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Robert Capa D-day “ruined” film article
Old 02-17-2019   #1
Ccoppola82
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Robert Capa D-day “ruined” film article

I’ve heard the story of Capa’s ruined film. I read this article and found it interesting.

https://medium.com/exposure-magazine...nQC9906QTHYI98
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Old 02-17-2019   #2
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thanks for the new article. i read a.d. coleman's articles when they were first published on his site. people were quite upset about the iconoclasm, but aren't we all the better for intellectual freedom and getting the truth out there via real scholarship?

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Produced in most other cases under Cornell’s watchful eye or the supervision of one or another participant in the Capa Consortium, the remainder of the serious, scholarly literature on Robert Capa has almost all been subject to Cornell’s approval and reliant on either the problematic principal reference works or on Robert Capa materials stored in Cornell’s private home in Manhattan, with access dependent on his consent. Consequently, it constitutes an inherently limited corpus of contaminated research, fatally corrupted by its unswerving allegiance to both its patron and its patron saint. Such bespoke scholarship becomes automatically suspect.
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Old 02-17-2019   #3
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Read all stuff back in 2014. Coleman's attempt at finding a conspiracy where there's no need for any doesn't sit well with me.

To quote from the RFF thread back in the day:
Quote:
I cannot understand why anyone would care what happened to the other photos he did, or didn't, take. If he only got 11 shots on the whole trip, does the lack of more diminish those 11 shots?
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Old 02-17-2019   #4
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you should read the introduction of this new article. it lays out the stakes more succinctly than the previous series of blog posts.
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Old 02-18-2019   #5
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Thanks for the share... really interesting article. It goes to show you can’t always accept things at face value. Sometimes our heroes are not quite what we think. The Steve McCurry photoshopping scandal made me feel the same way.
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Old 02-18-2019   #6
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Seems to me that Capa was a serial liar. Even made up his name. Faked shots. Stole credit from Taro. He got the glory but when it really counted he was a chicken s***. So much for "if your pictures aren't good enough, you aren't close enough."

If you want to study a true war photographer who didn't do it for personal glory, take a look at James Nachtwey.
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Old 02-18-2019   #7
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https://www.magnumphotos.com/newsroo...y-omaha-beach/


"But the excited darkroom assistant, while drying the negatives, had turned on too much heat and the emulsions had melted and run down before the eyes of the London office. Out of one hundred and six pictures in all, only eight, were salvaged. The captions under the heat-blurred pictures read that Capa’s hands were badly shaking”.

It is 2019, I'm glad some of you are still able to get it!
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Old 02-18-2019   #8
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Was there another photographer that landed on D-Day and published images? Or are 8 (or is it 11) all the images we have?
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Old 02-18-2019   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PRJ View Post
Seems to me that Capa was a serial liar. Even made up his name. Faked shots. Stole credit from Taro. He got the glory but when it really counted he was a chicken s***. So much for "if your pictures aren't good enough, you aren't close enough."

.
COnsidering the guy died doing his job, I'd say the chicken sh*ts are the folks who make these kind of comments behind the safety of a keyboard.

As for the main article, it contains so many straw-man arguments it simply sabotages itself. Like, duh, Slightly out of Focus was claimed to be all true? Laughable.

Capa frequently said he was terrified on the beach and only stayed a short while. So?
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Old 02-18-2019   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PRJ View Post
Seems to me that Capa was a serial liar. Even made up his name. Faked shots. Stole credit from Taro. He got the glory but when it really counted he was a chicken s***. So much for "if your pictures aren't good enough, you aren't close enough."

If you want to study a true war photographer who didn't do it for personal glory, take a look at James Nachtwey.
First off, if you were a Hungarian Jew in Europe during the 1930s, would you change your name if it might save your life? Hitler's regime didn't work out too well for that population, just as a hint.
I wouldn't go so far as to say Capa was chicken s***. I've been in combat. With a rifle and a camera and I won't claim that I wasn't frightened constipated. I had the ability to defend myself and my fellow squad members. I had protection from a mounted .50 cal as well as a 240G. I was flanked on both sides by a squad of Marines and a squad of Seabees, both a block away. And I was scared through it all.
So I posit this to you: if you can't produce your own shots you took from Normandy on June 6, 1944, you have no right as an armchair combat photographer to call him chicken s***. None whatsoever. If you do have these photos or something analogous, you wouldn't have made the claim in the first place.
Capa's motives aside, he was on the beach on that day, while the sun was still up and he got a few shots. That's a hell of a lot more stones than most of us can lay claim to.
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Old 02-18-2019   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Phil_F_NM View Post
First off, if you were a Hungarian Jew in Europe during the 1930s, would you change your name if it might save your life? Hitler's regime didn't work out too well for that population, just as a hint.
I wouldn't go so far as to say Capa was chicken s***. I've been in combat. With a rifle and a camera and I won't claim that I wasn't frightened constipated. I had the ability to defend myself and my fellow squad members. I had protection from a mounted .50 cal as well as a 240G. I was flanked on both sides by a squad of Marines and a squad of Seabees, both a block away. And I was scared through it all.
So I posit this to you: if you can't produce your own shots you took from Normandy on June 6, 1944, you have no right as an armchair combat photographer to call him chicken s***. None whatsoever. If you do have these photos or something analogous, you wouldn't have made the claim in the first place.
Capa's motives aside, he was on the beach on that day, while the sun was still up and he got a few shots. That's a hell of a lot more stones than most of us can lay claim to.
Phil Forrest
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Old 02-18-2019   #12
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You are absolutely correct, Phil!!
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Old 02-18-2019   #13
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I don't see what the fuss is all about.

Many things we consider as historical facts could be bogus, no big deal.

Robert Capa as professional as he was with a camera could have had many things effecting him that day.

From close shave whizzing bullets and exploding shells to dysentery, fear and panic, being tired, being seasick, being hung over to just simple mistakes that we all make when we are not ourselves, like forgetting to change to a higher shutter speed, on a Contax II camera those shutter speed numbers are hard to see, to forgetting to take the lens cap off our camera while taking a photo with an RF camera.

Sh!t happens.
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Old 02-18-2019   #14
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This "study" is seriously flawed: the authors went out to prove that Capa didn't take more shots because he was scared to death. Any investigation that is set up to prove a preconceived notion is by definition useless.

If Capa stayed for 1.5 hours as claimed, wouldn't you assume that such a veteran war photographer had taken more than 11 shots? Eyewitnesses said that this part of the beach was not under heavy fire; there are no bodies floating in the water, you don't see bullets or grenades hitting the water, and the soldiers that were supposed to be "hiding" behind the barriers were actually army engineers in the process of removing the barriers.

But maybe it is true that Capa only stayed for a rather short period of time and tried to rush the few pictures that he took back to Life magazine to meet the deadline.
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Old 02-18-2019   #15
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Anyone who willingly went into battle armed only with a camera - including jumping from a plane with combat troops as Capa did later in Europe has my respect as a brave man. Truth is, I get heartily sick of revisionist "historians" with an agenda setting out to pull down people who unlike them were living their life under the gun, not sitting behind a desk, desperate to make a name for themselves by trying to poke holes in others' reputation. (No reflection at all on CCoppola for posting the link he was right to do so but those who wrote it - not so sure).

Before being critical of Capa we should remember how Capa died - he died in the field having stepped on a land mine, in Indo China with French front line troops. That is not the death of a wanna-be or a coward or an unprofessional. Big deal if Capa was scared on Omaha beach. He would be an idiot not to be. And anyone who has read the books, seen the movies or learned the history of that event knows that. In fact if memory serves me correct Capa made no secret of being terrified and wanting to get off the beach and this was reported in his biography Blood and Champagne.

Capa was not a perfect man by some standards- he was a womaniser, he was a renegade, he was happy to spend the money earned by other photographers at Magnum on champagne and good living (according to HCB) and he was sometimes a little liberal with the strict truth. But he was a real mench. He was a man who did stuff. He reported war and revolution in Spain, in Europe, in China, in Israel and in Indo China. He was in short, like many of the men who volunteered to go to war and who lived life in the moment because that is all the time they could be certain of.
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Old 02-18-2019   #16
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Capa probably did what any other rational human being would do and got the hell off the beach as fast as he could - I certainly can't criticize him. Rather it just points out the incredible bravery of the guys who knew they had a job to do and couldn't turn around to go back to England - they stayed on the beach (and of course many of them died there) and did what they were trained to do. They were the true heroes whose intestinal fortitude allow us to did back in our cozy homes and read all this s**t on the internet.
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Old 02-18-2019   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ptpdprinter View Post
Was there another photographer that landed on D-Day and published images?
If I remember correctly there were a number of other photographers, especially armed forces photographers covering the landings. But Capa was a star and everyone else was a part of the supporting cast...at least as far as the Time-Life group was concerned. You can do a net search and find lots of photos from the D-Day invasions. Most of them were better than Capa's.

I don't doubt Capa's bravery and talent. And I don't question his decision to return after only spending a short time with the invasion. But it does kinda feel wrong for so many excuses to have been made for his work in the years since D-Day when other photographers were making better photos and not getting the credit given to Capa.
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Old 02-18-2019   #18
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I really don’t discredit Capa for only snapping a few photos and getting the hell out of there. I respect ANY person willing to enter a combat zone for the sole purpose of recording the history of something remarkably terrifying. It serves a purpose as both a reminder of our history as well as to reflect on how fortunate most viewers are that they will never experience the horror of war. In the end, to me it doesn’t really matter whether he took 100+ or only 8 photos. Still had more guts than I do, that’s for sure. I just simply found the article an interesting read and felt that people here might like to have a look.
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Old 02-18-2019   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dogman View Post
If I remember correctly there were a number of other photographers, especially armed forces photographers covering the landings. But Capa was a star and everyone else was a part of the supporting cast...at least as far as the Time-Life group was concerned. You can do a net search and find lots of photos from the D-Day invasions. Most of them were better than Capa's.

I don't doubt Capa's bravery and talent. And I don't question his decision to return after only spending a short time with the invasion. But it does kinda feel wrong for so many excuses to have been made for his work in the years since D-Day when other photographers were making better photos and not getting the credit given to Capa.
Yes there were other photographers - including the unheralded ones who deserve better - enlisted photographers tasked with recording events. And I really do agree they deserve better recognition. But of the photos I have seen the Normandy battle there are few that were made when the bullets were actually flying. Unlike Capa's iconic images.

Many other images were made in the Higgins Boats, going in, or in the aftermath as aid was rendered to the injured, prisoners were taken or bodies were being tagged. All important to record But it's not quite so hard to make sharp photos when not threatened by imminent death. But all of this kind of misses the point. Capa's images are famous because they were made in the duress of battle and somehow their blurriness added to the immediacy. However that happened.
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Old 02-18-2019   #20
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Originally Posted by peterm1 View Post
..revisionist "historians" with an agenda setting out to pull down people ..
Yes this is unfortunately common.

Interesting article nevertheless, thanks for op letting us know about it.
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Old 02-18-2019   #21
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Originally Posted by PRJ View Post
He got the glory but when it really counted he was a chicken s***.
Whoa, whoa! Did you read this article? Coleman admits that Capa may have been suffering from PTSD. I don't think it's appropriate to disparage Capa for leaving the battlefield so quickly because that's a real possibility (even though Coleman would proffer the alternative or simultaneous possibility that Capa just wanted to get out ASAP to meet the deadline).

Quote:
We must consider the possibility that he suffered from what they then called “shell shock” and we now call post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). But we must also consider the possibility that, even before setting forth that morning, Capa made a calculated decision to leave the battlefield at the first opportunity, in order to get his films to London in time to make the deadline for LIFE’s next issue; if he missed that deadline, any images of the landing would become old news and his effort and risks in making them would have been for naught.
Quote:
Originally Posted by PRJ View Post
If you want to study a true war photographer who didn't do it for personal glory, take a look at James Nachtwey.
Actually, Nachtwey is often criticized for marketing himself as a Christ figure with a white savior mentality. Coleman is solidly against all of this mythologizing about war photographers, which romanticizes the profession and contributes to vocational awe. The news industry then uses that to justify low wages and precarity since war photographers are doing it for its own sake.
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Old 02-18-2019   #22
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Only Capa and Bob Landry were accredited civilian photographers who landed with the first wav. Landry lost all his camera equipment as far as I know.

The Signal Photo Company Detachments material of the morning was lost as well.

Capa's photos are the only stuff that survived from the initial landing.

That's why most of the footage we see of Omaha Beach is from later in the day from cameramen and photographers coming in with later waves.

It was so bad for the news reel agencies, they resorted to using footage from the days after as well. Look up "D-Day Rescue" for example. This was actually filmed and photographed on D+1.
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Old 02-18-2019   #23
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Old 02-18-2019   #24
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*Hugs all his Contax II cameras and Rolleiflexes
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Old 02-18-2019   #25
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Quote:
Anyone who willingly went into battle armed only with a camera - including jumping from a plane with combat troops as Capa did later in Europe has my respect as a brave man. Truth is, I get heartily sick of revisionist "historians" with an agenda setting out to pull down people who unlike them were living their life under the gun, not sitting behind a desk, desperate to make a name for themselves by trying to poke holes in others' reputation.
Nice to see that response, and other similar comments. The parachute jump was with the 513 PIR on 24 March 1945.
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Old 02-18-2019   #26
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That was for Operation Varsity, yes.

There is also that photo of Capa in paratrooper kit carrying an Rolleiflex 'old standard' in North Africa in the lead up to Operation Husky, but he eventually did not jump into Sicily.
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Old 02-19-2019   #27
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I see no problem with the article other than that the wording doesn't make clear enough how speculative a lot of it is. Questioning assumed truths is good, especially if they are so implausible.
Any thoughts on how the negatives look? Is this softness actually something that happens when you melt the emulsion or is it motion blur (doesn't look typical to me), like someone suggested he might have use too low a shutter speed?
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Old 02-19-2019   #28
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The available light could have been significantly subdued by the smoke from the initial naval/aerial bombardment when the first wave went ashore. Daylight should otherwise have been sufficient around 6:30/7:00 AM.
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Old 02-19-2019   #29
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We’re missing the point here. It’s not about the fact that he was scared on the beach... I mean who the hell wouldn’t be? And he took a lot of risks in his career, he’s a braver man than me.

My issue is that his story that goes along with it has a huge number of holes in it. Why not just tell the truth? Everything you hear about this story in the media leads you to infer that he was in the first wave... clearly that is not the case. The real disappointment for me is that the shot which I thought were the heavy action on d-day were in fact after the beach had all but been cleared.
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Old 02-19-2019   #30
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Agreed, and as azain mentioned above, Coleman is addressing the mythology surrounding these pictures. I'd consider it his exercise in fact finding and I don't see anything wrong with it.
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Old 02-19-2019   #31
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Do you want to know why you don't see any photos of combat when bullets are flying by actual US military photographers? It's because we all have rifles or we are on mortar platoons or we are manning a crew-served weapon. While we are in combat our first job is as a Rifleman to protect ourselves and our fellow squad members. Once everybody can raise their heads because the machine gun fire and the bombardment has stopped is when we get to take photos. A large number of those photos, if they are not classified, are boring. Military photographers are out there in the field as insurance claims agents.
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Old 02-19-2019   #32
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Quote:
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Do you want to know why you don't see any photos of combat when bullets are flying by actual US military photographers? It's because we all have rifles or we are on mortar platoons or we are manning a crew-served weapon.
Uh, I am going to heavily disagree with you there, Phil. There are plenty of actual combat photos from signal photo company units on assignment in WW2.
Combat engineers were soldiers first and engineers second. Not so the Signal Corps Photographer/Cameraman. Yes they carried side-arms or a carbine at the max, but theirs was not the job to fight.

...Okay, a lot of San Pietro was staged.... I'll give you that.
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Old 02-19-2019   #33
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I'll have to add the caveat that I am speaking about post-Vietnam era photographers. Even the now defunct COMCAM was an armed squad that participated in tactics alongside the SF and regular units they were supporting.
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Old 02-19-2019   #34
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Two of my friends served with the Navy's Combat Camera units before their disestablishment last year.

I confess I'm not up to snuff on the Post-Vietnam era and how military photographers were deployed in the field since then. But from your response I take it it is very much unlike the 4-man assignment teams trailing after the Armies as they spread across Europe and Asia during WW2.
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Old 02-19-2019   #35
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Seems to me that Capa was a serial liar. Even made up his name. Faked shots. Stole credit from Taro. He got the glory but when it really counted he was a chicken s***. So much for "if your pictures aren't good enough, you aren't close enough."

That’s my impression as well. BS artist


The image of the Spanish fighter falling is a farce.
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Old 02-19-2019   #36
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Agreed, and as azain mentioned above, Coleman is addressing the mythology surrounding these pictures. I'd consider it his exercise in fact finding and I don't see anything wrong with it.
Peter, in part I agree with you except that a lot of the writer's alternatives "facts" seem to me to be based on wobbly evidence and outright conjecture.

For example his assertion that Capa in fact went in on the 13th wave, considerably after the first couple of waves as Capa claimed and so instead was landed around 8.15 am. But (an admittedly fairly cursory) examination of readily available information suggests instead that Company E of the 16th Infantry Regiment, U.S. 1st Division (the Company which Capa was accompanying) was landed around 6.40 am. Pretty much just as Capa claimed - though not in the first wave strictly speaking.

e.g. One published report also states: " At approximately 0710 hours, Company G was ordered to move forward toward the front and managed to infiltrate thru a narrow gap between the mine fields between the shingle mound and the cliff overlooking the beach. The section of Company E, 16th Infantry, under command of 2nd Lieutenant Spalding and remnants of two sections from Company E, 116th Infantry, were those troops pinned down at the base of the cliff."
http://www.americandday.org/Document...y-Account.html

Clearly this suggests that Easy Company, 16th Infantry landed amongst the early waves of assault troops otherwise that section would not be in the above place at that time. The other evidence suggesting this is that Capa's photos pretty clearly indicate that the tide was out (the German metal stakes were in no more than a few inches of water). Which I believe was the case during early morning on D Day - the army wanted to go at high tide but this was not possible for a variety of powerful reasons including the presence of obstacles topped by mines which would be submerged at high tide and hence unable to be avoided. So instead they went a little after low tide which also happened to be around dawn and thus a better time on those grounds alone.

Furthermore, some of the writer's claims about Capa, which come across sounding suspiciously like innuendo, is "backed up" by rhetoric like this:

"Using distinctive landmarks visible in Capa’s photos, Charles Herrick has pinpointed exactly where Capa landed on Easy Red: the beach at Colleville-sur-Mer. Gap Assault Team 10 had charge of the obstacles in that sector. An existing exit off this sector made it possible to reach the top of the bluffs with relative ease. Col. Taylor would become famous for announcing to the hesitant troops he found there, “Two kinds of people are staying on this beach, the dead and those who are going to die — now let’s get the hell out of here......"

Relative ease? The first sentence in that quote is contradicted by the second - Col Taylor's very words make it perfectly clear that the fight at Colleville-sur-Mer was anything but a walk though. And my memory from reading about D Day (though I have not gone back to those sources to check) is that this Colleville-sur-Mer exit point referred to here was strongly defended by heavily fortified bunkers for obvious reasons - such exit points always are because they are obvious points of attack.

Overall the flavor of the article I get is that the author seems to be trying to suggest that Capa was playing fast and loose with the truth and was not as brave as history records and needs to be debunked. Well, I acknowledge that Capa did sometimes exaggerate but here's the thing. His photos are real. And they do not show men strolling ashore against weak or no resistance. I have NEVER heard any account of Omaha beach that claims that even after the first couple of hours of fighting. The key facts of his story are real enough - though Capa did later in his bio say he went in, in the first wave. Which could be braggadocio, or its could be him mis remembering, or it could be him deciding to stick with the story already described in Life's interpretation. So what - that reasoning is like splitting hairs or asking how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

And as to the writer's claims about what Life said regarding the images, anyone who has ever written a book or article (hell anyone who has ever read a book or article) knows that you never take entirely seriously what editors add or subtract from the story or put in captions - I doubt very much that even Capa had editorial control over the captions on his images. So I am not willing to be so readily critical of Capa as some here because in the heat of battle or after the passage of years he got some details wrong - or the magazine did.

I suppose it is hyperbole to ask (but I cannot stop my self from asking anyway): What next, claims that Capa downloaded his photos from the internet? OK that's hyperbolic and I retract it. But I enjoyed saying it anyway.
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Old 02-19-2019   #37
goamules
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I skimmed it, and found lots of stawman arguments and other flawed logic. Life is too short to read this guys hyperbole about "myths" and his smugness about punishing a former American hero. Interestingly, the SPE that brings this article, also has a conference this summer titled “The Myths of Photography and the American Dream" which explains how all the evils of 20th Century America can be blamed on conspiratorial photographers over the generations. Tripe, and I'm not wasting any more time with this article.
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Old 02-19-2019   #38
peterm1
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Quote:
Originally Posted by goamules View Post
I skimmed it, and found lots of stawman arguments and other flawed logic. Life is too short to read this guys hyperbole about "myths" and his smugness about punishing a former American hero. Interestingly, the SPE that brings this article, also has a conference this summer titled “The Myths of Photography and the American Dream" which explains how all the evils of 20th Century America can be blamed on conspiratorial photographers over the generations. Tripe, and I'm not wasting any more time with this article.
Agreed. We live in a time where people love to pull down heros as well as push the kind of line you suggest.
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Old 02-19-2019   #39
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Methinks it's understandable Capa was in and out as fast as he could, to provide least some photographic material for such a historic event. After he had sent first rolls for developing, he had better time to continue working, and returned back across the channel.

"Disaster in drying cabin", article writer seems to know all the equipment and procedures that Life staff had been using, when doors supposed to be open and when closed, how their films would react to over heating and so on. Am bit hesitant to take his word for it, even after reading article more carefully.

That said, would not be surprised if there wasn't some "legend building" over the decades by parties who benefited from it.
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Old 02-20-2019   #40
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The bit about Magnum knocking up some dodgy frames is a bit worrying, especially in the light of them having done a few things that stray past the line of truth in recent years.
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