Thread: Capa
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Old 02-26-2019   #56
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The article which is the subject of this thread pointedly argues that Capa only stayed on the beach a short time, (a few minutes) presumably to support his hypothesis that Capa only took a few images - the famous "blurry" ones. I have said before that I do not believe at this stage at least that he only took those few images - the evidence I have read clearly suggests, based on first hand accounts by Life staff that he took 4 rolls of 35mm film on the beach and that he was there for a considerably longer time.

But even assuming he did leave as quick as he decently could (which Capa himself admits though he says he was there 90 minutes) so what if he got off the beach - who would not if they had the chance, having done the job in hand. In the case of a reporter though there was another critical reason for getting off the beach - to get the shots back in time to meet publication deadlines. No uploading to the 'net back then. And deadlines for an event like this were invariably tight - everyone would want to be first. Just like today.

I took the opportunity to pull from my bookshelf the book "Life Photographers: What They Saw" edited by John Loengard and re read the interview with another Life photo reporter Myron Davis who made landings during the Pacific War under fire.

In it (p129) Davis says about a landing in the Philippines which he accompanied:

"I took photographs of the people in my barge getting off. I made a decision in that moment based upon some rationale, but also on what some may call cowardice. I'd learned that if you stayed too long on the landing your material got back to Washington too late, it might not get published. .........I risked my life twice before and not one picture appeared in Life magazine. So I'd learned the smart thing even journalistically, in a way, was to get what you could get and get back safely with your film."

Capa would have been acutely aware of that same lesson. In fact, reviewing the relevant pages of "Blood and Champagne" Capa was up against the same kind of deadline except he only had to get his images to the London office- they would arrange carriage to USA for publication.

But even though he did leave the Omaha beaches when he did, they were almost literally holding the presses for his images - they arrived late in the day - 9.00 p.m. on the 7th June and the relevant issue of Life had a deadline of 9.00 a.m. the next morning to meet their timelines for carriage to USA and publication in the next issue. But first the films had to be developed, editorially assessed, prints made and the images submitted to the official US Army censor for approval. Tight indeed but they got the films to their Grosvenor Square offices at precisely 8.59 a.m. One minute to spare. "Down in the basement the courier was literally about to padlock the pouch when I found him" said Morris.

Little wonder the drying cabinet accident happened.

But first, for all of the above to happen, Capa had to get back to England on a ship from the Normandy beaches. When he arrived in England, in Weymouth he placed his undeveloped films in the hands of a courier and instead of him staying in England, which he could have done, he found another ship to take him back to Normandy to get more pictures.

I would argue that the above recounting of events from published and easily found sources tends to support the "official" version of what happened. Not the highly speculative version conveyed by the article.
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