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The War Story Teller: Why Do We Need A War Photographer?

Posted by on October 21, 2014

By Yuchen Tang

Would you join a war? If you are not a soldier? If it not happens in your home nor in your country. If it’s neither about your race nor your faith. For me, I will not. But for André Friedmann, the answer is yes. He is a battlefield photographer, who might be more famous with his alias: Robert Capa.

“I hope to stay unemployed as a war photographer till the end of life” (Capa)


Hungarian-born Capa lived in turbulence with war happening everywhere. He made his name widely across the world by this photo The Falling Soldier, which depicts the moment of a Spanish soldier hit by a bullet when he rushed out of a trench. It turns out to be the most iconic war photos of all time. Since published, this picture has been surrounded by endless arguments doubting its authenticity. Ironically, Capa’s chief editor Morris said “Capa detested the picture. He did not want to have anything to do with an image that exploited death” (skylighter, 1). The death should not be the only part of war, not at all. Capa made it clear that he hate war. But life always doesn’t go on well as wish, when informed the message that he was chosen to be one of the few photographers who was going to join the D-Day, he chose to go for the battle instead of being with his lover. The whole western world was under the shadow of war. And as a war photographer, Capa’s sense of responsibility leaded him to the occupational peak.

“If your pictures aren’t good enough, yon aren’t close enough” (Capa)


If judged from any standard of photography book, the left photo won’t get a single chance to make its popularity. Errol Morris says “Pictures are supposed to be worth a thousand words. But a picture unaccompanied by words may not mean anything at all (1).” Apparently if you know nothing about background, this photo will be anything but iconic. The surface blur cannot cover its essence, with one fact—this photo was taken in D-Day, when the Battle of Normandy occurred. You can find tons of other photos shot from different angles about this largest military landing mission ever happened in human history through a long distance, but Capa was the only man who captured this action and followed with soldiers on the frontline. Others just stayed away from this. I am not blaming them to be the deserters. But Capa, who was driven by the fanaticism for excellent photos, came to the front line and recorded all this by his camera. You can depreciate this picture with a thousand reasons, but it only needs one story behind to make it eternal. If it’s not for Capa’s work, the soldier’s story could only be passed by word of mouth. But now, more people can learn such historical period, which enriches the details of D-Day, and make this war more visible and touchable.

“I am a gambler” (Capa)


It’s not enough to have talent, you also have to be an adventurer. But this time, Capa used up all his luck. The photo with a group of soldiers was the last one Capa took before he stepped on the mine. It’s the Vietnam War, but he, a Hungarian man insisted to be there. He died with his hand holding a camera, which is the most honorable way for a war photographer to leave his battlefield.

Photography is a way of recording, no matter how people use and manipulate it, the truth is always the best picture, the best propaganda. Capa understand that only by showing people how the real war is that can we preventing it from happening again. As he taking all these images, mixed with his own sweet, blood and life, it turned out to be an indivisible combination of both the photo story and his own thought. We appreciate those who keep trying recording and reminding us of the history. It’s their work that make human a bit more close to the truth and reality. For those great photographers like Robert Capa, the gift for them is, their own narratives and spirit of seeking peace for human being will be imperishable along with their eternal masterpiece.

 Works Cited

Capa, Robert. Slightly out of focus. New York: Modern Library, 2001.

Morris, Errol. “Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire.” New York Times Blogs. Available from http://morris. blogs. (2007).

“The Magnificent Eleven: The D-Day Photographs of Robert Capa” , n.d. n.p. Available from


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