On Robert Capa’s 100th Birthday, Magnum Asks Photographers Everywhere to #GetCloser100

icp 883On the road from Namdinh to Thaibinh. May 25th, 1954. A French military convoy on its way north towards Doai Tan. In the foreground: a rice field.
Robert Capa—International Center of Photography/Magnum
A French military convoy marches past a rice field on its way north towards Doai Tan, Vietnam, May 25, 1954.

Robert Capa was killed by a landmine on the afternoon that this photograph is dated while on assignment for LIFE, covering the First Indochina War. The frame was captured on what is likely one of the last rolls of film he ever exposed.

This Tuesday, October 22, marks the 100th birthday of one of the most influential photographers of all time. The late Robert Capa’s photographs of conflict — from the beaches of Normandy and the fields of Spain to the jungles of southeast Asia and beyond — have been an inspiration (and a challenge) to generations of photojournalists hoping to follow his example. One of his most famous pronouncements on the medium, meanwhile, still resonates in classrooms, workshops and the minds of countless practitioners of the craft the world over: “If your photographs aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.”

Angleterre.Robert CAPA.photographer on a destroyer during the ship arrivals in French beach for landings and liberation of Fance.

Robert Capa—International Center of Photography/Magnum

Photographer Robert Capa on a destroyer during the beach landings at Normandy, 1944.

Magnum Photos, the world’s first cooperative photo agency that Capa founded in 1947, along with legendary colleagues Henri Cartier-Bresson, David “Chim” Seymour, George Rodger and William Vandivert, is commemorating his centenary by asking photographers everywhere to Get Closer.

For the next 100 days, leading up to the opening of the landmark exhibition Capa in Color at the International Center of Photography, Magnum will be pairing one of Capa’s images with another made by a renowned photographer that visually “responds” to the Capa picture. After that, the public is invited to take part, as photographers everywhere are asked to contribute their own visual responses to the Budapest-born master’s work by uploading photographs to any social media platform and tagging them with #GetCloser100. These visual threads will be culled from the social universe on a platform powered by FeedMagnet, and eventually presented at the exhibition.

The project kicks off today with Capa’s photograph above of French soldiers marching past a rice field in Vietnam in 1954. Capa was killed by a landmine the afternoon that this photograph is dated while on assignment for LIFE, covering the First Indochina War. Steve McCurry responds on the second slide with a 1995 photograph capturing a nearly identical scene in Sri Lanka.

“Think of it like a game of visual telephone,” Gideon Jacobs, Creative Director at Magnum Photos in New York tells TIME. “The first player always being Capa, the second player, always a renowned photographer, and the rest, a mix of anyone who wants to get in on the action.”

For the esteemed, old-guard agency, this marks one of its more significant recent moves toward a broader digital presence within the world of socially shared imagery.

“We saw it as a creative way to engage image-makers everywhere with Capa’s work, but the secondary goal was to highlight social media as a tool capable of demonstrating the seminality of great photography, the way inspiring images can be a catalyzing force for countless more,” Jacobs says. “It’s my hope that our social presence and endeavors in crowd-sourcing imagery positions our photographers as sort of captains of an increasingly democratic medium.”


Eugene Reznik is a Brooklyn-based photographer and writer. Follow him on Twitter @eugene_reznik.


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