The Falling Soldier by Robert Capa (1936) Story behind perhaps the most well known war photograph


Hello photography fans! Martin here from
All About Street Photography channel and today I would like to talk about photo
taken by one of the most well known war photographer. The photo that is very
famous and also little controversial. So let’s check out the Falling Soldier. The photo in question is the Falling
Soldier taken in Spain at the beginning of Spanish Civil War by famous magnum
agency co-founder Robert Capa. If you are not familiar with him or simply want to
find out more feel free to check out my video about his life and photography. The
subject of the photograph is Republican soldier at the moment of his death.
Now, the Falling Soldier is said to be perhaps the greatest war photograph ever
made and also the most debatable picture in the history of photojournalism.
Even though a description like that may seem to be a little exaggerated the
story behind this photograph is really interesting. So what was the controversy
about? Capa I was actually accused of staging the famous photograph there are
a few hypotheses how this was supposed to be done I’m going to present you the
ones I have found but I don’t want to imply which one you should believe it’s
up to you to create your own opinion so where was this picture so special the
Spanish Civil War was actually the first war monitored by modern media and it was
the first Violet published photograph of such kind of imagery it’s also
considered one of the best combat photographs ever made since it was next
level of war photography never seen before until then when the picture
appeared in the Life magazine in 1937 captured as a Spanish soldier the
instant he’s dropped by a bullet through the head readers were pretty shocked
since nothing quite like that had been published until then the photo became
famous for the way it is capturing the terrifying sudden death when we look at
the composition we see the falling soldier on the left side looking to the
empty space on the right side this creates a visual imbalance which also
amplifies the loneliness of the soldier during the time of his death as the
viewers are subconsciously looking for balance when looking at the pictures and
we look at the top of the soldiers head we can see his tassel which was mistaken
for school parts by the caption maker of the Life magazine
the authenticity was actually not publicly questioned until 1975 when
Philip Knightley in his book war correspondents the first casualty raised
the question Kappa was supposed to say the pitch was actually staged two
reporter Odie Gallagher in the interview by you know war Telegraph Kappa talked
how he spent time with this particular soldier on the Cordoba front the soldier
was nervous and impatient climbing over the sandbags and dropping back down to
the trench because of the machine-gun fire Kappa followed him during his final
attempt and took the shot Kappa had to wait two more hours with a dead body
before he could escape the trench in the dark in the book blood and champagne the
life and times of Robert Capa Alex Kershaw discusses and unseen footage of
Kappa during the Spanish Civil War and the men falling down as he runs down a
hillside perhaps the picture can be exactly what the name is just the
falling soldier one of the hypothesis also implies he not only asked the
soldier to run down the hill and fall but also that during this attempt the
soldier was actually shot and killed that way he would basically been
responsible for his death and rightfully felt guilty actually two things
supporting this theory the place Kappa said he took the photo ed was actually
different from the one that was later identified as actually place of the
event and was far put from the front and other things part in this theory is the
fact that there is another very similar photo taken by Robert Capa with exactly
same composition why there is no blood or dead body on the ground
was that one staged and the first one was not and does it actually matter in
the radio interview in 1947 about his new book slightly out of focus he said I
had want one picture which was appreciated much more than the other
ones and I certainly did not know when I shot it it was especially good picture
it happened in Spain was very much at the beginning of my career as a
photographer and very much at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War
was in andalucía and those people were very green there were no soldiers they
were dying every minute with the great gestures and I was there in the trench
with about 20 millions and those 20 missions had 20 old rifles and on the
other here facing us was a Franko machine gun so my militia knows been
shooting in a direction of that machine gun for five minutes and then stood up
and said vamonos get out from the trench and began to go after that machine gun
issuing of the machine gun opened up moved em down so what was left of them
came back and again take potshots in the direction of the machine gun he
certainly was clever enough not to answer and after five minutes against
Isis vamonos and I got moved on again testing the Peter it serves about three
or four times so the fourth time I just kind of put my camera above my head and
even didn’t look and flicked a picture when they moved over the trench he also
explained he didn’t develop the film himself but send it back to Paris among
many others when he returned from Spain after three months he found out he was a
famous photographer thanks to the picture to this day the most people
still believe the picture is candid and no confirmation was ever presented to
dispute that let me know what is your opinion and if you think the picture was
staged or not and if it is actually important to you and probably more
inclined to cap a surgeon and I believe the photo is candid or maybe I just want
to believe in that I hope you like today’s story behind the photograph and
learn something new if you did feel free to give it a like thank you for watching
and I will see you next time

6 thoughts on “The Falling Soldier by Robert Capa (1936) Story behind perhaps the most well known war photograph

  1. you know that this capa's picture is probably composed of a dead person? He probably built that picture, is was explained in a paris exposition

  2. I'm a very lucky person. I got to study at the ICP through NYU when Cornell Capa was still alive. I've seen, held these contact sheets in hand. I do think there is a staging element involved. Was it good journalism and was the stage just put in front of you or was it just acted out? I really can not say. And the controversy that surrounds the Cappa's right now I think has some basis in fact.

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