One Of The World’s Greatest Photo Myths…Busted?

One Of The World’s Greatest Photo Myths…Busted?

You don’t have to be into photojournalism or documentary photography to know that Robert Capa was one of the seminal names in 20th century photography. The last few years however, have seen various accusations surface that his iconic photo “Falling Soldier” - apparently showing the moment of death of a Spanish solider - was set up. This week new evidence came to light that might once and for all confirm the true story behind one of the most debated images of all time.

As one of the three founders of Magnum, he and his agency’s name are synonymous with some of the greatest photography of the last 65 years. But in recent years, new doubts have begun to surface over the validity of the origins of the 'Falling Solider' image, and to question whether or not it was real or had been set up.

Capa was tragically killed in Vietnam in 1954, doing what he did best, shooting for Life Magazine covering the First Indochina War. That has meant, of course, that Capa has never been able to confirm or deny the origins of how he took this shot. Until now.

This week, the International Center for Photography in New York released long lost audio recordings that have recently been found and are being hosted on the ICP page at that link.

For anyone having difficulty finding the audio recordings on that ICP page that I've linked - please click the following link to open the audio player that is on the ICP page in a new browser window

http://www.icp.org/sites/default/files/capa100_112.ogg

The audio interview has Capa talking in 1947 about the story behind how he captured his Falling Solider image (skip to 11mins 22secs to hear him talk about this specifically). I won't give away any spoilers for anyone who wants to hear first hand, but needless to say, I was very surprised to hear how he captured one of the most iconic images of all time!

Whether this busts the myth that the image was faked remains to be seen. It’s still fascinating to be able to hear Capa talk about this image and how it was taken. What is certainly true is the great work Capa captured over the years, the incredible story of how he made a name for himself and how he founded Magnum, and the unfortunate and tragic story of his death (he’d ironically decided to hang up his war photography camera some years prior to going to cover this story). If you don’t know about him, I would certainly recommend checking out some of the links here and reading up on what is certainly one of the greats of the last century.

The ICP is celebrating the 100th anniversary of Capa’s birth, where you can read more about his work and the celebration of his achievements.

Image Credit [ICP/Robert Capa/Magnum Photos]

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24 Comments

This is poor, F-Stoppers. Empty article. You mention recordings on how he captured the image. Well? What did he say? At least put a link to what was said in the recordings. Otherwise, this is just a non-story.

David Geffin's picture

Check the link please because the audio is embedded on the ICP's 100th anniversary site (i've referenced the specific time point in the interview for those that want to skip straight to it)

I've clicked on the link to ICP and I just can't find the link to the audio. I'm sure it's right in front of my nose, but can you please point it out?

Click on audio recording , its underlined in the article . http://www.icp.org/robert-capa-100 Its on the right side of page i was able to right click and play .

Well, at least I know I'm not going insane! ;) It was there, but it was invisible! With your direction I was able to right click where you suggested and all of a sudden it popped up! Thanks so much!

David Geffin's picture

no worries, for some reason even thought i thought it was quite straight forward, the link to the audio file seems to be eluding people.

I've updated the article to provide a direct link to the ICP's audio file to make it easier, hopefully that helps. Enjoy hearing Capa talk :)

How would this "bust the myth that the image was faked"? The theory and some evidence suggest that he faked it but if he said he didn't, then we should take his word for it?

there is no evidence that it was faked.. stop telling BS.

I didn't write that it was faked. I wrote that some evidence suggest that it could've been faked. Such as the photo not being taken where it was claimed, that no fighting (to our knowledge) was going on that day and the negatives being gone, etc. NOTE that I've not said that these are proof that the photo was faked, these are just evidence suggesting that the photo could be faked.

AGAIN - I'm not saying it was faked. I'm saying there are evidence suggesting that the photo COULD'VE been faked and taking his word for it doesn't make these problems go away. However, there might be other explanations!

Capa was undoubtedly a great photographer but as a liar he was even greater. Great deal of his early career has been a lie to be able to sell his work for more money - he admits this himself in the very same interview just published.
This may suggest he could also make up the fabulous story of shooting the fallen soldier with his camera held above his head. After all this interview is a promotion his (then newly published) autobiography novel Slightly out of Focus. Which is by the way admittedly "overcoloring" his adventures and he says it has only some connection to the facts that really happened, but not the full facts in its reality - yet it is a brilliant book and really worth reading it and I can't wait when someone will make a movie of it.

But all this does not solve the mystery of the fallen soldier. It may or may not be fake - or at least miscaptioned. Possibly we will never know without a time machine.

Julia Kuzmenko McKim's picture

I had to do a research and a presentation on Capa's life and work in the first year of my Photography course, and I just need to find that presentation in my archives, but what Attila said pretty much sums it all up.

And I thought it was already clear years ago that those photos were faked.

David Geffin's picture

hi Julia i would love to see your presentation/research, please share with us if you find it and are happy to do so!

As far as i know, there has been talk for many years about the possibility of this shot being set up, but i don't think there is still any 100% conclusive proof, could be wrong?

I do know that Capa was a pretty colorful person, both in life generally and with being liberal with the truth, so who knows. I agree, Atilla summed it up pretty well - without a time machine, we're probably never going to get the full facts behind this image.

Just a correction. Capa was killed by a land mine in what is now Vietnam not Japan.

I agree- a correction is in order. Capa took his last assignment while in Japan. But, the assignment was carried out in what is now Vietnam. http://www.magnumphotos.com/C.aspx?VP3=CMS3&VF=MAGO31_9_VForm&ER...

David Geffin's picture

thanks Ad Ro, correction made

Yes, it could be a faked but, in the interview he stated that he was in a fox hole with the camera over his head and three months later he seen the one photo that made them famous. Or maybe what happened was he took one photo the soldier getting shout. Then soldiers dragged the body in the fox hole and another soldier ran in the same place Robert Capa another photo but, I'm just speculating and so are you. Don't beat a dead photographer he can not defend him self. And he not shooting with camera that shoots at 11fps or autofocus.

just as claims of fake imagery, there will also be claim of fake audio.

Humans can not stand it when there is no conspiracy to fan.

I just realise that Capa died shooting for Life, that's quite a paradox.

It isn't a paradox. It's ironic.

You're right, thanks.

Felipe Zabala's picture

Some proofreading is required:

"Capa talk about this image and he it was taken"

I remember clearly when the news about this photo being fake broke out, I read that one of the "evidence" given was that the soldier was facing the other way. They analyzed the photo closely and said that the background was where his enemies were, so why was he facing the other way round when he was falling?

After listening to this radio interview, it makes sense now. Capa said that the soldier was shooting for 5 minutes before he decided to charge forward and coming back to position again. And the soldier did that for 2 - 3 times. The forth time Capa decided to shoot from above his head without looking, and the falling soldier was captured probably when he was coming back to his position.