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Bill Pierce - Leica M photog and author

 

“Our autobiography is written in our contact sheets,  and our opinion of the world in our selects”  

"Never ever confuse sharp with good, or you will end up shaving with an ice cream cone and licking a razor blade."  

 

Bill Pierce is one of the most successful Leica photographers and authors ever. I initially "met" Bill in the wonderful 1973 15th edition Leica Manual (the one with the M5 on the cover). I kept reading and re-reading his four chapters, continually amazed at his knoweldge and ability, thinking "if I only knew a small part of what this guy knows... wow."  I looked foward to his monthly columns in Camera 35 and devoured them like a starving man.  Bill has worked as a photojournalist  for 25 years, keyword: WORK.  Many photogs dream of the professional photographer's  life that Bill has earned and enjoyed.  Probably Bill's most famous pic is Nixon departing the White House for the last time, victory signs still waving. 

 

Bill  has been published in many major magazines, including  Time, Life, Newsweek, U.S. News, The New York Times Sunday Magazine, New York Magazine, Stern, L'Express and Paris Match.  :His published books include  The Leica Manual,  War Torn, Survivors and Victims in the Late 20th Century, Homeless in America,  Human Rights in China,  Children of War.  Add to that numerous exhibitions at major galleries and museums.  Magazine contributions include  Popular Photography,  Camera 35, Leica Manual,  Photo District News, the Encyclopedia of Brittanica, the Digital Journalist, and now RFF.  Major awards include Leica Medal of Excellence, Overseas Press Club's Oliver Rebbot Award for Best Photojournalism from Abroad,  and the World Press Photo's Budapest Award. Perhaps an ever bigger award is Tom Abrahamsson's comment: "If you want to know Rodinal, ask Bill."

 

I met Bill in person through our mutual friend Tom Abrahamsson.  In person his insight and comments are every bit as interesting and engaging as his writing.  He is a great guy who really KNOWS photography.  I am happy to say he has generously agreed to host this forum at RFF  From time to time Bill will bring up topics, but you are also invited to ask questions.  Sit down and enjoy the ride!

 


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Old 02-25-2019   #41
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Capa is not even his real name...
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Old 02-25-2019   #42
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The world loves a charming cad - a bum if you like, especially from a distance. And Capa was a charmer. But here's the thing, most people who knew him seemed to like the guy too. So he really can't have been all bad. And of course he did his job, repeatedly putting himself in harm's way to get the photos. And that is something they can't take away from him though some may try.
Boyington himself reveled in his hero status, despite also claiming to be a bum in his book. Reading Gamble's Biography on Boyington it became clear how much of a bum he really was.
Nobody denied he was a daring fighterpilot though.
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Old 02-25-2019   #43
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Originally Posted by Erik van Straten View Post
Capa's photographs were artistically mediocre, but not Cartier-Bresson's. Cartier-Bresson's pictures are masterpieces of artistic photography.

Erik.
Capa’s photos might have been artistically mediocre, but he was a photojournalist not an artist. He documented quickly for money and fame.

HCB has some masterpieces. For example the first half of his book The Decisive Moment is mostly excellent, and can be considered a masterpiece when viewed in the historical context. The second half however is a real disappointment for me and far from a masterpiece of artistic photography, and taken without historic context falls very flat. It’s almost as if two different photographers contributed to the book. I would say that everything in the second half of the book (except a few historical photos like Gandhi’s funeral) has been done better since. After all, for a photo to stand outside of historical context it must be better than every other example of that photo.
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Old 02-26-2019   #44
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Originally Posted by Erik van Straten View Post
Capa's photographs were artistically mediocre, but not Cartier-Bresson's. Cartier-Bresson's pictures are masterpieces of artistic photography.
Apples versus oranges. Many people think different about the "artistic" quality of Capa's photos.
Such bordeline sentences don't bring anything to the debate about how the Robert Capa myth was built over the years and decades.
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Old 02-26-2019   #45
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Originally Posted by Highway 61 View Post
Apples versus oranges. Many people think different about the "artistic" quality of Capa's photos.
Such bordeline sentences don't bring anything to the debate about how the Robert Capa myth was built over the years and decades.
I like to leave opinions about art from other people to themselves.
I am not tempted to define the term "art", but if you compare Capa's photographs with those of Cartier-Bresson, you will understand what I mean.
Because of the non-artistic quality of Capa's photographs, I am not inclined to investigate how the Robert Capa myth was built over the years and decades. I have better things to do. I spent my entire salary (and those of others) on the horses to pay my secretaries!

Erik.
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Old 02-26-2019   #46
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Originally Posted by michaelwj View Post

HCB has some masterpieces. For example the first half of his book The Decisive Moment is mostly excellent, and can be considered a masterpiece when viewed in the historical context. The second half however is a real disappointment for me and far from a masterpiece of artistic photography, and taken without historic context falls very flat. It’s almost as if two different photographers contributed to the book. I would say that everything in the second half of the book (except a few historical photos like Gandhi’s funeral) has been done better since. After all, for a photo to stand outside of historical context it must be better than every other example of that photo.

I agree that the choice of photos for Cartier-Bresson's books should have been left to me.

Erik.
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Old 02-26-2019   #47
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A war photographer who I admire is Larry Burrows. No legacy issues. No questions about his pics. No save the world tendencies. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Larry_Burrows Some of his pics here: https://www.google.com/search?q=larr...w=1920&bih=944
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Old 02-26-2019   #48
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Originally Posted by Erik van Straten View Post
I agree that the choice of photos for Cartier-Bresson's books should have been left to me.

Erik.
I can’t argue with that.
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Old 02-26-2019   #49
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Capa was "slightly out of focus" about himself and his own unhappy life. So he didn't refrain those people from building up those true-lies about him. Then he quickly died, probably as expected by him.

His life and his photo work became a marketing matter altogether in the 1980s when he got re-discovered by the public. Still today there are several new books being published every year in several countries about him, about Gerda Taro, about "The Mexican suitcase" etc. One of them got the Strega Prize in Italy last year, one was published last week. And there were all the recent major exhibitions too, including one about his very nice colour work.

In the meantime, Coleman's team researches tell the whole truth about the several clues behind the D-Day pictures and how they got marketed to the marketers' own profit, more than probably. But Coleman's goal is certainly not to bash Capa himself.
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Oh Please!
Old 02-26-2019   #50
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Oh Please!

I find it risible to judge the artistic aesthetics of Cappa's D-Day photographs. Comparing them to photographs made under pleasant and relaxed circumstances is naive and superficial.
  • Cappa was in the first assault on Omaha Beach.
  • The troops (and Cappa) had just completed a 17 hour crossing in rough seas. They were physically stressed well before people began to do their very best to kill them.
  • At the time of the initial landing the waves were 5-6 feet and the wind was at their back. All the landing craft were difficult to control and many were swamped. When these photographs were made people were struggling and drowning nearby.
  • By the way, at the same time Nazi defenders were firing 75 and105 mm cannons and a variety of anti-tank guns at the landing craft. These weapons were manned by veteran troops (352nd Infantry Division) .
  • "I was the first one out. The seventh man was the next one to get across the beach without being hit. All the ones in-between were hit. Two were killed; three were injured. That's how lucky you had to be." Captain Richard Merrill, 2nd Ranger Battalion.
  • The US 1st and 29th infantry divisions suffered ~ 2,000 casualties during the Omaha beach assault.
  • Is it likely Cappa made these photographs while realizing he could be drowned or blown to bits at any time?

Yet, despite these circumstance it is valid to criticize Cappa for a deficit of aesthetics? Evaluating them as if they were in a juried exhibition is a staggering disregard of context. These are simply beyond my comprehension.

I wish HCB had been on the same landing craft with Cappa. Then we'd have some proper photographs. Or, maybe Winogrand would have delivered images with an interesting balance between form and content. No. Any sane person who be terrified. Aesthetics would be very low priority.

Separately, whatever Cappa's personal failings might be or how his story may have been amplified or glorified, are irrelevant. Cappa made those photographs under circumstances very few (if any) of us can fully appreciate. Nothing about his life before or afterwards is detracts from what he accomplished during that morning in France.
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Old 02-26-2019   #51
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Quote:
Originally Posted by willie_901 View Post
I find it risible to judge the artistic aesthetics of Cappa's D-Day photographs. Comparing them to photographs made under pleasant and relaxed circumstances is naive and superficial.
  • Cappa was in the first assault on Omaha Beach.
  • The troops (and Cappa) had just completed a 17 hour crossing in rough seas. They were physically stressed well before people began to do their very best to kill them.
  • At the time of the initial landing the waves were 5-6 feet and the wind was at their back. All the landing craft were difficult to control and many were swamped. When these photographs were made people were struggling and drowning nearby.
  • By the way, at the same time Nazi defenders were firing 75 and105 mm cannons and a variety of anti-tank guns at the landing craft. These weapons were manned by veteran troops (352nd Infantry Division) .
  • "I was the first one out. The seventh man was the next one to get across the beach without being hit. All the ones in-between were hit. Two were killed; three were injured. That's how lucky you had to be." Captain Richard Merrill, 2nd Ranger Battalion.
  • The US 1st and 29th infantry divisions suffered ~ 2,000 casualties during the Omaha beach assault.
  • Is it likely Cappa made these photographs while realizing he could be drowned or blown to bits at any time?
Yet, despite these circumstance it is valid to criticize Cappa for a deficit of aesthetics? Evaluating them as if they were in a juried exhibition is a staggering disregard of context. These are simply beyond my comprehension.

I wish HCB had been on the same landing craft with Cappa. Then we'd have some proper photographs. Or, maybe Winogrand would have delivered images with an interesting balance between form and content. No. Any sane person who be terrified. Aesthetics would be very low priority.

Separately, whatever Cappa's personal failings might be or how his story may have been amplified or glorified, are irrelevant. Cappa made those photographs under circumstances very few (if any) of us can fully appreciate. Nothing about his life before or afterwards is detracts from what he accomplished during that morning in France.

You're right (I don't know about the details like 1st or 4th assault, or if the crossing really took that long, or how high the waves were, we don't see much surf ,but it doesn't matter), except that no-one did this: "Evaluating them as if they were in a juried exhibition". I think everyone agrees, others were basically saying in other words that these aren't fine-art photographs.

But personally I agree with someone who posted earlier that whatever happened to the negatives actually gives them a special visual and emotional power. I think part of it is that without clearly recognizable facial features, the viewer can more easily see a loved one or even themselves in the men who went into that hell.
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Old 02-26-2019   #52
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Originally Posted by willie_901 View Post
I find it risible to judge the artistic aesthetics of Cappa's D-Day photographs. Comparing them to photographs made under pleasant and relaxed circumstances is naive and superficial.

Is it likely Cappa made these photographs while realizing he could be drowned or blown to bits at any time?

Yet, despite these circumstance it is valid to criticize Cappa for a deficit of aesthetics? Evaluating them as if they were in a juried exhibition is a staggering disregard of context. These are simply beyond my comprehension.

I wish HCB had been on the same landing craft with Cappa. Then we'd have some proper photographs. Or, maybe Winogrand would have delivered images with an interesting balance between form and content. No. Any sane person who be terrified. Aesthetics would be very low priority.

Separately, whatever Cappa's personal failings might be or how his story may have been amplified or glorified, are irrelevant. Cappa made those photographs under circumstances very few (if any) of us can fully appreciate. Nothing about his life before or afterwards is detracts from what he accomplished during that morning in France.
HOORAY !!!!!!!!!!!!!
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Old 02-26-2019   #53
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I find it risible to judge the artistic aesthetics of Cappa's D-Day photographs. Comparing them to photographs made under pleasant and relaxed circumstances is naive and superficial.
  • Cappa was in the first assault on Omaha Beach.
<skip>

Separately, whatever Cappa's personal failings might be or how his story may have been amplified or glorified, are irrelevant. Cappa made those photographs under circumstances very few (if any) of us can fully appreciate. Nothing about his life before or afterwards is detracts from what he accomplished during that morning in France.
Capa spells with a lone p.

It now too belongs to the legend and the myth that his girl-friend Gerta Pohorylle named herself "Gerda Taro" to make her newspapers name sounds like Greta Garbo's and that she named her boy-friend "Robert Capa" to make his own sound like Frank Capra's.

But here, this is probably all true.

About Omaha Beach : Coleman says that Capa landed on Omaha Beach with the fourteenth assault wave. That he quickly took eleven photos then went back to London where he arrived on June 7th. That he went back to the beaches of Normandy on June 9th.

Whichever assault wave he was with on the morning of June 6th, he bravely went there, no doubt.

Coleman's work is not at all about despising Capa's photos nor courage. Please re-read what he writes.

He just did an honest historian job so that we can judge on facts, not on the hype John G. Morris, Cornell Capa, Cynthia Young and Richard Whelan all made about it and especially with that melting emulsion hoax.

At the end of that day which is not the D-Day for sure, I agree that some posts in this thread telling about the "artistic" value of Capa's work are totally OT. If there was a kind of "Godwin Point" eq. contest out there for some people always jumping off their horses and shouting "Cartier-Bresson is the best ! Cartier-Bresson is the best !" when the discussion is and by far *not* about him, some here would have won it with all flags down, bells and whistles.
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Old 02-26-2019   #54
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...Coleman's goal is certainly not to bash Capa himself.

You and I must have read a different article. Perhaps you could link yours.
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Old 02-26-2019   #55
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You and I must have read a different article. Perhaps you could link yours.
Perharps you could re-read what Coleman writes and get that whom he's after are a group of people who spreaded what he considers to be some fakery.

Capa did it too for sure. I own an item of the first publishing of "Slightly out of focus" and agree with Coleman that Capa was prone to tell fancies and this can also be listened to from the lone audio recording of his voice in a radio broadcast :

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MYe4ynXnqug

Most of the people having been close friends of Capa tell that he was always half telling the truth, half fanciing it.

I have also read Richard Whelan's controversed biography and done a few serious university researches about Capa in the past.

I find him to be an exceptional photographer, whose work is still mostly unknown, and a great character. Is it enough to blindly take for granted and a holy truth some forged stories which don't resist a bit of logical explanations and crossed honest and meticulous fact-checking ?

Two years ago I went to the large house in Leipzig in which Capa took the photo of the last US soldier to be killed in Germany before the nazis surrendered in May 1945. There is a now a small museum dedicated to Capa in that house, which has been salvaged by the city of Leipzig and some private fundings. So, primary Capa bashing doesn't interest me. But this is not what I read in Coleman's writings, and from far.
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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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Old 02-26-2019   #57
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Here's a hypothetical:
Capa took many more photographs and the public affairs bureau of the allied forces only liked 10 of them. At the time, the allies were in their fourth full year of all out war, on a global scale. People were rationing and many were going hungry, especially after the previous decade of the depression. So perhaps what Capa could have photographed were hundreds of soldiers dead in the surf and sand but between the supreme allied commander, the public affairs division and the actual publishers, it was judged that seeing a flotilla of corpses would have been horrible for already low morale. I'm just talking from having been the public affairs guy in my unit. I had to think about those things and then had to get my images cleared through my CO then 1MARDIV PAO in order to get my photos out on the wire.
Capa could have even been given the directive to stay away from shooting images of too many casualties because the mothers at home don't want to see their sons in the current issue of Life before the chaplain has knocked on the door.
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Old 02-26-2019   #58
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Originally Posted by Phil_F_NM View Post
Here's a hypothetical:
Capa took many more photographs and the public affairs bureau of the allied forces only liked 10 of them. At the time, the allies were in their fourth full year of all out war, on a global scale. People were rationing and many were going hungry, especially after the previous decade of the depression. So perhaps what Capa could have photographed were hundreds of soldiers dead in the surf and sand but between the supreme allied commander, the public affairs division and the actual publishers, it was judged that seeing a flotilla of corpses would have been horrible for already low morale. I'm just talking from having been the public affairs guy in my unit. I had to think about those things and then had to get my images cleared through my CO then 1MARDIV PAO in order to get my photos out on the wire.
Capa could have even been given the directive to stay away from shooting images of too many casualties because the mothers at home don't want to see their sons in the current issue of Life before the chaplain has knocked on the door.
Phil Forrest
The US Army censors did not allow photos of dead troops to be published till quite late in the war - September 1943, I believe, when photos of dead US soldiers on the beach at Buna in New Guinea were published. They were very touchy about this for the reasons you suggest.



http://time.com/3524493/the-photo-th...na-beach-1943/
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Old 02-26-2019   #59
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Even then the photo was doctored to hide the maggots crawling on the closest fallen soldier
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Old 02-26-2019   #60
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Willie-901: Well said! Thank you.
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Old 02-26-2019   #61
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This subject has got me a bit engaged as you can tell by my several posts.

Though I believe from recorded interviews that Capa had stated he elected to go in with Easy Company, the 2nd Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment, US Army 1st Division which he believed would be in the first wave, it also would not surprise me to find that there may have been some delays or changes to the order of battle that mean that this unit did not hit the beach till later - the photos do show for plenty of action ahead of him when he landed. It is of course also possible that Capa was not being strictly accurate in saying he elected to go with the first wave (he was known for exaggeration) and perhaps this was compounded by his loose interpretation of English something he was also known for - "one of the first waves" sounds awfully like "the first wave" if you are of that mindset.

Never the less I felt that one way of checking further on his time of landing was from tide times. Planners had elected for the landings to start shortly after low tide - one reason the 5th, 6th or 7th of June were selected as possibles was that low tide occurred at around dawn. The reason for selecting low tide (not high tide which army planners wanted in order to get the men off the sand as quickly as possible) was that Rommel had planted thousands of underwater staked obstacles. Landing at low tide meant they could be avoided by incoming landing craft and blown up by engineers. A further downside to going at low tide incidentally was that many landing craft grounded off shore in sand bars forcing the men to struggle ashore through the deeper water between the sand bars and get shot down (or drowned) in the process. If anyone has had this kind of experience (and I have though decidedly not under fire attacking defended beaches) they will understand its quite scary enough when the bullets are not flying.

But Capa's images show those obstacles clearly well out of the water. If they are not under water it was because the time was not too far off absolute low tide - perhaps an hour or a bit more, just as the planners planned. Whatever the exact time he made his photos it could not have been very late in the piece as the obstacles were designed to be "underwater" obstacles. You can see some of the them here:



Here is a report on the tidal conditions which when read in conjunction with Capa's photos suggest to me that he went onto the beaches, if not in the first wave, then reasonably soon thereafter.

"The tidal range from one low water to the next high water along the entire French coast of the English Channel was never less than six metres. At low tide, those large tidal ranges exposed long stretches of beach that Allied soldiers would have to cross under heavy German fire......

.....From low water, the water would rise at a rate of at least a metre per hour, sometimes even faster due to shallow-water effects. Five landing beaches had been identified (code-named Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, and Sword) and the timing of the tidal conditions varied between them. Between the farthest of them, separated by only about 100km, the difference was more than an hour – so the landing time on each beach, had to be staggered according to the tidal predictions.

Initial landings needed to be soon after low tide so that demolition teams could blow up enough obstacles to open corridors through which the following landing craft could navigate to the beach. To allow enough time for the demolition teams to blow up a sufficient number of beach obstacles, the times of low water and the speed of the tidal rise had to be known precisely. The tide had to be rising, because the landing craft had to unload troops and then depart without danger of being stranded by a receding tide."

So: First wave? One of the first waves? Does it really matter when what is clear he was there, there was an awful many men dying that day and he got the pictures and got them back for publication. He did his job.
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Old 02-26-2019   #62
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Here's a hypothetical:
Capa took many more photographs and the public affairs bureau of the allied forces only liked 10 of them. At the time, the allies were in their fourth full year of all out war, on a global scale. People were rationing and many were going hungry, especially after the previous decade of the depression. So perhaps what Capa could have photographed were hundreds of soldiers dead in the surf and sand but between the supreme allied commander, the public affairs division and the actual publishers, it was judged that seeing a flotilla of corpses would have been horrible for already low morale. I'm just talking from having been the public affairs guy in my unit. I had to think about those things and then had to get my images cleared through my CO then 1MARDIV PAO in order to get my photos out on the wire.
Capa could have even been given the directive to stay away from shooting images of too many casualties because the mothers at home don't want to see their sons in the current issue of Life before the chaplain has knocked on the door.
Phil Forrest
First italics: Assuming that the hypothetical missing photos were censored, would they go to the trouble of removing the emulsion? I would have thought they'd just shred them and be done.

Second italics: Possibly more likely but we'll never know. However, as Peter says they took the photos, they were just either held back, or in the case of the Leipzig photos they were published with the faces covered.

I still believe he shot what he needed and got out of there to save himself and meet deadlines. The story about the melting emulsion was just the darkroom staffs best guess at why the rolls were mostly blank, after all, why would the great Robert Capa not have taken more photos?
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Old 02-26-2019   #63
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First italics: Assuming that the hypothetical missing photos were censored, would they go to the trouble of removing the emulsion? I would have thought they'd just shred them and be done.

Second italics: Possibly more likely but we'll never know. However, as Peter says they took the photos, they were just either held back, or in the case of the Leipzig photos they were published with the faces covered.

I still believe he shot what he needed and got out of there to save himself and meet deadlines. The story about the melting emulsion was just the darkroom staffs best guess at why the rolls were mostly blank, after all, why would the great Robert Capa not have taken more photos?


I pretty much agree with what you say but as regards your last sentence I do not believe the rolls of film were mostly blank at least not originally. On reading the chapter about this in "Blood and Champagne" it seems clear that when the rolls came out of the development and washing baths the initial report phoned through to his boss John Morris from the laboratory dark room was that Capa had performed brilliantly and got some excellent shots. There was no suggestion at this stage that he only got 11 exposures. But following developing and washing comes drying..............

It was shortly after this - after the film had been put into the drying cabinet to dry that one of the staff came running into Morris's office to say the films had been ruined due to the cabinet over heating. When they checked only 11 negatives were still printable, the rest were blurred beyond use or even recognition in some cases. This is one reason I am confident that the author of the article in question is wrong at least on this point- the accounts given not just by Capa but also by at least 3 Life staff members back Capa up. Capa must have stayed long enough on the beaches to load and expose 4 rolls of film. He was using two Contax bodies so each had to be reloaded at each once. And if anyone has used Contax they will understand they were just as fiddly to load as other cameras of that era - including if memory serves me correctly, removing the back and baseplate. Not a trivial matter with shaking hands and when wet cold, frightened as well as ducking for cover.

So it seems clear to me that at least according to accounts given by Life staff who were directly involved, Capa partly or wholly exposed 4 rolls as claimed, only to lose most of them as described in the lab. Capa may have a motive to lie if he had done a funk and run away from Omaha beach with no more than a handful of blurry shots. But why would those who were involved at Life magazine wish to make themselves look foolish if they were not telling the truth. They had no stake in upholding Capa's reputation - their loyalty was to Life magazine.
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Old 02-26-2019   #64
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The problem is all we have is heresy with the primary sources all on the same side so to speak.
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Old 02-26-2019   #65
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hearsay or heresy???



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Old 02-26-2019   #66
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hearsay or heresy???





Depends on who you ask!

(Words have never been my forte)
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Old 02-26-2019   #67
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I find it risible to judge the artistic aesthetics of Cappa's D-Day photographs. Comparing them to photographs made under pleasant and relaxed circumstances is naive and superficial. ...
Completely agree, wonder how did we went this direction...

Although its funny exercise to think a HCB's version of soldier hopping over the puddle in Normandy, in a hail of bullets
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Old 02-26-2019   #68
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Although its funny exercise to think a HCB's version of soldier hopping over the puddle in Normandy, in a hail of bullets

Funny, yes, but he would have been wise enough not to do it. Why would he?

Anyone who was stupid enough to go there could hold a camera to take this kind of pictures.

I hate this kind of bravery for money and fame.

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Old 02-26-2019   #69
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Funny, yes, but he would have been wise enough not to do it. Why would he?

Anyone who was stupid enough to go there could hold a camera to take this kind of pictures.

I hate this kind of bravery for money and fame.

Erik.
Well HCB was part of the Résistance so he did have at least as much Balls as Capa if not more so. He just wasn't a war photographer-

But I believe the whole comparison with HCB ist not really conductive to the discussion.
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Old 02-26-2019   #70
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(...) But following developing and washing comes drying..............

(...) And if anyone has used Contax they will understand they were just as fiddly to load as other cameras of that era - including if memory serves me correctly, removing the back and baseplate. Not a trivial matter with shaking hands and when wet cold, frightened as well as ducking for cover.

So it seems clear to me that at least according to accounts given by Life staff who were directly involved, Capa partly or wholly exposed 4 rolls as claimed, only to lose most of them as described in the lab. Capa may have a motive to lie if he had done a funk and run away from Omaha beach with no more than a handful of blurry shots. But why would those who were involved at Life magazine wish to make themselves look foolish if they were not telling the truth. They had no stake in upholding Capa's reputation - their loyalty was to Life magazine.
The drying accident cannot be hold different than a total mystification. Come on ! You have - like many of us - developed enough B&W rolls to know that too hot a drying will just not make the negatives totally blank. Too hot a drying would make the negative curl and get distorted with random stains on the photos at the very worst but it would not make the image disappear. No way !

I have a Contax II and can very well confirm that the use of modern film cartridges the same size of the Kodak cassettes of Capa's era, without the trick of small rubber washers glued on the film cartridge and take-up spool seats at the camera back, will make the film sprockets be in the exposed frame at the top of the shutter gate (and visible, on the horizontally framed photos, at the bottom of them).

So, no melting emulsion having slided down the film base here, neither.

To reload a Contax II you remove the camera back like on a Nikon F. The use of reloadable cassettes made it way easier but doing this in the cold tide under the enemy's fire wasn't a garden-party for sure.

About the truth and telling the truth : thas was a darn bloody war and that was the third one for Capa (he had photographed horrors in Spain and China before 1941 and had also been on bloody battlefields in North Africa and Italy in 1943 and the only woman he had really loved ever had been killed while photographing a war in 1937).

On June 6th 1944, where was the "truth" located in Capa's mind ? Who can tell this ?
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Old 02-27-2019   #71
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Who hangs their film horizontally to dry? Surely if the emulsion has slid off it would slide down the length of the film not off the side.

Apologies for the HCB interlude, I tend to go off on tangents.
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Old 02-27-2019   #72
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The drying accident cannot be hold different than a total mystification. Come on ! You have - like many of us - developed enough B&W rolls to know that too hot a drying will just not make the negatives totally blank. Too hot a drying would make the negative curl and get distorted with random stains on the photos at the very worst but it would not make the image disappear. No way !

I have a Contax II and can very well confirm that the use of modern film cartridges the same size of the Kodak cassettes of Capa's era, without the trick of small rubber washers glued on the film cartridge and take-up spool seats at the camera back, will make the film sprockets be in the exposed frame at the top of the shutter gate (and visible, on the horizontally framed photos, at the bottom of them).

So, no melting emulsion having slided down the film base here, neither.

To reload a Contax II you remove the camera back like on a Nikon F. The use of reloadable cassettes made it way easier but doing this in the cold tide under the enemy's fire wasn't a garden-party for sure.

About the truth and telling the truth : thas was a darn bloody war and that was the third one for Capa (he had photographed horrors in Spain and China before 1941 and had also been on bloody battlefields in North Africa and Italy in 1943 and the only woman he had really loved ever had been killed while photographing a war in 1937).

On June 6th 1944, where was the "truth" located in Capa's mind ? Who can tell this ?
Perhaps read what I said in an earlier post about the properties of thermoplastics of which the old celluloid film bases in use during WW2 were characteristic. I may be right or I may be wrong in that post but my point is who has tried it? Almost certainly people here on this site who have experience in processing only have ever experienced modern film bases introduced long after WW2. The relevant bit of my earlier post:

"PS On the subject of whether film emulsion will "melt" in extreme heat conditions there have been some here say that they have never known it to happen and I respect that.

But I wonder if they have considered that this might not have been caused by the emulsion melting, but rather the film base melting. Back in the day, film stock would have certainly been celluloid (cellulose) based, not a more modern stable and safe film stock which came in after 1951. The film used by Capa might have been either highly dangerous and flammable cellulose nitrate or the more safe substitute introduced in the 1930s made from cellulose triacetate - probably the latter I would suggest given its date of introduction to the market. In either event celluloid based film is inherently unstable and are what are known as thermoplastic - "A thermoplastic, or thermosoftening plastic, is a plastic polymer material that becomes pliable or moldable at a certain elevated temperature and solidifies upon cooling" (Wikipedia - Thermoplastic) In short it behaves exactly as described by Banks and Morris."
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Old 02-27-2019   #73
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Was Not Was...''you can't put your finger on the truth''...''Shake your head'' ... ''Let's go to bed''. Goodnight. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EpUt1KBpCBQ
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Old 02-27-2019   #74
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But I believe the whole comparison with HCB ist not really conductive to the discussion.

I agree, but in this thread I was not the first who mentioned him.


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Old 02-27-2019   #75
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I agree, but in this thread I was not the first who mentioned him.


Erik.
I agree. Whoever brought up HCB should be keel hauled.
https://www.rangefinderforum.com/for...5&postcount=16
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Old 02-27-2019   #76
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Whoever brought up HCB should be keel hauled.
https://www.rangefinderforum.com/for...5&postcount=16

Can I help?


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Old 02-27-2019   #77
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Perhaps read what I said in an earlier post about the properties of thermoplastics of which the old celluloid film bases in use during WW2 were characteristic. I may be right or I may be wrong in that post but my point is who has tried it? Almost certainly people here on this site who have experience in processing only have ever experienced modern film bases introduced long after WW2. The relevant bit of my earlier post:
That it is told to have happened only once in the whole rather busy career of Capa (and subsequentcally in all other war photographers') and with a terrible bad luck just for those D-Day photos doesn't really play in favor of this theory. Serious historians don't despise statistics to help making their mind up.

I have closely seen the "Mexican suitcase" negatives with my own eyes. How clean such late 1930s negatives still hold today is unbelievable (but all true). Although their processing then storage condition were probably the worst ever...
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Old 02-27-2019   #78
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Can I help?


Erik.
I’d say no problems, next time you’re in Brisbane. But I don’t know your travel plans so I might just say thanks but no thanks to the keel hauling (I don’t have a tall ship anyway), and if we catch up I’ll buy you a beer instead.


I am now aware that we are (well I am) taking up more space talking about why HCB was brought up (or that I did) than we did talking about him in the first place.
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Old 02-28-2019   #79
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That it is told to have happened only once in the whole rather busy career of Capa (and subsequentcally in all other war photographers') and with a terrible bad luck just for those D-Day photos doesn't really play in favor of this theory. Serious historians don't despise statistics to help making their mind up.

I have closely seen the "Mexican suitcase" negatives with my own eyes. How clean such late 1930s negatives still hold today is unbelievable (but all true). Although their processing then storage condition were probably the worst ever...


"Serious historians don't despise statistics to help making their mind up."

Yep, and serious historians don't despise evidence either......... And all the evidence states that all the people present at the time said it happened exactly the way history records it to have happened. Not the way some writer who is writing almost 80 years later says it might have happened based largely (it seems to me) on little more than speculation that since it was a rare event it could not have happened.

"I have closely seen the "Mexican suitcase" negatives with my own eyes. How clean such late 1930s negatives still hold today is unbelievable"

Yep, I suppose we should presume the negatives were never placed in an overly hot drying cabinet.
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Old 03-01-2019   #80
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"I have closely seen the "Mexican suitcase" negatives with my own eyes. How clean such late 1930s negatives still hold today is unbelievable"

Yep, I suppose we should presume the negatives were never placed in an overly hot drying cabinet.
I suppose we should presume the "Mexican suitcase" negatives were placed in an overly hot and humid suitcase for decades. Yet the images didn't wiped off themselves on those prewar cellulose triacetate negatives (mainly made by Agfa) nor got eaten by fungus and the like.

Although I can understand very well why it was invented and although, like I wrote before, it doesn't deprive Capa from all the consideration and respect he deserves for his unique courage and photographic skills, I don't and won't buy the overly hot drying cabinet story.

But, you can.
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