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The Greatest War Photographer in the World: Robert Capa

Robert Capa by Gerda Taro

Did you know the most famous war photographer in World War II was a refugee from Fascist Hungary?

Robert Capa: (1913-1954) The celebrated war photographer was born Endre Friedmann in Hungary, and left Budapest in 1932 to escape arrest.  He worked in Berlin until Hitler came to power, then fled to France, where he fell in love with a fellow refugee and changed his name to Robert Capa in order to sound like an American and make more money as a photographer (his plan worked). 

From 1936-1939 Capa was in Spain, covering the Spanish Civil War with his fiancée, Gerda Taro, who was killed in the fighting.  In 1939 Capa fled from Paris to the United States once war broke out; his darkroom manager saved three suitcases full of negatives by bringing them to Mexico City.  These “Mexican Suitcases” were lost for decades but recovered by mysterious means in 1995 and bequeathed to Capa’s estate. (this isn’t in my story, but Capa’s life is filled with the stuff of fiction.  Capa comes back to cover the war in book two and three of LADY LAZARUS).

Capa landed on Omaha Beach in the battle of Normandy on D-Day in June 1944, and the blurry, intense photos he took during the landing were faithfully reproduced in the opening sequence of Spielberg’s SAVING PRIVATE RYAN. 

Capa never married, but had a series of affairs after Gerda’s death, notably with the actress Ingrid Bergman after the end of the war.  He encouraged her to live for herself, and he gives Magda similar advice in LADY LAZARUS.  

For more information about Robert Capa, check out the following resources:

Capa Biography — MAGNUM website

Capa and Taro: Together at Last Photo Gallery

The D-Day Photos of Robert Capa

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