SEVILLE, Spain – Robert Capa’s black and white imagery of war, stuffed full of movement, pain and human moments helped lay his claim to being one of the most important photojournalists in history, but a new exhibition presented Tuesday in the southern Spanish city of Seville hopes to shed light on a lesser-known but no less striking side of his career – color photography.
Indeed, the 150-or-so color prints exhibited at Seville’s CaixaForum cultural space should dispel some of the myths surrounding the Magnum co-founder, such as the belief that it is somehow sacrilegious to associate a man so highly regarded for his gritty masterpieces of war, with color photography, said Cynthia Young who curated the “Robert Capa in Color” exhibition.
“Capa started in color photography in 1938, while covering the Sino-Japanese War,” the Caixa Forum said in a statement. “Capa was determined to work with color photography long before it was widely used by other photojournalists. Throughout his career, Capa photographed great personalities in color, such as Pablo Picasso, Ernest Hemingway, Humphrey Bogart, Ava Gardner or Truman Capote,” the statement said.
While he used black and white to capture the gritty reality of war, Capa reserved his pursuit of color photography in lighter genres such as publicity and fashion, or for “fiction and dreaming,” Young added.
Adorning the walls of the CaixaForum display were some of those familiar faces who posed for Capa: Ava Gardner applying make-up, Picasso bathing with his grandson in a southern French beach, Truman Capote and Jennifer Jones on the set of “Beat the Devil,” Humphrey Bogart smoking a cigarette on that same film-set.
Some of the color negatives had lain untouched for years and were never previously displayed in public before the retrospective exhibition began its tour, Young said.
Capa, who was born in Hungary in 1913, rose to prominence alongside the likes of Henri-Cartier Bresson for his unflinching coverage of the Spanish Civil War, the Second Sino-Japanese War, World War II and the Arab-Israeli War of 1948.
His style of intimate snapshots offered a very human glimpse into the horrors of war, a technique substantiated by his famous quote: “If your photographs aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.”
In 1954, Capa was covering the First Indochina War in what is now Vietnam.
He strayed from the path of a column of advancing troops in order to get a shot of their approach when he stepped on a landmine and died.