Homework #3: Robert Capa’s War Photograph

I believe that his arguments were very convincing. The evidence he presented gave me an insight on how Capa was able to take this photograph and also proved the authenticity. And because of this, I think the photograph is not staged. As we’ve learned, a lot of photographs of the past has been staged or manipulated, just like photographs today. So it is within our nature for us to doubt certain experiences. I also must agree with his evidence because of the simple poor composition of the photograph, where not everything is in frame, this also proves that Capa must have not been looking into the camera, having placed it above his head while in that trench.

However, the question that arises is, is being staged really important? We rely on documentary photography to show us facts, document events that we are not able to experience… show us the truth of what is happening in the world. Regardless this photograph was staged or not, Capa was close enough to have gotten it. There is no doubt that he was not in the event of war.  What makes the photograph memorable is the idea of we get of what war was like. I don’t think anyone cared who this man was, now nor then, but instead, realizing this is what really happens during a war in all its complexity, its glory and honor. The photograph just created a better understanding of war. Capa did not reveal to us what we did not already know. Here, reality of what happened does not matter.

Capa’s photograph could have merely been a lucky shot. It reminds me of the photograph by Cartier Bresson of a pedestrian jumping over a puddle. After reading articles of the controversy of Capa’s photograph, this could have been just an example of “the decisive moment”. Capa, being in the “war” setting for a while, had skills of taking so many photographs before this one, constantly taking photographs of these soldiers. I don’t think Capa knew what was going to happen when taking that photograph until he realized what he captured in that decisive moment.

In my opinion, Capa’s photograph will always remain iconic and there will always be speculation about it. But there is no denying that this photograph has given us a better understanding of the Spanish War, or war in general, which is what it should be remembered for.


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