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Spanish Newspaper Says Robert Capa's Classic Image of "Falling Soldier" was Staged
Photo curator Zita Sor poses with Robert Capa’s famous image of a falling soldier. Photo EFE/ Szilard Koszticsak

BARCELONA.- The Periodico de Catalunya , has published an article that states that the most famous photograph from the Spanish Civil War, the image of the militiaman capture by Robert Capa, was staged. The newspaper states that the militiaman did not die that way, nor that he did not die at Cerro Muriano, but 50 kilometers away from the place where the photo was taken.

It is the most reproduced photo of the Spanish Civil War. Its author: Robert Capa, master of photo-journalism and cofounder of Magnum. More than 70 years after that moment when a picture told the world about the Spanish conflict, an investigation attempts to prove that the image was set up.

From 1936 to 1939, he was in Spain, photographing the horrors of the Spanish Civil War, along with Gerda Taro, his companion and professional photography partner, and David Seymour.

Federico Borrell became famous when he fell wounded at Cerro Muriano, in Cordoba, during the combat that took place on September 5, 1936, almost two months after the war started. This is the official version of Capa’s photograph. A Spanish historian identified the dead soldier as Federico Borrell García, from Alcoi (Alicante). This identification has been disputed. Doubts had surfaced on this image and others from the same series some time ago, these having to do with the pose the soldier had, the chance that another soldier would also have died on the same spot in front of the camera, the presence of the photographer on the front line, etc.

According to the spanish newspaper El Periodico de Catalunya, the photo was taken near the town of Espejo, at 10 kilometres from Cerro Muriano, proving that the photo is a fake The newspaper assured that an investigation it has conducted confirms that Capa set the photo up. “The change in location by 50 kilometers changes the whole story and definetely confirms that the sequence was prepared”, and therefore the unidentified miltiaman faked his own death, said the Spanish newspaper, which started to investigate due to the exhibition that opened last week at Museo de Arte de Cataluña, in Barcelona.

Many of Capa's photographs of the Spanish Civil War were, for many decades, presumed lost, but surfaced in Mexico City in the late 1990s. While fleeing Europe in 1939, Capa had lost the collection, which over time came to be dubbed the "Mexican suitcase". Ownership of the collection was transferred to the Capa Estate, and in December, 2007, moved to the International Center of Photography, a museum founded by Capa's younger brother Cornell in Manhattan.

Robert Capa covered five different wars: the Spanish Civil War, the Second Sino-Japanese War, World War II across Europe, the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, and the First Indochina War. He documented the course of World War II in London, North Africa, Italy, the Battle of Normandy on Omaha Beach and the liberation of Paris. To Capa, technical considerations were secondary to catching a dramatic moment. His action photographs, such as those taken during the 1944 Normandy invasion, portray the violence of war with unique impact.

The International Center of Photography organized a travelling exhibition titled This Is War: Robert Capa at Work which reexamines Capa's innovations as a photojournalist in the 1930s and 1940s with vintage prints, contact sheets, caption sheets, handwritten observations, personal letters and original magazine layouts from the Spanish Civil War, the Second Sino-Japanese War and World War II. The exhibition has been on display at the Barbican Art Gallery and the International Center of Photography of Milan and is currently on display at the Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya until September 27, 2009. It will eventually move to the Nederlands Fotomuseum in October 10, 2009 until January 10, 2010.

Robert Capa | El Periodico de Catalunya | Spanish Civil War | Gerda Taro | Museo de Arte de Cataluña | Barcelona | Federico Borrell |

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