Thread: Capa
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Old 03-01-2019   #36
Harry Lime
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Late to the conversation, but a few thoughts…

As far as the 'blur' of the photos is concerned.

For starters it has to be kept in mind that Capa was probably shooting with 25 or 50 asa film.

Sunny 16 rule:

Bright sunlight, blue sky

100asa f16 @ 1/100 - 1/125th
50asa f16 @ 1/50th - 1/60th
25asa f16 @ 1/25th - 1/30th

Unless you are standing still or shooting a static subject it is basically impossible to produce an action picture that is NOT affected by motion blur with these settings.

The morning of June 6 was overcast and it was raining, so the exposure settings listed above are optimistic at best.

Now imagine you are wading through hundreds of feet of waist deep surf, while trying to dodge a hailstorm of bullets being directed at you and the world around you is on fire.

Try making a sharp photo running down your driveway or the next time you're at the beach @ 1/30th. Even just the act of moving forward is going to blur the picture with such slow shutter speeds. Extra bonus points for doing the test while someone is shooting at you with an MG42 putting out 1200 rounds a minute and your hands are shaking uncontrollably from fear.

Have Coleman, J. Ross Baughman (photographer), Rob McElroy (photo historian) taken these technical details into consideration? Aren’t they photographers themselves? I ask, because quite frankly trying to guess Capa’s exposure settings and film speed was one of the first things that shot through my head the first time I saw these photos many years ago.

The Missing Frames:

Here's a crazy idea. Maybe in the heat of the battle Capa forgot to take the damn lens cap off the second Contax (which he supposedly unpacked on the beach) and didn't notice it, until he got many shots into the roll. Sounds ridiculous, but anyone who shoots a rangefinder has done this. Now imagine you are in the middle of the opening scene of 'Saving Private Ryan’. That's a perfectly valid explanation for there being no trace of pictures on the head of the roll. According to the Peta Pixel article the first of the 'magnificent’ 11 shots is frame 29 on the roll…

The odd looking Negatives:

- Contax cameras were not weather sealed. Considering the circumstances it is hard to believe that Capa somehow managed to keep his cameras perfectly dry. If water entered the cameras it would have affected the film.

- If the film got wet or soaked it may have damaged the emulsion. Saltwater is more caustic than tap water. The film would have also been wet for many hours while being transported from Normandy to London, which could have affected the emulsion.

If the film became soaked with sea water, did the salt react with the developer or fixer and damage the roll?

The film looks poorly developed to me.

- Notice the streaks coming from the top to the bottom on several of the frames . This is a typical symptom of insufficient agitation during development. I’ve heard of it referred to as 'bromide drag, which is a common problem with stand development. The streaks could also be the result of a light leak. Or it can also happen if the film is not properly threaded on the developing reel and sticks together.

- Perhaps the film got stuck together during development, destroying several frames.

- Has anyone ever spoken to Kodak or Ilford if the theory of the emulsion ’sliding’ is even remotely valid?
A simple post on APUG, which has several former Kodak engineers as members would clear that question up very quickly.

When I lived in London I had the honor of encountering Mr. John G. Morris on a handful of occasions. Obviously I was merely a stranger to Mr Morris and not a friend like Bill, so these are just my observations and impressions.

When I visited the Greta Taro exhibit at the Barbican it was attended by John G. Morris and Irme Schaber, who had written a biography on Taro. I may have also encountered Mr Coleman at the show. At one point there was a sharp exchange of words between Mr. Morris and the man who may have been Mr Coleman, regarding Capa and the D-Day events. It was impressive to see a man, who at that time was in his late 90’s still display such fire and vigor, because Mr. Morris did not take these accusations lightly. Obviously this is a very long running dispute.

Personally here’s how I see it.

To me the only thing that matters is the simple fact that Robert Capa aka Endre Friedmann had the guts to land on that beach that morning, somehow managed to take a few pictures and made it back alive. A claim that thousands on both sides were unable to make that day. Anything beyond that is splitting hairs and few of us are in any position to judge him.

Yes, I would like to know what happened to the rest of the negatives, mainly because they represent lost glimpses into history; not because I want to pursue some wild conspiracy theory. Judging by the tone of Coleman's article, this smells like a personal vendetta that has been a life long pursuit.

Capa was never one to shy away from making a good personal story, a better personal story by adding a little window dressing. But by all accounts he wasn’t a blow hard, who inflated his deeds to make himself out to be some sort of war hero with a chest full of medals he didn't earn. Capa was many things, but I’ve never head anyone describe him as a phony.

I have two relatives who were in Normandy and possibly took part in the landings. They had some horrific experiences, that they rarely or never brought up. My uncle Andy would only tell the funny stories from his ‘all expense paid vacation in France’. These stories were a variant of the truth, that has been made more entertaining with the addition of a few choice details. But these embellishments didn’t change the underlying truth. Sometime I wonder if it was my uncle’s way of dealing with what he had experienced. Maybe the same held true for Capa. Yes, he was a master of self promotion, but also a man who was tormented by his experiences.
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