possible that other hands were at work in shaping the story and creating the myth. Capa died in 1954 and that in itself may have helped generate or shape the mythology around him and his work.

Ordinarily a story like this might not gain much traction but Coleman is a prolific and respected author in the field of photography and Capa has previous, with increasing scepticism regarding the authenticity of his famous Falling Soldier image from the Spanish Civil War. Some might consider the details unimportant; what matters is the visual power of the images. But in photojournalism veracity matters. If we can no longer trust in the details, then why should we trust the bigger picture?

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