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Robert Capa in color lights up New York

01 february 2014, 20:48
Robert Capa was one of the world's most renowned photographers covering 20th century war and politics, and a new exhibition showcases his dazzling work in color, much of it forgotten, AFP reports.

A Hungarian who studied in Berlin and fled the Nazis in 1933, Capa shot to fame with his coverage of the Spanish civil war, World War II and the Israeli war for independence in 1948.

Most of his iconic war pictures were shot in black-and-white film.

Capa was killed when he stepped on a landmine at the end of the French Indochina war in 1954, but between conflicts he traveled around the world taking color photographs of everyday situations and of his celebrity friends.

The exhibition that opened on Friday at the International Center of Photography in New York includes pictures of Ingrid Bergman, Humphrey Bogart, Truman Capote, Orson Welles and other stars.

His friends allowed Capa to photograph what would have otherwise been private moments: for example, there is a picture of Pablo Picasso with his family on the beach in the south of France, and another of writer Ernest Hemingway at home in Sun Valley, Idaho.

The exhibition "gives a first look of color photographs of Robert Capa. Some of the work have never been seen before," said ICP director Mark Lubell.

The ICP found around 4,200 color negatives of Capa, curator Cynthia Young told AFP.

"This exhibition is also about how Capa reinvents himself as a photographer during the years when he is not covering war and political conflicts," she said.

Capa founded the legendary Magnum Photos agency with French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson in 1947, and color photos at the time played a huge part in meeting demand from magazines.

Capa first experimented with color in 1938 while covering the Sino-Japanese war.

But of the 12 Kodachrome rolls he requested, only four prints were published, all related to the battle for control of the Yangtze river.

Starting in 1941 Capa began to take color photos regularly. From then until his death in 1954 Capa always traveled with two cameras, one with black-and-white film, and the other with color.

"Black and white was cheaper, but color was glamourous and they were used pretty regularly on covers," said Young.

"It was a world that demanded color. Color was in the movies, color was in advertisement," Young said.

Capa's war photographs were almost entirely taken in black-and-white because it at the time it took too long to process, censor, edit and publish color photos. "Color was not a great medium for spot news," said Young.

The exhibition closes with heartbreaking photos taken by Capa shortly before he died on May 25, 1954 in Vietnam on the route between Namdinh and Thaibinh, where he stepped on the landmine.

"Capa in Color" will be on display at the ICP until May 4.

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