Born Endre Erno Friedmann in Budapest in 1923, he began making photographs in 1930. The following year, he settlled in Berlin, where he began a career with the Dephot picture agency. He fled to Paris in 1933, to escape the Nazi regime. There, he adopted a subtle name change to André Friedmann.
In Paris, he met and teamed up with Gerfa Taro, a German student, photographer and anti – facist; they became lovers. Friedmann’s work was represented by the Alliance Photo Agency, and he and Taro between them invented the famous ‘Robert Capa” as a vehicle for his photos.
Capa became a news photograper and his pictures of the Spanish Civil War were published regularly in French, British and American magazines from 1936.
In 1937, his partner Taro was killed in Spain during and attack. The following year, Capa became famous when his photograph, “Death of a Republican Soldier was published in Vu magazine in France. It’s a picture that remains controversial to this day, with arguments over whether or not it really shows a soldier at the point of death, unresolved. The debate continues to the extent that it is now more often referred to as “The Falling Soldier”. That same year, Capa travelled to China to cover the Sino – Japanese war and, in 1939, he emigrated to America settling in New York.
Capa’s most famous picture series was taken while on assignment for Life magazine during the Second World War. He photographed American troops landing at Omaha beach in the Allied D-Day invasions of Normandy in June 1944. Taking 2 cameras, he photographed for an hour under German fire, lying in the sea and the sand!
His films reached the magazine’s London office the following evening, just before the issue was due to go to press. Aware of the urgency, the darkroom technician processed the images and cranked up the heat on the drying cabinet to get them ready for the editor. He overdid it. The excessive heat melted the film’s emulsion and only 8 barely printable frames survived. However, the exaggerated graininess of the images caused by the reticulation of the emulsion actually enhanced the drama and realism of the photographs and the became icons and passed into legend.
Capa went on to form Magnum Photos with Seymour, Cartier – Bresson and William Vandivert in 1947. Following his untimely death in 1954, he was awarded Croix de Guerre by the French army.
Here are a few images from his collection. Lot more of his work can be found here.