Robert Capa’s Unpublished Color Photographs Debut at ICP

Robert Capa—International Center of Photography/Magnum Photos
Robert Capa—International Center of Photography/Magnum Photos
Ernest Hemingway and his son Gregory, Sun Valley, Idaho, Oct. 1941.

For many, Robert Capa is the quintessential photojournalist. Honest, insightful, poetic and fearless, Capa’s work granted license and creative inspiration to any and all who followed in his footsteps. Despite changing trends in photographic storytelling through the decades, Capa’s images endure. Ask any photographer — or most anyone with a sense of photography, history or culture, for that matter — and chances are pretty good they’ll be able to cite one or more of Capa’s black and white photographs as models of the craft: “Falling Soldier,” the D-Day landings, the Liberation of Paris.

It’s just as likely, though, that very few will realize that his color work is phenomenal, too.

A new show at the International Center of Photography in New York offers an extraordinary chance to see more than 125 unpublished and unseen color photographs by Capa.

According to Cynthia Young, the show’s curator, ICP holds more than 4,000 color Capa transparencies of varying formats — 35mm, square format, even 4×5 sheet film. “He really had two cameras around his neck at all times — three even, often in two different formats,” Young tells TIME. Featuring work from the 1930s through the ’50s, the color photographs celebrate Capa’s eye for war, fashion, culture, even portraiture.

It’s not clear why Capa shot some photographs in black and white and others in color. Capa always shot both, Young says, and he was well aware that magazines would pay more for color. “He could sell the color for more than a black and white picture,” she said. “It was more exotic and [garnered an] exclusive for certain stories.”

Splashing color into some of his iconic (and previously monochrome) looks at the 20th century’s armed conflict, Capa fans will be surprised by the vibrancy of the black in white scenes now generously revealed in color. And it isn’t just images of destruction that surprise. “After Capa’s war narratives,” she explains, “it’s often hard [for the public] to fit his post-war images into the Capa narrative.”

As to why these photos haven’t been seen before 2014, Young points to shifting attitudes towards color photography. “People are interested again in the origins of early color work,” she says, explaining that color used to only be the “domain of amateurs.” Young also notes that technology had improved the museum’s ability to restore the aging and often fragile negatives to their original dynamic range.

In 2004, Magnum felt it pertinent, on merit alone, to publish a book of Capa’s color work. Sharing the same name as the ICP show a decade later, the book highlights color work Capa made on a ship convoy steaming across the Atlantic early in WWII. The book and show also highlight stories Capa shot at the homes of Ernest Hemingway and Pablo Picasso, showing the legendary creatives enjoying time with their families.

“He wasn’t known as a portrait photographer, but the images are stunning,” Young explains. “They’re only possible with big loving personality Capa had.”


Capa in Color is on view at the International Center of Photography from January 31 through May 4, 2014.

Vaughn Wallace is the producer of LightBox. Follow him on Twitter @vaughnwallace.


Related Topics: , , , , , , , ,

Latest Posts

2014.  Gaza.  Palestine.  Schoolchildren head to class at the Sobhi Abu Karsh School in the Shujai'iya neighborhood. Operation Protective Edge lasted from 8 July 2014 – 26 August 2014, killing 2,189 Palestinians of which 1,486 are believed to be civilians. 66 Israeli soldiers and 6 civilians were killed.  It's estimated that 4,564 rockets were fired at Israel by Palestinian militants.

Inside Gaza with Photographer Peter van Agtmael

What photographer Peter van Agtmael encountered in Gaza changed the way he worked.

Read More
WASTELAND PERMITTED USE: This image may be downloaded or is otherwise provided at no charge for one-time use for coverage or promotion of National Geographic magazine dated December 2014 and exclusively in conjunction thereof.  No copying, distribution or archiving permitted.  Sublicensing, sale or resale is prohibited.     REQUIRED CREDIT AND CAPTION: All image uses must bear the copyright notice and be properly credited to the relevant photographer, as shown in this metadata, and must be accompanied by a caption, which makes reference to NGM.  Any uses in which the image appears without proper copyright notice, photographer credit and a caption referencing NGM are subject to paid licensing.        Mandatory usage requirements: (Please note: you may select 5 branded images for online use and 3 images for print/unbranded)1. Include mandatory photo credit with each image2. Show the December cover of National Geographic somewhere in the post (credit: National Geographic) unless using only one image3. Provide a prominent link to: http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2014/12/superfund/voosen-textat the top of your piece, ahead of the photos 4. Mention that the images are from "the December issue of National Geographic magazine” GOWANUS CANALNew York, New YorkPollutants: polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), mercury, lead, copperYear listed: 2010Carved from a tidal estuary 160 years ago, the Gowanus Canal is Brooklyn’s industrial artery—and a deeply polluted waterway. Even so, it’s frequented by herons, seagulls, crabs, and canoeists. Defying local fears of economic stigma, the EPA listed the canal as a Superfund site in 2010. It hopes to start dredging contaminated mud in 2016.

Photojournalism Daily: Nov. 24, 2014

Mideast Israel Palestinians

The Best Pictures of the Week: Nov. 14 – Nov. 21

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 19,272 other followers