(photo credit: Gerda Taro/The Jerusalem Post Archives)
If an Israeli had never had the chance to view an exhibition of the works of world-famous Jewish-Hungarian photojournalist Robert Capa (born Friedmann), all he would have to do would be to fly to Japan to see the work of Capa and his Jewish partner Gerda Taro (1910- 1937) at the Yokohama Museum of Art.
The museum has deemed it appropriate to celebrate the centennary of his birth in 1913 with an outstanding exhibition of their photos.
Capa documented, among many other things, the first Rosh Hashana celebrations in liberated Berlin after World War II, Israel’s Declaration of Independence, the arrival of new immigrants to the state after its founding, and the residents in their miserable new immigrants’ transition camps.
In the context of Capa’s monumental work, however, these were comparatively marginal events. As a war correspondent he was never inclined to portray the sensational, the heroic or the patriotic. An ardent anti-fascist, even before Hitler’s rise to power in 1933, a pacifist at heart and a genuine humanist, he concentrated on war’s horrors and futility.
Starting with the Spanish Civil War in 1936, and then covering the Chinese-Japanese War in 1937, the London Blitz in 1941, WWII in Europe and North Africa, the landing of the first American troops in Normandy on D-Day in 1944 and finally the Vietnam War – where he was killed in 1954, before his 41st birthday – his photos tell the untold hardships of war.
Capa focused on people, their sufferings, sorrows and misfortunes in war – be they soldiers or civilians, friends or foes, war orphans, grieving widows, or the devastation of towns after air raids in Europe and China.
Most of his photos are black and white. The sharp contrast between depressing dark and glaring light transmits his message more elaborately than colors could. Capa’s merciless emphasizing of war’s inhumanity and senselessness is as relevant today as it was in his time.