Homework #5: 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?

Richard Whelan’s discussion of Capa’s photograph

To complete this homework assignment, note whether you Post or Comment. For Homework #5,  Hearts and Clubs will submit a Post and  Diamonds and Spades will Comment (choose any of your classmates’ posts to comment on).

Please post your responses by Tuesday, November 24th.

 

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13 Responses to Homework #5: Robert Capa’s Death of a Loyalist Soldier

  1. Nicole says:

    As I was reading the article I was actually changing my mind from, the picture is staged to the picture is not staged. At the end I came to the conclusion that the photo is not staged. I agree with all the points that Robert Whelan made. It was also very helpful to have the opinions of people who think the photo is totally fake. I believe that the photographs are not staged because who would want to stage war photographs, besides Gardner. The fact that some people think that soldiers would pretend to die just so a picture can come out “cool” is completely ridiculous. And I also think that wether it was staged or not it will still be seen as one of the greatest war photographs out there.

    • Irina says:

      When I first saw the image at class during the lecture, I was among the students who thought that the image is staged. no evidence of the wound or maybe the way he is falling down, made me doubt that Capa really captured the death of the soldier.
      However, while reading Richard Whelan’s article and getting to know the arguments he brought up to defend the authenticity of Capa’s image , I started having different perspectives.
      The facts that he discusses may prove that the image is candid and not staged, thus my first impression of the photo still makes me doubt that it is not staged.

    • Jose N says:

      I agree with Nicole because a photo like that can’t not be staged because no one would die for a photo because that man die for real that day and the reaction that he have can not be don’t after he dies because he is death, only in the moment of he death. Also the picture looks like capa took it when he is moving around to take the picture because he is in field so he have to watch for his own life.

  2. Drilon Dushi says:

    “Death of a Loyalist Soldier” will always be seen as histories greatest war photograph regardless if it was staged or not. I do agree with you on this idea of why would someone stage such a photo to look “cool.” I am very much conflicted also between the photo being staged and real. Capa succeeded by offering the viewers a sense of realness what war was, but the background is too quiet, too calm and looks nothing like a war. The person in the photo is either getting shot in the back or in the head/chest. Photography has always been manipulated. This reminds me of Narciso Contreras a Pulitzer-Prize winning photographer who got fired after manipulating a photo of a Syrian rebel by using a common Photoshop technique called ‘cloning’ in order to remove a fellow reporter’s camera out of the picture. Capa was a man of capturing the action shot, but maybe it wasn’t always possible to get that shot. Sometimes you have to stage something that is very much real to the photographer. Capa very much started a movement to motivate other photographers to take action shots. People were never exposed to these kinds of photos, so images such as the fallen soldier, showcase the fact that war is not a place you want to be and you are always a dead man.

    • I agree that regardless of weather the image is staged or not it became important, that’s why I don’t find myself conflicted in weather it was staged or not, because it did it’s purpose, and just like you mention, it has cause inspiration for other documentary photographers to shoot and recreate the same horrible things that are happening around the world.

  3. I am surprised; first I am surprised by how tedious the research process was in proving that Robert Capa’s photo is not staged. Besides looking at the photograph, someone looked through records of the ‘falling soldier’ as well as other books and articles. Overall, Robert Whelan has so much evidence of this photo not being staged that I agree that it isn’t as well. During class, many believed it was staged because the blood after being shot isn’t noticeable, but there are so many elements that say otherwise. This death isn’t like a movie scene, where right when someone get’s shot the ketchup or fake blood spreads throughout the whole shirt, this is a real death; no one even knows where this subject was shot. This man is also holding something around his neck that is covering his abdominal area. Could it be covering blood possibly? Although I believe it isn’t staged, I don’t think the authenticity matters. Does authenticity make it more controversial? Yes, but it is still a great photograph. If it is staged, it is a realistically staged death.

    • Jamile Brito says:

      I agree with you. When i first saw this photograph in class i thought that it was staged as well but as i examine it much more i realized that something about this photograph made me think that it isn’t stage. The way he is letting go of his riffle while he is about to collapse and the face expressions does not seem like a face expression anyone would make while staging a photograph, it definitely looks legit. The fact that we never saw where he has been shot or any blood made us more skeptical. But when i kept looking at this i came to the conclusion that it wasn’t staged. While reading Richard Whelan’s article on describing why the photography is not staged convinced me more. I do believe that it is a great photograph, even if it is stage or not.

    • Jan Santos says:

      I agree, that Robert Whelan has provided many evidence that the photograph, “The falling soldier”, isn’t staged. Honestly, looking at the photo made me believe it was staged. How his pose was formed from being shot, didn’t seem real. There was no blood to be shown that he was shot anywhere. After reading Robert Whelan, “Proving that Eober Capa’s ‘Falling Soldier’ is Genuine: A Detective Story”, I’ve looked at it, in a different perspective. Especially, since there was a witness named Mario Brotons Jorda. He pinpointed that Feerico Borrell Garcia, also known as the guy as the falling soldier, was killed in war at Cerro Muriano. Understanding that no one knows where he has been shot, would prove his pose. To notice that if it was staged, they would have use fake blood, to exaggerate his death and make it seem real (IF it was staged). With this photo, it would not have mattered because some would agree or disagree that it is real. Through a perspective point of view, of the photograph, it’s hard to tell whether it is or isn’t real. Just a few days ago I believe it was staged, until I read Robert Whelan evidence report, he has persuaded me enough to believe it isn’t staged.

  4. Bibi Ali says:

    First, the research Richard Whelan did was very profound just for the sake of authenticity. For the fact that Richard went though all of this work, made progress and gathered evidence, enough evidence that is, to prove his hypothesis, I do find his arguments convincing. I don’t think that Capa’s photograph was staged because Richard had stated in his argument that it was impossible to fall without having the reflexes of bringing your arms back to catch yourself when you fall. It shows that upon standing the solider was shot just by the way he fell and his angle while falling. It’s not like a movie where you see every wound when someone gets shot; with all the fake blood and open wounds. Although the picture is quite quiet in the background, it doesn’t necessarily have to be very busy to be named a war. There were places that some were alone, trying to be stealthy. And another rhetorical question would be, why would someone want to stage these types of things? It wouldn’t make whatever they were trying to prove not truly credible. Although it can still show how war can be, I don’t think it would be best to stage it. I don’t think that the authenticity matters anymore, but real or not, it is still an honorable photograph.

  5. Ryan Wong says:

    During the discussion we had on this photo when it was presented to us during class I really believed that this photo was staged. However Richard had me made me question if this was really staged. Mr.Whelan pointed out during the review of this photo totally changed my perspective on the photo being staged. He explained how “his fingers on his left hand had curled towards his palm, this indicates that his muscles had gone limp and that he is already dead.” Richards’s arguments were definitely convincing, he even supported his evidence by bringing it to a professional who is the chief homicide detective of the Memphis police department. With all these evidence presented to me I’ve came to a conclusion that this photo is certainly not staged. Its authenticity does matter because in the time of crisis people are more prone to believing first hand evidence, and if the citizens of a country see their own people die they will be more alert on the cause.

  6. Soledad says:

    After reading the research process I came to the conclusion that Robert Capa’s photo is not staged. Robert Whelan made great points on the authenticity of the photograph. The reason why this photograph doesn’t seem staged is because what photographer in that time and in a war would want to risk their life’s just to take a stage picture. Capa’s aunthencity matters because what is in the picture is what makes the picture valuable. It makes the picture seem real specially because at that time there was a war going on and that’s exactly how soldiers die in wars without them expecting it, without knowing when they will be shot. So in this picture Capa’s surely shows aunthencity.

    • Derick says:

      i don’t think it really matters if this photo was staged or not but if it is i wouldn’t be surprised at all. First of all the photographer would never want people to know the photo was staged because i feel like it takes away from me even tho its a awesome picture. I see some people saying this picture has to be real because who would fake a death? i know it is a sensitive topic but a lot of people actually! we have that one photo of a drowned man we learned about and being homeless is a sensitive topic for some but we have children posing as beggars.

  7. Daniel says:

    When I first saw the photo I also thought it was staged. But after reading the article and looking at the detail that the image has I changed my mind and now believe that the photo is authentic. From the position that the man is in you can see that he seems to be falling back, his knees are bent and his head is tilted a bit. I think that this image was captured at a very accurate moment of a man in the time of a war, and also believe that an image like this would be very hard to stage.

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