In our weekly series, we write about celebrities – artists, actors, musicians, sport stars and scientists – who have some Hungarian origin, yet only few would consider them as “par excellence Hungarians”. In many cases even the persons concerned know/knew only very little about their Hungarian roots, while others are/were proud of their “Magyar” background despite lacking the ability to speak the language of their parents or grandparents. Our twenty-fourth target is:
Robert Capa was a Hungarian war photographer, photo journalist. He brought his restless, adventurous spirit and toughness from Hungary. He covered five wars: the Spanish Civil War, the Second Sino-Japanese War, World War II across Europe, the 1948 Arab-Israel War and the First Indochina War.
He was born Endre Freidmann to the Jewish family of Júlia Berkovits and Dezső Friedmann on the 22nd October 1913, as a son of tailors who ran a prosperous show-room in Budapest. His parents first child was László, followed by Endre and five years later by Kornél. After a Lutheran elementary school, Robert Capa want to study at Madách Secondary School, later inspired by Lajos Kassák he became interested in journalism in 1929, one year before his matriculation. Although originally he wanted to be a writer but he found work in photography in Berlin. According to one of the legends, he only had a stick of salami in his luggage when he left. His train ticket to Vienna was paid by the Jewish Community of Pest, from there he went on to Prague through Brno and somehow he eventually arrived in Berlin. At the German Political College (Deutsche Hochschule für Politik) he studied journalism. Since his parents were becoming poor and were not able to support him, he went to work as a photo lab assistant at the photo agency Dephot (Deutscher Photodienst).
In 1933 he moved from Germany to France because of the rise of Nazism and persecution of Jewish journalists and photographers, but found it difficult to work as a freelancer journalist. This time he had to conceal his original name (Freidmann), and adopted the name “Robert Capa”. Cápa (means shark in Hungarian), was his nickname in school and he felt that it would be recognizable and American-sounding. The change of his name was also motivated by financial interests, since Gerda (his girlfriend) was able to sell the photos of a successful American photographer at a price three times higher than those of André. His appearance was also significantly transformed together with the change of his name. He had his long hair cut and he began to wear well-ironed suits, believing that it would be the seal of his success. However, it was difficult for him to work up the change of his name and the radical transformation of his appearance mentally. Around this time his first photo report was published in 1934 in Vu Magazine.
He worked in London, Paris and went to Spain to take photos at the fall of Barcelona. He was everywhere where the sky was resounding. Besides the weekly magazine Regards, his photos were also published in LIFE. A countless number of his photos were published by Stefan Lorant in his journals, in Weekly Illustrated and in Picture Post. Lorant coined the slogan “The Greatest War Photographer in the World: Robert Capa,” which accompanied him all through his life.
After his father died in Budapest he had nothing else binding him to Europe, so he moved to the United States in 1939. Her mother and his younger brother has already moved there before. He never stopped on his own way. Anywhere he lived he was looking for the land was burning.
His most famous work occurred on June 6, 1944 (D-Day) when he swam ashore with the second assault wave on Omaha Beach. He was armed with two Contax II cameras mounted with 50 mm lenses and several rolls of spare film. Capa took 106 pictures in the first couple of hours of the invasion. However, a staff member at Life in London made a mistake in the darkroom; he set the dryer too high and melted the emulsion in the negatives in three complete rolls and over half of a fourth roll. Only eleven frames in total were recovered. Capa never said a word to the London bureau chief about the loss of three and a half rolls of his D-Day landing film.
At the end of the war, he was about to have a business-card printed with the title “Robert Capa, war photographer, unemployed.” Being aware of the course of world history since that time and Capa’s life story, he could hardly have distributed a lot of these cards. He received U. S. citizenship after the war, officially under the name of Robert Capa.
After the Word War II he didn’t stop his career of war-photographing. He went to the Soviet Union in 1947 and at the same year he captured the times of Turkey, the State of Israel and the heroic defence at the Kibbutz Negba in the Negev Desert. He also recorded the immigrant Hungarian battalion fighting for the liberation of Jerusalem.
In 1954, he was sent to Indochina by LIFE to cover the French colonies. On 25 May, he stepped on a land-mine and died. He was honoured with a posthumous Croix de Guerre by General René Cogny.
Capa’s memory has not faded – neither in Hungary, nor abroad, as he was the greatest war photographer of the world.
via: capacenter.hu; wikipedia.com; army-photographer.com
photos: army-photographer.com; huffingtonpost.com; capacenter.hu; azquotes.com