Upper Galleries

This Is War! Robert Capa at Work

Barbican Art Gallery, London

17 October 2008 – 25 January 2009

Media View: 16 October, 11am – 2pm

At the heart of Robert Capa's lifework are his great images of war.
This book examines in detail six of Capa's most important war reportages from the first half of his career: the Falling Soldier (1936),
Chinese resistance to the Japanese invasion (1938), the end of the Spanish Civil War in Catalonia (November 1938 - January 1939),
D-day (1944), the U.S. paratroop invasion of Germany (March 1945), and the liberation of Leipzig (April 1945).
A chapter will be devoted to each of the reportages, with extensive historical
and  biographical text from Richard Whelan's thorough revision and enlargement of his definitive biography of Capa, first published in 1985.
Each section will be profusely illustrated by largely unseen original materials such as vintage prints,
contact sheets, caption sheets, letters, and magazine layouts, all drawn from the vast Robert Capa Archive
at the International Center of Photography.
The book's introduction will be a major essay by Whelan about Capa and the rise of the picture press in Europe and America.


Richard Whelan in "This Is War! Robert Capa at Work" scrive testualmente:

"The image, known as Death of a Loyalist militiaman or simply The Falling Soldier,
has become almost universally recognized as one of the greatest war photographs ever made (fig. 40).
The photograph has also generated a great deal of controversy. In recent years,
it has been alleged that Capa staged the scene,
a charge that has forced me to undertake a fantastic amount of research over the course of two decades. (Nota 3)

I have wrestled with the dilemma of how to deal with a photograph
that one believes to be genuine but that one cannot know with absolute
certainty to be a truthful documentation.

What does one do with a photograph that is now often published

with a caption mentioning the doubts that have been raised about its  authenticity ?

Has the taint of suspicion rendered it permanently impotent ?

Will Capa's photograph have to be relegated to the dustbin of history ?

As I will attempt to demonstrate here, the truth concerning The Falling
Soldier is neither black nor white. It is neither a photograph of a man
pretending to have been shot, nor an image made during what we would
normally consider the heat of battle."

 Richard Whelan ci ha citato in ben 3 note:

"3 For a review of the debates and evidence both pro and con, see the
comprehensive dossier compiled by photography critic Luca Pagni
Proponents of the argument that The Falling Soldier was faked include
Phillip Knightley (to be discussed below) and Caroline Brothers;
for the latter, see her War and Photography: A Cultural History (London:
Routledge, 1997), pp. 178-84."


"23 Francisco Moreno Gómez, La Guerra Civil en Córdoba (1936-1939), 2d ed.
(Madrid: Editorial Alpuerto, 1986). Ed. note:
Richard Whelan was in the process of rethinking this text in light of new information when he died in May 2007,
and the editors have here supplemented his argument with relevant documentation.
Unfortunately, despite Brotóns's claim, no such conclusive evidence of the date and place of Borrell's death,
much less that he was the only member of the Columna Alcoyana to die on September 5, 1936,
has been found, by either Brotóns or other interested historians.
It does not exist, as previously thought, in Moreno Gómez's study.
Subsequent research in other archives has likewise produced no official documentation of Borrell's death.
For example, photo historian Luca Pagni has contacted and received negative responses from several archives,
including the Archivo General Militar in Madrid and in Segovia;


See also
for the views of another Alcoy historian, Miguel Pascual Mira, who believes that Federico Borrell
was killed at Cerro Muriano on September 5, 1936, but has been unable to locate supporting documentation in any archive.
Nevertheless, strong circumstantial evidence does support the identification of Federico Borrell García as Capa's falling soldier,
and the date and place of his death as September 5, 1936, at Cerro Muriano."


"25 See"



Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Dear Luca:

You ask what I think of the catalogue.

I feel sorry for Wheelan who spent the last years of his life trying to prove the “moment of death” photograph was real,
putting forward increasingly desperate and far-fetched theories, most of which collapsed around him.
(see the Borrell-Brotons affair)

In contrast I have one theory which remains unshaken. Capa posed the photograph, a not unusual practice at that time, and indeed since.
He sent it off to Paris where Vu used it with a caption which made it clear the photograph was meant to be symbolic.
Neither Capa nor Vu made any claim that it was the “moment of death”.

Nine months passes. Life, looking around for a photograph to mark the first anniversary of the war,
dug out the Capa one and someone  wrote a new caption that changed the photograph utterly:
“Robert Capa’s camera catches a  Spanish soldier the instant he is dropped by a bullet through the head in front of Cordoba.”

Life has refused to say who wrote the caption so we don’t know who provided the information on which it is based,
but I doubt whether it was Capa because he had not previously made such a claim for it.

It created a sensation and Capa was suddenly famous. What was Capa to do ?

I understand his dilemma. Should he have jumped up and down and shouted,

“No. No. You've got it wrong. It's not real ?”

Or just have kept quiet, telling himself that the fuss had nothing to do with him ?

He kept quiet and told contradictory and sometimes ludicrous stories to anyone who asked him how he came to take the photograph,
including one account in which he said he took it without looking, sent the film to Paris undeveloped,
and was  surprised to discover that the random  snapshot was the famous “moment of death” .

All this wouldn’t really matter except there has to be something wrong with the values of a journalistic world
that accepts as an important image a photograph that so clearly depends on the caption for its authentication.


Phillip Knightley



Folco Quilici parla anche del "Miliziano che cade"  © Luca Pagni, Roma 26 settembre 2008



Robert Capa


ecco le valige segrete

Recuperati in Messico 3.500 negativi

Dopo questa eccezionale scoperta, appena annunciata dal The New York Times,

cercheremo di capire la vera storia della foto "Il miliziano che cade".

Allo studio della foto e delle sue possibili verità  storiche, abbiamo dedicato le pagine web:
(domenica 27 gennaio 2008 - Mondo - pagina 17 - Traduzione di Anna Bissanti)

The New York Times

January 27, 2008

The Capa Cache

TO the small group of photography experts aware of its existence, it was known simply as “the Mexican suitcase.”
And in the pantheon of lost modern cultural treasures, it was surrounded by the same mythical aura as Hemingway’s early manuscripts,
which vanished from a train station in 1922.

The suitcase — actually three flimsy cardboard valises — contained thousands of negatives of pictures that Robert Capa, one of the pioneers of modern war photography, took during the Spanish Civil War before he fled Europe for America in 1939, leaving behind the contents of his Paris darkroom.

Capa assumed that the work had been lost during the Nazi invasion, and he died in 1954 on assignment in Vietnam still thinking so. But in 1995 word began to spread that the negatives had somehow survived, after taking a journey worthy of a John le Carré novel: Paris to Marseille and then, in the hands of a Mexican general and diplomat who had served under Pancho Villa, to Mexico City.

And that is where they remained hidden for more than half a century until last month, when they made what will most likely be their final trip, to the International Center of Photography in Midtown Manhattan, founded by Robert Capa’s brother, Cornell. After years of quiet, fitful negotiations over what should be their proper home, legal title to the negatives was recently transferred to the Capa estate by descendants of the general, including a Mexican filmmaker who first saw them in the 1990s and soon realized the historical importance of what his family had.

“This really is the holy grail of Capa work,” said Brian Wallis, the center’s chief curator, who added that besides the Capa negatives, the cracked, dust-covered boxes had also been found to contain Spanish Civil War images by Gerda Taro, Robert Capa’s partner professionally and at one time personally, and by David Seymour, known as Chim, who went on to found the influential Magnum photo agency with Capa.

The discovery has sent shock waves through the photography world, not least because it is hoped that the negatives could settle once and for all a question that has dogged Capa’s legacy: whether what may be his most famous picture — and one of the most famous war photographs of all time — was staged. Known as “The Falling Soldier,” it shows a Spanish Republican militiaman reeling backward at what appears to be the instant a bullet strikes his chest or head on a hillside near Córdoba in 1936. When the picture was first published in the French magazine Vu, it created a sensation and helped crystallize support for the Republican cause.

Though the Capa biographer Richard Whelan made a persuasive case that the photograph was not faked, doubts have persisted. In part this is because Capa and Taro made no pretense of journalistic detachment during the war — they were Communist partisans of the loyalist cause — and were known to photograph staged maneuvers, a common practice at the time. A negative of the shot has never been found (it has long been reproduced from a vintage print), and the discovery of one, especially in the original sequence showing all the images taken before and after the shot, could end the debate.

But the discovery is being hailed as a huge event for more than forensic reasons. This is the formative work of a photographer who, in a century defined by warfare, played a pivotal role in defining how war was seen, bringing its horrors nearer than ever — “If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough” was his mantra — yet in the process rendering it more cinematic and unreal. (Capa, not surprisingly, later served a stint in Hollywood, befriending directors like Howard Hawks and romancing Ingrid Bergman.)

Capa practically invented the image of the globe-trotting war photographer, with a cigarette appended to the corner of his mouth and cameras slung over his fatigues. His fearlessness awed even his soldier subjects, and between battles he hung out with Hemingway and Steinbeck and usually drank too much, seeming to pull everything off with panache. William Saroyan wrote that he thought of Capa as “a poker player whose sideline was picture-taking.”

In a Warholian way that seems only to increase his contemporary allure, he also more or less invented himself. Born Endre Friedmann in Hungary, he and Taro, whom he met in Paris, cooked up the persona of Robert Capa — they billed him as “a famous American photographer” — to help them get assignments. He then proceeded to embody the fiction and make it true. (Taro, a German whose real name was Gerta Pohorylle, died in Spain in 1937 in a tank accident while taking pictures.)

Curators at the International Center of Photography, who have begun a months-long effort to conserve and catalog the newly discovered work, say the full story of how the negatives, some 3,500 of them, made their way to Mexico may never be known.

In 1995 Jerald R. Green, a professor at Queens College, part of the City University of New York, received a letter from a Mexico City filmmaker who had just seen an exhibition of Spanish Civil War photographs sponsored in part by the college. He wrote that he had recently come into possession of an archive of nitrate negatives that had been his aunt’s, inherited from her father, Gen. Francisco Aguilar Gonzalez, who died in 1967. The general had been stationed as a diplomat in the late 1930s in Marseille, where the Mexican government, a supporter of the Republican cause, had begun helping antifascist refugees from Spain immigrate to Mexico.

From what experts have been able to piece together from archives and the research of Mr. Whelan, the biographer (who died last year), Capa apparently asked his darkroom manager, a Hungarian friend and photographer named Imre Weisz, known as Cziki, to save his negatives in 1939 or 1940, when Capa was in New York and feared his work would be destroyed.

Mr. Weisz is believed to have taken the valises to Marseille, but was arrested and sent to an internment camp in Algiers. At some point the negatives ended up with General Aguilar Gonzalez, who carried them to Mexico, where he died in 1967. It is unclear whether the general knew who had taken the pictures or what they showed; but if he did, he appears never to have tried to contact Capa or Mr. Weisz, who coincidentally ended up living the rest of his life in Mexico City, where he married the Surrealist painter Leonora Carrington. (Mr. Weisz died recently, in his 90s; Mr. Whelan interviewed him for his 1985 biography of Capa but did not elicit any information about the lost negatives.)

“It does seem strange in retrospect that there weren’t more efforts to locate these things,” Mr. Wallis said. “But I think they just gave them up. They were lost in the war, like so many things.”

When the photography center learned that the work might exist, it contacted the Mexican filmmaker and requested their return. But letters and phone conversations ended with no commitments, said Phillip S. Block, the center’s deputy director for programs, who added that he and others were not even sure at the beginning if the filmmaker’s claims were true, because no one had been shown the negatives. (Saying that the return of the negatives was a collective decision of the Aguilar Gonzalez family, the filmmaker asked not to be identified in this article and declined to be interviewed for it.)

Meetings with the man were scheduled, but he would fail to appear. “And then communications broke off completely for who knows what reason,” Mr. Block said. Efforts were made from time to time, unsuccessfully, to re-establish contact. But when the center began to organize new shows of Capa and Taro’s war photography, which opened last September, it decided to try again, hoping that images from the early negatives could be incorporated into the shows.

“He was never seeking money,” Mr. Wallis said of the filmmaker. “He just seemed to really want to make sure that these went to the right place.”

Frustrated, the center enlisted the help of a curator and scholar, Trisha Ziff, who has lived in Mexico City for many years. After working for weeks simply to track down the reclusive man, she began what turned out to be almost a year of discussions about the negatives.

“It wasn’t that he couldn’t let go of this,” said Ms. Ziff, interviewed by phone from Los Angeles, where she is completing a documentary about the widely reproduced image of Che Guevara based on a photograph by Alberto Korda.

“I think it was that no one before me had thought this through in the way that something this sensitive needs to be thought through,” she said. The filmmaker worried in part that people in Mexico might be critical of the negatives’ departure to the United States, regarding the images as part of their country’s deep historical connection to the Spanish Civil War. “One had to respect and honor the dilemma he was in,” she said.

In the end Ms. Ziff persuaded him to relinquish the work — “I suppose one could describe me as tenacious,” she said — while also securing a promise from the photography center to allow the filmmaker to use Capa images for a documentary he would like to make about the survival of the negatives, their journey to Mexico and his family’s role in saving them.

“I see him quite regularly,” Ms. Ziff said, “and I think he feels at peace about this now.”

In December, after two earlier good-faith deliveries of small numbers of negatives, the filmmaker finally handed Ms. Ziff the bulk of the work, and she carried it on a flight to New York herself.

“I wasn’t going to put it in a FedEx box,” she said.

“When I got these boxes it almost felt like they were vibrating in my hands,” she added. “That was the most amazing part for me.”

Mr. Wallis said that while conservation experts from the George Eastman House in Rochester are only now beginning to assess the condition of the film, it appears to be remarkably good for 70-year-old nitrate stock stored in what essentially looks like confectionery boxes.

“They seem like they were made yesterday,” he said. “They’re not brittle at all. They’re very fresh. We’ve sort of gingerly peeked at some of them just to get a sense of what’s on each roll.”

And discoveries have already been made from the boxes — one red, one green and one beige — whose contents appear to have been carefully labeled in hand-drawn grids made by Mr. Weisz or another studio assistant. Researchers have come across pictures of Hemingway and of Federico García Lorca.

The negative for one of Chim’s most famous Spanish Civil War photographs, showing a woman cradling a baby at her breast as she gazes up toward the speaker at a mass outdoor meeting in 1936, has also been found. “We were astonished to see it,” Mr. Wallis said. (The photograph, often seen as showing the woman worriedly scanning the skies for bombers, was mentioned by Susan Sontag in “Regarding the Pain of Others,” her 2003 reconsideration of ideas from her well-known treatise “On Photography,” a critical examination of images of war and suffering.)

The research could bring about a reassessment of the obscure career of Taro, one of the first female war photographers, and could lead to the determination that some pictures attributed to Capa are actually by her. The two worked closely together and labeled some of their early work with joint credit lines, sometimes making it difficult to establish authorship conclusively, Mr. Wallis said. He added that there was even a remote possibility that “The Falling Soldier” could be by Taro and not Capa.

“That’s another theory that’s been floated,” he said. “We just don’t know. To me that’s what’s so exciting about this material. There are so many questions and so many questions not even yet posed that they may answer.”

Ultimately, Mr. Wallis said, the discovery is momentous because it is the raw material from the birth of modern war photography itself.

“Capa established a mode and the method of depicting war in these photographs, of the photographer not being an observer but being in the battle, and that became the standard that audiences and editors from then on demanded,” he said. “Anything else, and it looked like you were just sitting on the sidelines. And that visual revolution he embodied took place right here, in these early pictures.”

Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company



Gli scatti del grande fotografo di guerra erano nella casa di un ex diplomatico messicano

Tra le pellicole scomparse 70 anni fa, la Caduta del soldato scattata a Cordoba

Robert Capa, ecco le valige segrete

Recuperati in Messico mille negativi


<B>Robert Capa, ecco le valige segrete<br>Recuperati in Messico mille negativi</B>

Robert Capa in una foto di Ruth Orkin scattata a Parigi nel 1952

WASHINGTON - Secondo la leggenda, il negativo del miliziano spagnolo ucciso a Cordoba durante la guerra civile, fu dimenticato da Robert Capa in una camera oscura di Parigi e da allora se ne erano perse le tracce. Dopo 70 anni, l'Internation Center of Photography di Manhattan ha recupeto il negativo. E insieme alla Caduta del soldato, altre migliaia di pellicole sono riemerse dall'oblio. Erano in tre valige custodite a Città del Messico nella casa che fu di un ex diplomatico messicano che combattè ai tempi del generale Pancho Villa.

L'ufficializzazione del ritrovamento riportata oggi sul New York Times, ha messo in fibrillazione l'intero mondo della fotografia. Si spera che i negativi possano permettere di stabilire, una volta per tutte, se la famosa immagine del miliziano che muore sia stato o no uno scatto autentico. In questi anni non sono mancate le polemiche circa l'autenticità di quella foto. C'è stato pure chi ha sostenuto che lo scatto fosse stato "costruito".


Robert Capa è considerato il pioniere della fotografia di guerra e più in generale uno dei capisaldi della storia della fotografia del XX secolo. Il suo motto era: "Se le tue foto non sono abbastanza buone è perchè non sei abbastanza vicino".

Un altro grande fotografo, Henri Cartier-Bresson, lo definì "un avventuriero con un'etica". Capa, di avventure, ne ha attraversate molte, da quando se ne è andato a diciassette anni, nel 1930, dalla sua tranquilla posizione di figlio della borghesia ungherese diventando, da Endre Friedman che era, Robert Capa. Ha solo venticinque anni quando scatta le sue famose undici foto dalla Spagna repubblicana in guerra pubblicate appunto da Picture Post.

Tra molte birre e molti gin, tra molti amici meravigliosi e molte guerre, Capa nel 1938 è in Indocina a fotografare la resistenza del popolo cinese contro l'invasione giapponese; poi di nuovo in Spagna, e in Francia. Emigrò pure negli Stati Uniti, dove gli negano il passaporto ma lo mandano a documentare lo sbarco in Normandia.

E' sua la foto del contadino che indica al soldato americano appena sbarcato in Sicilia, la strada che hanno preso i tedechi in ritirata. Infine il Vietnam, e la mina che, nel '54, uccide Capa a soli quarant'anni.

(26 gennaio 2008)

(ANSA) 2008-01-26 18:00

Scoperta valigia segreta di Capa
In Messico migliaia di negativi sulla Guerra civile spagnola
(ANSA) - WASHINGTON, 26 gen - E' tornata alla luce la 'valigia' segreta di Robert Capa, considerato il piu' grande fotografo di guerra del XX secolo. Le tre valige erano custodite a Citta' del Messico, tra i possedimenti di un diplomatico messicano che aveva combattuto ai tempi del generale Pancho Villa. Contengono migliaia di negativi di fotografie che Robert Capa scatto' durante la Guerra Civile spagnola prima di lasciare l'Europa per trasferirsi in America nel 1939.,13913699.html


Foto inedite ritrovate in valigette custodite in Messico

postato 6 ore fa da APCOM

Madrid, 27 gen. (Apcom) - Per gli storici e appassionati di fotografia è uno dei regali più insperati e proprio per questo più belli. Il ritrovamento di centinaia di foto del pioniere spagnolo Robert Capa, che immortalò le fasi della guerra civile spagnola, sono "il ritrovamento del santo Graal della fotografia", come ha detto Brian Wallis, direttore del centro internazionale di fotografia di New York.

I negativi erano conservati in tre valigie custodite in un luogo imprecisato di Città del Messico, tra i possedimenti di un ex diplomatico messicano che aveva addirittura combattuto ai tempi del generale Pancho Villa. A rivelarlo il quotidiano spagnolo 'El Periodico'. Le fotografie erano state affidate al generale messicano Francisco Javier Aguilar Gonzalez nel 1940 quindi dimenticate e ritrovate negli anni '90, dopo la morte del generale, dai suoi eredi senza che questi ne riconoscessero il valore artistico.

È soltanto nel dicembre 2007, che i negativi sono stati inviati al centro internazionale di fotografia di New York, fondato dal fratello di Capa, Cornell, consentendo di allargare la collezione fotografica a 3.500 unità.

January 25, 2008

Images of History, Recovered

Thousands of negatives taken by Robert Capa and others during the Spanish Civil War, long thought to be lost forever, have resurfaced.

To the small group of photography experts aware of its existence, it was known simply as “the Mexican suitcase.” And in the pantheon of lost modern cultural treasures, it was surrounded by the same mythical aura as Hemingway’s early manuscripts, which vanished from a train station in 1922.

The suitcase — actually three flimsy cardboard valises — contained thousands of negatives of pictures that Robert Capa, one of the pioneers of modern war photography, took during the Spanish Civil War before he fled Europe for America in 1939, leaving behind the contents of his Paris darkroom.

Photo: Tony Cenicola/The New York Times


Robert Capa, Death of a Loyalist Militiaman, Cerro Muriano, Córdoba front, Spain, September 5, 1936, Gelatin silver print © Cornell Capa International Center of Photography


“The Falling Soldier” by Robert Capa

The discovery has sent shock waves through the photography world, not least because it is hoped that the negatives could settle once and for all a question that has dogged Capa’s legacy: whether what may be his most famous picture — and one of the most famous war photographs of all time — was staged. Known as “The Falling Soldier,” it shows a Spanish Republican militiaman reeling backward at what appears to be the instant a bullet strikes his chest or head on a hillside near Córdoba in 1936. When the picture was first published in the French magazine Vu, it created a sensation and helped crystallize support for the Republican cause.

Doubts about the photograph have persisted. In part this is because Capa made no pretense of journalistic detachment during the war and was known to photograph staged maneuvers, a common practice at the time. The discovery of a negative, especially in the original sequence showing all the images taken before and after the shot, could end the debate.

Photo: Robert Capa/I.C.P. Collection



Mostre e Cultura

Il tesoro dimenticato di Robert Capa (e degli altri reporter)
di  Gian Antonio Orighi


 Il famoso fotografo immortalò alcune scene della Guerra civil.

Usava l'obiettivo come un'arma.

Il suo segreto: stare vicino agli avvenimenti.

Ecco alcune foto inedite. 

Al primo piano di un moderno condominio di calle Olimpo, nella periferia nord-est di Madrid, tra i fondi dell'archivio storico del Partito comunista spagnolo (Pce) giace sepolto da un oblio che dura dal '77 un tesoro. Racchiuse in due semplici buste marroni ci sono 27 foto in bianco e nero straordinarie. Panorama, per la prima volta, ha accertato che 15 di esse, poco conosciute e quasi mai pubblicate, sono state scattate da Robert Capa, il più grande fotoreporter di guerra di tutti i tempi. Tutti gli scatti sono stati fatti con la celeberrima Leica, la macchina 24 x 36 della ottica tedesca Leitz.

Il tema è la Guerra civil del 1936-39, conflitto fratricida che insanguinò la Spagna dopo il golpe del generale Francisco Franco contro il governo del Fronte popolare, liberamente uscito dalle urne, della II repubblica. Un conflitto che anticipò la Seconda guerra mondiale, a cui parteciparono, a fianco del Caudillo, l'Italia di Benito Mussolini e la Germania di Adolf Hitler. E che costò alla Spagna 400 mila morti e 80 mila vittime nella bestiale repressione postbellica; la dittatura durò dal 1939 al '75.

Dalla parte dei repubblicani, oltre all'Un
ione Sovietica di Stalin, «voluntarios por la libertad» antifranchisti provenienti da tutto il mondo (tra cui molti italiani, dai comunisti

Palmiro Togliatti e Vittorio Vidali al socialista Pietro Nenni, dal repubblicano Randolfo Pacciardi al socialliberale Carlo Rosselli) che ingrossarono le file dei 35 mila uomini, di 50 paesi, che composero le Brigate internazionali di Enrique Lister e di Dolores Ibarruri, la Pasionaria (leader comunista del famoso slogan «No pasarán») e i suoi battaglioni, dal nostro Garibaldi all'americano Lincoln.


La guerra civile fu il battesimo di fuoco che rese celebre l'ebreo ungherese di Budapest Endre Enrö Friedman, classe 1913, ribattezzato «Bandi» nella sua città natale. «Nel '36, quando sbarcava il lunario a Parigi, agli inizi della carriera, si trasformò in Robert Capa, generalità di un fotografo americano immaginario inventate con la sua compagna tedesca (il grande amore della sua vita ed eccezionale fotoreporter) Gerda Pohorylles, in arte Gerda Taro, per poter vendere le sue foto a un prezzo maggiore» ricorda il biografo Richard Whelan. Di origini ebraiche anche lei, come il polacco David Szymine, Chim, il suo alter ego, che cambiò il suo cognome in Seymour. Un terzetto che farà conoscere al mondo l'orrore del conflitto.

Capa, ucciso nel 1954 da una mina durante la guerra nell'Indocina francese (Taro morì nella battaglia di Brunete nel '37, Seymour durante i combattimenti di Suez nel '56), riassume con la sua Leica la storia di una generaz
ione di intellettuali, quasi tutti militanti di sinistra e spesso ebrei, che, scappando dai rispettivi paesi per sfuggire alle dittature fasciste, arriva prima in Germania, poi in Francia e da qui si imbarca nella Guerra civil. E che esalta il fotogiornalismo «engagé», nato in Germania con il classico Berliner Illustrierte e poi proseguito da giornali francesi come Vu, Regards, Ce soir e dagli anglosassoni Picture Post o Life. «Robert usava la macchina fotografica come un'arma, utilizzandola per ottenere appoggio internazionale alla causa repubblicana» sottolinea il fratello (anch'egli ottimo fotoreporter) Cornell.

«Bandi» arriva per la prima volta in Spagna, con la sua compagna e Chim, nel dicembre 1936. Fino al '39, sia pure con brevi intervalli (compreso un viaggio in Cina), partecipa in prima linea a tutti i combattimenti importanti, dall'assedio di Madrid a Bilbao, da Brunete a Guadalajara, dall'Ebro a Cerro Muriano (ove immortala un miliziano nel momento in cui viene ucciso da una pallottola franchista). E conosce tutti i protagonisti del «bando republicano». Ma i rapporti più stretti li stringe con le Brigate internaz
ionali, che ritrarrà quando, nell'ottobre del '38, abbandonano la Catalogna. Immagini impressionanti di una sconfitta salutata pugno contro la tempia, nel classico saluto internazionalista (il brigatista è italiano) che presto sarebbe stata quella di un'Europa soggiogata dal nazifascismo.

Il suo motto «Se le vostre foto non sono abbastanza buone è perché non state abbastanza vicino», una regola di vita, traspare con emozionante potenza espressiva nelle foto dell'archivio del Pce, regalate 24 anni fa da un militante anonimo. Le immagini, di cui Panorama pubblica quattro esemplari più due di Seymour (il terzetto spediva i reportage insieme, ed è capitato che gli autori siano stati scambiati nelle redazioni), sono state riconosciute, confrontandole con i quaderni originali che riproducono i provini di Capa, dalla Magnum Photos di Parigi, la storica cooperativa che «Bandi» fondò nel '47 insieme a Chim e a Henri Cartier-Bresson.

Nel suo «Slightly out of focus» (letteralmente: leggermente sfuocato), Capa scrive: «Non è la nitidezza dell'immagine ciò che ne palesa il valore, bensì l'emoz
ione che suscita». E basta guardare il commiato delle Brigate internazionali a Barcellona, che apre questo servizio di Panorama nel 50º anniversario della sua morte, o l'attacco dei repubblicani sul fronte di Aragona del '36, oppure il marinaio che suona la fisarmonica a Cartagena, per constatare che il leggendario «Bandi» scrisse forse con la sua Leica la miglior cronaca della Guerra civil. «Capa era l'unico capace di catturare i sentimenti» sintetizzava il suo amico, e grande scrittore americano, John Steinbeck.


La ricerca dell'autore delle foto è durata 19 anni

Nell'archivio del Pce c'è anche una busta rosso stinto che contiene 1.350 negativi sulla guerra civile.

La qualità delle immagini è straordinaria.

Dice a «Panorama» la direttrice Victoria Ramos, 49 anni:

«Sono 19 anni che cerco il loro autore. Quando cominciai, nell'85, a catalogarli, mi capitò in mano il libro dell'86 «Robert Capa. Cuadernos de guerra en España», uscito dai tipi della valenciana Ediciones Alfons El Magnánim. Ebbene, le similitudini tra le foto originali di Capa del libro e quelle in mio possesso sono stupefacenti».

Le inquadrature sono le stesse, come la luce, i protagonisti, i luoghi.

L'ipotesi di Victoria Ramos, disponibile a perizie che ne accertino la paternità,
è che potrebbero essere scarti di Capa, oppure di Chim o di Taro, regalati al Pce.