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War and peace: Capa’s photos so as not to forget the twentieth century

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War and peace: Capa’s photos so as not to forget the twentieth century

His images told of the great conflicts of the twentieth century, his courage led him to document destruction and rebirth. 110 years after his birth at the Mudec in Milan, the exhibition “Robert Capa. In History ”, curated by Sara Rizzo, in collaboration with Magnum Photos, until 19 March 2023. 80 photos, some of which have never been exhibited before in Italy, trace the life of the most important“ war reporter ”in the history of photography; an exhibition that is not obvious as shown by the photos chosen for the section “Beyond the Iron Curtain” in which the shots taken in Ukraine in 1947 reveal a tragically current “experience”. In the same area, images of Moscow, Stalingrad, in which a statuesque group of children playing seems to be the only living presence among the ruins.

Robert Capa: his photos on display at MUDEC

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The beginnings

The exhibition itinerary begins with the reporter’s beginnings in Berlin and Paris (1932-1937). In Berlin he works as an assistant in the dark room of the Dephot agency, when he learns that Lev Trotsky, expelled from the Soviet Union three years earlier and confined by Stalin to a Turkish island, will appear in Copenhagen to speak to the students; He starts with a small Leica, he will be the only photographer to document the rally. The contact sheets of the reportage are displayed.

Among the most famous photos of Capa are those of the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), republican and loyalist militiamen, families evacuated from the cities due to the arrival of Franco’s troops and concentration camps for Republican exiles. In the exhibition “Death of a loyalist militiaman” is the symbolic photo of that conflict, the young man fatally shot falls with the rifle that slips out of his hand.

I grew up reporting

In 1938 the second Sino-Japanese war broke out, Robert Capa portrayed the leaders of the United Front, the nationalist soldiers, among military uniforms and patriotic spectacles for the magazine “Life”; the photographer tenderly documents the children playing or participating in fashion shows. The Second World War sees Capa alongside the allies, he is now an American citizen, participating in the landing in Normandy, but before that he was in Sicily to document the arrival of the Americans. During the conflict he went to England, he spends several months in France, he will, in fact, be in Paris when General De Gaulle arrives, where he mingles with the crowd at the liberation of the city. At the end of the exhibition, the photographs that testify to the birth of the State of Israel (1948-1950): European immigrants huddled against the parapet of a ship waiting to arrive in port. Women, children, the elderly united by the same gaze, that of freedom.

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His life

To understand his images you need to know his life. Born in Budapest in 1913, his real name is Endre Ernò Friedmann, he will become Robert Capa in Paris, with this pseudonym he enters the legend. In Paris he meets the photographer Gerda Taro, a German exile with the same ideals as her, he becomes her partner; together they leave to follow the Spanish Civil War, she will die in Madrid. Capa continues to tell the war with humanity and pain, he will die in 1954 in Thai Binh. In the era in which war reporting has unfortunately become daily, Capa’s photos are powerful and immortal, a hymn to peace that we would still like to hear.

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