Hungary has produced an incredible number of remarkable
Photographers - Robert Capa, Andre Kertesz, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, and Brassai spring to mind – there are many more.
All of them had to leave Hungary to get noticed or more truthfully, to escape discrimination and persecution – all of them were Jews.
So it was great to be able to see a major exhibition of the work of Robert Capa whilst in Budapest at the Ludwig Museum of Contemporary Art.
Capa’s archive numbers more than 70,000 images of which 937 have been selected by his brother Cornell and his biographer Richard Whelan as the ‘Difinitive Collection’ the most outstanding of his oeuvre from 1932 – 1954 to represent the cornerstones of his life’s work and his career as a press photographer.
Three series of the Master Selection have been printed using traditional methods. These consist of 40 x 50 cm enlargements marked with Robert Capa’s embossed seal. No more will be made. Of the three series one remains in New York, the second is in the Fuji Museum in Tokyo and the Hungarian Ministry of Culture has purchased the third.
Berlin, Paris, The Spanish Civil War, China, The Normandy Landings,
Germany 1944/5, The Soviet Union with writer John Steinbeck 1947,
Israel 1948 – 1950 and finally Indochina, Capa’s nemesis. An immense body of work condensed into just 22 years. Full of life and raw power these are very emotive images commemorating some of the most devastating events of the 20th century. I particularly liked the portraits of Leon Trotski looking manic,
Madame Chiang Kai-Shek cool and cold and Henri Matisse in bed with his cat.
And we were given a brilliant, free, bilingual catalogue with our entry ticket.
Omaha Beach. Capa was in the first wave of American troops landing on the Normandy coast on the 6th June 1944. He took hundreds of photographs. The rolls of film were taken to the London office of Life magazine where the lab assistant, in a huge rush, set the temperature of the drying cabinet too high causing the emulsion to melt and so destroying the majority of the images.
Only eleven frames survived of poor quality and blurred. Life published them all with a caption explaining the blur as camera shake due to the excitement of the moment. Capa responded by titling his war memoirs in 1947 ‘Slightly Out of Focus.’