Robert Capa: ‘The Greatest War Photographer in the World’


Robert Capa was born Endre Friedman on October 22, 1913 in Budapest, Hungary. Capa became one of the most celebrated photographers of the mid- twentieth century and, with André Kertész, Brassaï, Martin Munkácsi, and László Moholy-Nagy, formed part of a group of influential Hungarian photographers whose impact on the medium was profound. He is particularly celebrated for his photographs of the Second World War, and for co-founding Magnum Photos.

Capa remained in Europe until the outbreak of World War II when he fled to New York. He joined LIFE magazine as their war correspondent, and was sent to areas of Europe and Northern Africa to cover the action on the front line. In July 1936, he was sent to cover the Spanish Civil War. Early in November 1938 Capa covered two crucial battles on the Aragon front, in North-East Spain. On November 5 he was at Mora de Ebro, on the Ebro river, with Ernest Hemmingway. Hoping to prevent the Loyalists from crossing the river, the fascists had bombed the Mora bridge and opened the dams in the north. The day ended in a massive Loyalist retreat. The next night, in an effort to divert the fascists from Mora, Loyalist troops launched an offensive near Fraga, on the Rio Segre, about forty miles to the North. When news of the offensive reached Barcelona early in the morning of November 7, Capa rushed to the Front. The British magazine Picture Post published eleven pages of the photographs Capa made that day and hailed him as ‘the greatest war photographer in the world.’

In 1947 Capa, with fellow photographers Henri Cartier-Bresson, David Seymour, William Vandivert and George Rodger, Capa established a co-operative photographic agency, to give themselves control over commissions. They called it Magnum Photos, and Capa devoted his life to the new agency, both in New York and Paris. Capa’s final assignment for LIFE lead to his death. He was in Japan working on an exhibition associated with Magnum. From there, LIFE sent him to South East Asia to cover the First Indochina War. At 2.55pm on 25 May, 1954 he stepped on a landmine and was killed.

Explore More