Photographic legend Robert Capa in Color


Capa in Color at the ICP.

From an International Center of Photography press release:
Beginning in 1941, Robert Capa regularly used color film until his death in 1954. Some of the photographs were published in the magazines of the day, but over the years the color work was virtually forgotten. Until now.

Capa in Color, on view at the International Center of Photography (ICP) from January 31 to May 4, 2014, is the first full assessment of color photographs by the famed photojournalist. Comprising over 100 contemporary prints, as well as related publications and personal papers, the exhibition is a fascinating new look into the color work of this master of photography.

“Capa’s talent with black-and-white film was extraordinary, and starting color film halfway through his career required a new discipline, but it also opened up new opportunities,” said ICP Curator Cynthia Young, who organized the exhibition. “The exhibition is also about how Capa reinvents himself as a photographer during the years when he is not covering war and political conflicts. The color work was very much a part of trying to keep the Magnum agency afloat, because the magazines wanted more and more color in the postwar period.”

In 1938, while in China covering the Sino-Japanese War, Capa wrote to a friend at his New York agency requesting 12 rolls of Kodachrome and instructions on how to use it. Only four prints published in the October 17, 1938, issue of Life survive from these first experiments with color film, but Capa was clearly curious about color photography even before it was widely used in news magazines or by other photojournalists. During his first two years covering World War II, he used color film more regularly and often carried two cameras with him. In 1941, while crossing the Atlantic with an Allied convoy, he shot color images for the Saturday Evening Post and later traveled to North Africa, where he made spectacular images of the military buildup. While some of his color work was published in Illustrated and Collier’s, in 1944 and 1945 he returned to using black-and-white film exclusively, in part because of the time required to process, censor, edit, and publish color.

Capa’s use of color film exploded in postwar stories for Holiday, Illustrated, Collier’s, and Ladies’ Home Journal. He traveled to the USSR in 1947 with writer John Steinbeck and to Israel in 1949 and 1950. He covered fashionable Paris and Rome, Alpine skiing, glamorous Hollywood celebrities on international film sets, and the stylish resorts of Biarritz and Deauville for the burgeoning travel market. Holiday also published Capa’s travel writing to accompany several of these stories. The exhibition also includes his last stunning color photos taken in Indochina in 1954. Color photography was not a supplement to his black-and-white work, but was fundamentally integrated into his life and career during the 1940s and 1950s.

Capa in Color is drawn entirely from the Robert Capa Archive in ICP’s permanent collection. The Archive contains roughly 4,200 color transparencies – 35mm Kodachrome, 21⁄4 Ektachrome, and some larger Kodachrome sheet film. It also includes thousands of vintage black-and-white prints, negatives, tearsheets, and papers.

The facts:
Capa in Color
International Center of Photography
1133 Avenue of the Americas at 43rd Street
New York NY 10036
T: 212 857-0045

Robert Capa, [Spectators at the Longchamp Racecourse, Paris], ca. 1952. © Robert Capa/International Center of Photography/Magnum Photos.


Robert Capa, [On the road from Namdinh to Thaibinh, Indochina, (Vietnam)], May 1954. © Robert Capa/International Center of Photography/Magnum Photos.

Robert Capa, [Capucine, French model and actress, on a balcony, Rome], August 1951. © Robert Capa/International Center of Photography/Magnum Photos.

Robert Capa, [Truman Capote and Jennifer Jones on the set of Beat the Devil, Ravello, Italy], April 1953. © Robert Capa/International Center of Photography/ Magnum Photos.