Friday, July 29, 2016

The World in Color During the 1940s and 1950s Through Robert Capa's Lens

Famed photojournalist and founder of Magnum Photos, Robert Capa was primarily known for his black-and-white images. But after World War II he turned increasingly to color, fulfilling assignments for a variety of popular magazines such as Life and Holiday.

Capa first worked with color in 1938, about two years after Kodachrome, the first color roll film developed by Kodak, was introduced. Already famous for his photographs of the Spanish Civil War, he was working in China covering the second Sino-Japanese War.

Four of Capa’s color images of the burning of Hankou (now part of Wuhan) after the Japanese raids in July 1938 were published in Life magazine. No other color images from that tour survive, however, and Capa only began shooting regularly in color in 1941.

Some of the earliest photographs are of British and American soldiers during World War II, mostly at rest or leisure. A wonderful picture of British soldiers watching a boxing match, shot from above on a troop ship from England to North Africa in 1943, is here. But Capa’s war photographs in color have rarely been published or shown until now.

Sometimes color processing took too long for the magazines publishing his work. But there were other issues. During the ’40s, Capa traveled to Sun Valley, Idaho, and photographed Ernest Hemingway and his sons along with Martha Gellhorn, the war correspondent and Hemingway’s third wife. The color photographs show the sandy landscape of Idaho and the Hemingways in their hunting gear. But Life then printed only black-and-white photos.

Similarly, color photographs of Pablo Picasso with the artist Françoise Gilot and their son, Claude, on the beach in the South of France. Despite Capa’s insistence on payment for both black-and-white and color photographs, a wall label tells us that Look and Illustrated magazines “were disappointed with the color images,” and published only the black-and-white ones.

If only black and white was suitable for war and serious artists, Capa found greater success with his color images of resorts and leisure subjects. One section here is devoted to skiing in the Swiss and Austrian Alps, which Capa did to relax and recuperate between assignments. A wall text describes color photography’s ability to provide “the additional elements of glitter and humor that black and white often missed.”

Other photographs of postwar Paris with spectators at the Longchamp racetrack, fashion models, people sitting in cafes or the Dutch painter Karel Appel in his studio painting with his fingers “on lively, much-admired semi-abstractions,” as the Holiday magazine layout describes it.

Color, you start to realize, was also particularly suitable for women. In addition to fashion models, glamorous women at ski resorts or on the beach in Biarritz, a 1952 all-color spread in Holiday features “a day with a pretty American actress, Gloria Stroock, as she does what every woman wants to do in Rome.” Which is shop for clothes and shoes, of course.

The last color images here were taken of the French Indochina War, which Capa was covering for Life. While on assignment in Vietnam, in May 1954, he stepped on a land mine and died. These are among his strongest war photographs but they weren’t published at the time. Black and white remained the standard for war photography as well as art. Color during Capa’s period was still for commerce, amateurs, leisure — and women.

USA. Sun Valley, Idaho. 1941. Ernest HEMINGWAY with his son Gregory.

NORWAY. 1951. Lapp family.

USA. Indiana. 1949. Rambaugh Family Circus.

USA. Indiana. 1949. Rambaugh Family Circus.

USA. Indiana. 1949. Rambaugh Family Circus.

USA, Indiana. 1949. Rambaugh Family Circus.

FRANCE. Paris. 1948. Model wearing Dior on the banks of the Seine.

FRANCE. Vallauris. 1948. Pablo Picasso playing in the water with his son, Claude.

FRANCE. Vallauris. 1948. Pablo Picasso on the beach with friends and family.

MOROCCO. Fez. 1949. Spectators observing the visit of Sultan Sidi Mohammed from a tree.

MOROCCO. 1949. Man holding a hand-beaten copper tray.

FRANCE. Paris. 1952. Alberto Giacometti and Henri Cartier-Bresson in Giacometti's atelier.

GB. London. February 6, 1953. Spectators along the procession route in Piccadilly Circus before the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.

JAPAN. Tokyo. May, 1954. Spectators at a May Day celebration.

1942. Two men sleeping on a Allied convoy across the Atlantic from the U.S. to England.

GB. June, 1941. A RAF ground crew member gives a pilot the signal for takeoff prior to a raid over occupied France.

GB. June, 1941. Allied Air Force crew watch bombers take off for a raid over Occupied France from a Royal Air Force base.

1943. British soldiers watching a boxing match on a troop ship traveling from England to Casablanca.

1943. Arab guards watch over supply train route, Casablanca.

TUNISIA. 1943. Members of the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division.

TUNISIA. May, 1943. American soldiers inspecting a captured German armored car and tank.

TUNISIA. May, 1943. Members of a US Army armored division pose with a captured German tank.

TUNISIA. 1943. The French Camel Corps, the Meharists, ride through the desert to head for battle. When they attack, the Meharists leave their camels two miles in the rear and creep up on foot.

TUNISIA. 1943. A member of the French Camel Corps, the Meharists, with his camel.

TUNISIA. 1943. The French Camel Corps, the Meharists, have their traditional prebattle tea-drinking ceremony. The tea, very sweet and strong, takes an hour to prepare and two hours to drink. Both the French and Arab men go barefoot.

July, 1943. Trucks on a supply ship from North Africa to Sicily.

USSR. Moscow. 1947. Women and child on a park bench.

USSR. Moscow. 1947. Young visitors wait to see Lenin's Tomb in Red Square.

USSR. Moscow. 1947. Visitors at Red Square.

USSR. Moscow. 1947. Visitors at Red Square.

USSR. 1947. Workers picking tea leaves, near the Black Sea.

USSR. Sergiyev Posad. 1947. War damage near Trinity Lavra of Saint Sergius.

HUNGARY, 1948. Children in traditional dress.

HUNGARY. Budapest, 1948. Construction workers.

HUNGARY. Keszthely, 1948. Pig in front of Festetics Palace.

HUNGARY. Budapest, 1948. Military parade celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Hungarian army.

HUNGARY. Budapest, 1948. Fashion show.

ISRAEL, Jerusalem, 1949-1950. Women brousing at an outdoor magazine and book stand.

ISRAEL. Haifa. 1949-1950. New immigrants disembarking from the Theodor Herzl.

Near Haifa, 1949-1950. New immigrants aboard a boat to Israel.

ISRAEL. Haifa. 1949-1950. Yemeni immigrants in a transit camp.

ISRAEL. Haifa. 1949-1950. Yemeni immigrants in a transit camp.

1950. Ski run in the Alps.

SWITZERLAND. Zermatt. 1949-1950. kiers and the Matterhorn.

SWITZERLAND. Zermatt. 1950. Skier sunbathing in front of the Matterhorn.

AUSTRIA. Parsenn, Zürs. 1949-1950. American tourist covered in resort insignias.

SWITZERLAND. Zermatt. 1949-1950. Chilean Sonia Edwards.

SWITZERLAND. St. Moritz. 1954. Betty and John Marsh watching ice skating show during the filming of Cinerama Holiday.

SWITZERLAND. Klosters. 1949-1950. American Judith Stanton.

AUSTRIA. Kitzbühel. 1949-1950. Skiers and wounded soldier.

FRANCE. Deauville. Bar du Soleil. 1951.

FRANCE. Deauville. August, 1951. Woman in a bikini.

FRANCE. Deauville. August, 1951. Spectators at the racetrack.

FRANCE. Biarritz. August, 1951. Couple at a party.

FRANCE. Deauville. August, 1951. Spectators at the racetrack.

FRANCE. Biarritz. August, 1951. Jetty.

FRANCE. Biarritz. August,1951. Woman on the beach.

FRANCE. Biarritz. August, 1951. Festival.

FRANCE. Biarritz. August, 1951. Nun and swimmers on the beach.

FRANCE. Biarritz. August, 1951. Swimmers.

FRANCE. Paris. 1948. Model wearing Dior on the banks of the Seine.

FRANCE. Paris. ca. 1948. Model wearing Dior on the Place Vendôme.

FRANCE. Paris. 1st arrondissement. Place Vendôme). A Dior model, wearing a "New Look" long skirt. 1948.

FRANCE. Paris. 1952. Arc de Triomphe.

FRANCE. Paris. ca. 1952. Place de la Concorde viewed from the Time-Life office.

FRANCE. Paris. ca. 1952. Spectators at Longchamp Racecourse.

FRANCE. Paris. ca. 1952. Chicken outside restaurant Chez Anna.

FRANCE. Paris. ca. 1952. Spectators at the Longchamp Racecourse.

FRANCE. Paris. ca. 1952. People sitting on the terrace of the Café de Flore, Saint-Germain-des-Prés.

FRANCE. Paris. 1952. Montmartre.

FRANCE. Paris. 1952. Montmartre.

ITALY. Rome. August, 1951. Party.

ITALY. Rome. August, 1951. Actresses and sisters Gloria Stroock (right) and Geraldine Brooks (left) at the fashion house of Emilio Schuberth.

ITALY. Rome. August, 1951. Party.

ITALY. Rome. August, 1951. French model and actress Germaine Lefèbvre alias Capucine, on a balcony.

ITALY. Rome. August, 1951. Actress Geraldine Brooks trying on a dress at the fashion house of Emilio Schuberth.

ITALY. Rome. August, 1951. Capucine, French model and actress, in her hotel room.

NORWAY. Oslo. 1951. Children play in the Gustav Vieglund Sculpture Park.

NORWAY. Hankoe. 1951. Sailing race off the Lofoten Islands.

NORWAY. 1951. Hammerfest.

NORWAY. Lofoten Islands. 1951. Henningsvaer Harbor.

NORWAY. 1951. Lapp family.

NORWAY. Oslo. February, 1952. Coca-Cola sign at the Winter Olympics.

GERMANY. Essen. 1951. Gen X boy, Rudolf Kesslau, former member of the Nazi youth organization and soldier, walking to work at a coal mine. The slogan on the wall says: OHNE UNS (leave us out), and refers to the attitude that he and many others of his generation in Germany felt about politics.

FRANCE. Paris. 1953. Gen X girl, Colette Laurent, on a horse.

FRANCE. Paris. 1953. Gen X girl, Colette Laurent, in her closet.

FRANCE. Paris. 1952. Colette Laurent at Chantilly racetrack.

FRANCE. Paris. 1953. Gen X girl, Colette Laurent, in her apartment.

NORWAY. Oslo. 1951. Gen X girl, Uni David-Andersen.

FRANCE. Paris. 1952. John Huston at Les Deux Magots cafe during the filming of Moulin Rouge.

GB. 1952. Katherine Kath dancing on the set of Moulin Rouge at Shepperton Studios, near London.

GB. Near London. 1952. José Ferrer on the set of Moulin Rouge in Shepperton Studios.

ITALY. Tivoli. 1954. Ava Gardner on the set of The Barefoot Contessa.

ITALY. Amalfi. April, 1953. On the set of Viaggio in Italia.

ITALY. Amalfi. April, 1953. Ingrid Bergman (seated) on the set of Viaggio in Italia.

ITALY. Paestum. April, 1953. Martha Gellhorn.

ITALY. Rome. 1951-1952. Anna Magnani on the set of Bellissima.

INDOCHINA (VIETNAM). May, 1954. On the road from Namdinh to Thaibinh.

INDOCHINA (VIETNAM). May, 1954. On the road from Namdinh to Thaibinh.

INDOCHINA. May 25, 1954. Vietnamese troops advancing between Namdinh and Thaibinh. This is one of the last pictures taken by Robert Capa with his Nikon camera before he stepped on a landmine and died at 14.55.

(Images © Robert Capa © International Center of Photography/Magnum Photos, via The New York Times)

1 comment:

  1. Capa was a fraud and a phony. An opportunist of the highest order, and not fit to be considered a professional. His photographs are not all that inspired anyway, very pedestrian and lacking in emotion. He became famous on one photo that ended up being revealed as being staged, as were most of his wartime action shots. The notable exception being the ones which he was taking prior to stepping on the mine. A fitting end for a man who was avoiding putting himself in danger by staging the wartime shot which made him famous.

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