Slightly Out of Focus - Robert Capa

Slightly Out of Focus, Robert Capa

Robert Capa (1913-1954) -  photojournalist, war photographer, adventurer. Slightly Out of Focus is an illustrated memoir of his experiences during World War 2. The front cover shows one of the photographs he took of the D-Day landings in France on 6 June 1944. It appears out of focus because a darkroom assistant in London when processing Capa's images had used too much heat and the emulsions melted. Of the 106 photographs he took that day this was one of only eight which survived.

He was born in Budapest in 1913 as Endre Friedman to Jewish parents. In 1931 he was arrested for activities against the fascist regime in Hungary. Shortly afterwards he left for Berlin and later got a job with the photo agency Dephot. They sent him to Copenhagen in 1932 to photograph Trotsky and his published photos were a great success. In March 1933 he fled Hitler's Germany and went to Paris. He met there Gerda Pohorylle, a German Jewish refugee, and they fell in love. Together they invented a successful American photographer called Robert Capa. Gerda also changed her surname to Taro. Capa taught her photography and they went to Spain to photograph the Spanish Civil War. Gerda Taro was killed in July 1937, crushed to death, by a loyalist tank near Madrid.

The Wars of Robert Capa

Robert Capa photographed five wars:

  • Spanish Civil War (1936-39)
  • Chinese resistance to the Japanese invasion (1938)
  • European theater of World War Two (1941-45)
  • Arab-Israeli War (1948)
  • French IndoChina War (1954)

He wrote in Slightly Out of Focus:

The war correspondent has his stake - his life - in his own hands, and he can put it on this horse or on that horse, or he can put it back in his pocket at the very last minute. I am a gambler. I decided to go in with Company E, in the first wave...My beautiful France looked sordid and uninviting, and a German machine gun, spitting bullets around the barge, fully spoiled my return...I made for the nearest steel obstacle...I finished my pictures, and the sea was cold in my trousers. 50 yards ahead of me a half-burnt tank offered me my next cover...Between floating bodies I reached it, paused for a few more pictures, and gathered my guts for the last jump to the beach. (p. 137-138)

Cornell Capa, his brother, comments in the foreword to the book that in making the decision to go in with E company he was following the advice he often gave to other photographers:

If your pictures aren't good enough, you're not close enough. (p. xi)

After the war, in 1947, Robert Capa founded, along with photographers Henri Cartier-Bresson, George Rodger, David Seymour and William Vandivert, the photographic co-operative agency Magnum.

Slightly Out of Focus

Author - Robert Capa
ISBN - 0375753966
Publisher - First published in 1947 by Henry Holt and Company. Published by Modern Library Inc in 2001.
Book Availability - Amazon (UK) - Amazon (US) - BookFinder

Related Material

Out of the Shadows: A life of Gerda Taro

  • Out of the Shadows: A Life of Gerda Taro by Francois Maspero (2008) Souvenir Press ISBN 9780285638259 Amazon (UK)

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This page was added on 29 March 2009.