Homework #3: Robert Capa’s Death of a Loyalist Soldier

Falling Soldier

Robert Capa, “Death of a Loyalist Soldier” 1936

At the age of 23, Robert Capa took a photograph that many have labeled the greatest war photograph of all time.  Taken during the Spanish Civil War, the renown of Capa’s photograph, Falling Soldier or Death of a Loyalist Soldier, reverberated around the world as it was published and republished in contemporary news magazines.  However, Capa’s photo has been shadowed by controversy, including accusations of fakery.  Read an analysis on the image by Capa’s biographer, Robert Whelan, on the authenticity of the photograph.  Do you find his arguments convincing?  Do you think Capa’s photograph is staged or not? And do you think its authenticity matters? If you wish, you can compare Capa’s photograph to another controversial image.

Richard Whelan’s discussion of Capa’s photograph

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8 Responses to Homework #3: Robert Capa’s Death of a Loyalist Soldier

  1. jean says:

    Robert Capa’s photo is one of the most famous war photograph. There seems to be doubt that his photograph is authentic. On Robert Whelan analysis of the photo he’s argument seems to not convince me. He talks about how only dead people can stand a certain way or even hold something and that nobody can fake death. I disagree this photo seems to be out of a hollywood scene very unrealistic. The photo seems to have been acted out to be seen as if he was dying of a gunshot. To me no one can fall dead in such a way that looks like your running. He seems to sliding on the floor. I don’t think at this point in time matters if the photo is staged or not because nowadays no one really cares about this person or photograph it’s old news to us and there’s no photo police, so people can do whatever they want with their pictures. No one is going to bother to change that now.

  2. cmorris says:

    I do find the last few paragraphs convincing that this was not a staged death. The way the dead soldiers hands gone limp, and an actor would not necessarily know how to hold his body parts to look that realistic (like he is about to die). An actor would need to know anatomy and how the body reacts at the time of death. The soldier used his reflexes and muscles let go of life at the moment he was shot.
    The photo can very well be staged, because there is no one in the backround. When one thinks of war, you think of lots of chaos and soldiers and this scene seems calm all around.
    At this point it doesn’t matter whether it’s authentic or not. It is a photo that we can learn from. It is a photo that we can use in the classroom and dissect and have discussions on. History of photography is important. The history that this photo represents can teach us about the experiences of what war was like for them and how easy death fell upon the brave soldiers.

  3. ljagroop says:

    Famous photographer, Robert Capa, photo “Death of a Loyalist Soldier” is controversial piece. Personally I found Richard Whelan’s discussion convincing. Throughout his article he uses historians and eye witness accounts of photographer present in 1936. Points where he convinced me most is his description of that day’s events. He states a setup picture was the plan, but their guns trigged a battle. It’s there, caught in the middle is how he got his picture of Federico Borrell. Also Welan’s, points out his search at Robert Capa’s, estate finds the original prints dated in chronological order, establishing a time line, proving he was at the battle at Cerro Muriano, on September 5, 1936.
    At first look, I did believe it was staged. From my knowledge of war photos always seems more graphic with turmoil in the background. This picture only shows one man with clothing perfectly intact, no blood on himself and his fellow Conrad’s nowhere in sight. In my opinion I do fell authenticity matters for war photos. We need to show the reality of a brutally event such as war. Sugar coating it with fake shots does not depict what our soldiers go thought.

  4. ksalas94 says:

    Robert Capa’s photo of the “Death of a Loyalist Soldier” is an interesting piece of war photography, not only because of how dynamic the shot is but because of the controversy shrouding it’s authenticity. Whelan’s analysis brings up quite a few valid points like pointing out how the gunman’s fingers are somewhat curled, indicating that the man’s muscles have gone limp and that he’s dead. However, I do find the image to be staged. Being able to capture a perfect moment is a challenge in itself, but capturing a moment the instant a soldier is shot? I find that hard to believe. While I believe the image isn’t authentic, it doesn’t stop the image from being powerful or take away it’s impact. The image tells an incredible story of a soldier, and I believe that the image captures the struggles several soldiers had to go through during this time.

  5. R.Simon720 says:

    The controversy of the photograph, has convince many people to believe to be fake or real, due to having so many detailed information about time, place and who was there when the photo was taken can make things difficult. In the article, it shows aspects of the loyalist soldier photo not being authentic enough, trying to compering to a similar photo as well seeing the body poses. To my belief, I think that the photo can possible fake due capturing a soldier not dress as the others, and having a conflict of when it was taken. Even though I might say is staged, think the authenticity does not matter because it serve its purpose in the Spanish Civil War, and I believe that services and movement of people is more valuable.

  6. Aleecea says:

    The famous photo by Robert Capa, “Death of a Falling Soldier” is a controversial piece because many wonder if it is staged or not. War photography being arranged or posed is not uncommon, however I think dating back to the 1930’s this photo is too realistic. I did become skeptical after seeing the photo published in the Vu in which they claim to have been the same men, but the group photo of everyone on the hill you can distinguish the different guys by their gear and uniform. I also question if it is staged or not because it is so upclose, one would have to be so brave to shoot that close during war and also because there is nothing else around him depicting war, it’s just land. I do believe this is an authentic photo, and if it weren’t it is still very powerful and raw, showing the darkness of the Spanish War and being a significant photo of war photography.

  7. Dana Moreno says:

    The Photo by Robert Capa, “Death of a falling solider” Is controversial because its so perfect that it seems so unreal at the time. I do believe that the photo was real, not just because of the points made in the article. looking at this picture now, if it had been made during this time period I would totally believe that it was all staged, but considering that it isn’t I do believe it is real. There is no way for any one to know how a gunshot looks when it hits unless you seen it first hand, and its hard to act out something you aren’t sure is supposed to look. That plus the fact that although photography is a lot more advanced I do not think the tools to make a fake image like this were present at the time, it would be a lot more obvious that it was faked especially since this is a action photo. That plus the first hand accounts and the historian point I find it very possible that this photo is real.

  8. Leidy says:

    I do not find his argument convincing. He is trying to hard to find a way to make it look like is staged. I do not think Capa photograph is staged. His whole life was basicly photography. He put hits life on the line for pictures like that. It’s authentic at this point does not matter, the picture is already famous.

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