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Robert Capa - Retrospective in Amsterdam
Ruth Orkin, Robert Capa in a CafÚ, Paris, France, 1952. ę Photograph of Robert Capa by Ruth Orkin.

AMSTERDAM.- The Jewish Historical Museum presents Robert Capa – Retrospective, on view through 20 May 2007. This exhibition takes a broad look at the work of Robert Capa (1913-1954), the legendary war photographer and founder of modern photojournalism. His photos of the Spanish Civil War and D-Day are etched in everyone’s memory and have shaped our image of the twentieth century.

Capa was commissioned by French, British and American photo magazines to cover all the major conflicts of his day. In 1938, following the publication of his photos of the Spanish Civil War, Britain’s Picture Post acclaimed him ‘the greatest war photographer in the world’. As well as photographing frontline fighting, Capa also captured the suffering of the civilian population. He had an unparalleled eye for the destructive effect of war on the lives of ordinary people. His photos can be hard and confrontational, but are more often subtle and moving. As a photographer with a social conscience and as a passionate anti-fascist Capa regarded his photos as a weapon in the struggle against injustice, persecution and oppression. As he always said: ‘The war photographer’s most fervent wish is for unemployment.’ The exhibition is compiled by the famous MAGNUM photo agency co-founded by Capa.

Robert Capa and Eva Besny÷, two major innovators of photography and both originally Hungarian Jews, were good friends and are presented here together for the first time in a joint exhibition. As children they lived on the same street in Budapest. Later, in 1931, they met again in Berlin. Besny÷ had arrived there at the age of eighteen as a burgeoning photographer, attracted by the avant-garde artistic climate of the German capital. In Berlin she adopted the New Objectivity style, the new art movement that had transformed photography into an autonomous medium. Capa arrived in 1931, as a political refugee fleeing Miklˇs Horthy’s dictatorial regime in Hungary. On Besny÷’s advice, he took up photography and was introduced by her to the Dephot press photography agency. This was the start of a brilliant career in photo journalism.

Although the two former neighbourhood children went their separate ways as photographers, they remained firm friends throughout their lives. They regularly met, even after Besny÷ had moved to the Netherlands. Both are among the leading photographers to emerge from Hungary, a country that has produced many internationally renowned photographers.

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