The photo appears to capture a Republican soldier at the very moment of death. The soldier is shown collapsing backward after being fatally shot in the head, with his rifle slipping out of his right hand.
I was there in the trench with about twenty milicianos … I just kind of put my camera above my head and even didn’t look and clicked the picture, when they moved over the trench. And that was all.
That camera which I hold above my head just caught a man at the moment when he was shot. That was probably the best picture I ever took. I never saw the picture in the frame because the camera was far above my head.
Capa was born Endre Friedmann into a Jewish family in Budapest. At the age of 18, he moved to Vienna, later to Prague, and finally settled in Berlin: all cities that were centers of artistic and cultural ferment in this period. He started studies in journalism at the German Political College, but the Nazi Party instituted restrictions on Jews and banned them from colleges.
In 1934 he relocated to Paris, where he adopted the name ‘Robert Capa’. At that time, he had already been a photographer. He met Gerda Pohorylle, a German Jewish refugee. The couple lived in Paris where Capa taught Gerda photography. They created the name and image of ‘Robert Capa’ as a famous American photographer, and at the beginning of the war both published their work under the pseudonym of ‘Robert Capa’.
Gerda took the name Gerda Taro and became successful in her own right. She travelled with Capa to Spain in 1936 intending to document the Spanish Civil War. In July 1937, Capa traveled briefly to Paris while Gerda remained in Madrid. She was killed near Brunete during a battle. Capa, who was reportedly engaged to her, was deeply shocked and never married.
In February 1943 Capa met Elaine Justin, then married to the actor John Justin. They fell in Love and the relationship lasted until the end of the war. Capa spent most of his time in the frontline. In 1945, Elaine Justin broke up with Capa; she later married Chuck Romine.
At the start of World War II, he was in New York City, having moved there from Paris to look for work, and to escape Nazi persecution. During the war, he was sent to various parts of the European Theatre on photography assignments.
A group of images known as the ‘The Magnificent Eleven’ were taken by Capa on D-Day. Taking part in the Allied invasion, he was attached to the 16th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division (Big Red One) on Omaha Beach. The US personnel attacking Omaha Beach faced some of the heaviest resistance from German troops inside the bunkers of the Atlantic Wall.
Some months later Capa became the lover of the actress Ingrid Bergman, who was touring in Europe to entertain American soldiers. In December 1945, Capa followed her to Hollywood. The relationship ended in the summer of 1946 when Capa traveled to Turkey.
While in japan, Life magazine asked him to go on assignment to Southeast Asia, where the French had been fighting for eight years in the 1. Indochina War. On 25 May 1954, the regiment was passing through a dangerous area under fire when Capa decided to leave his Jeep and go up the road to photograph the advance. Capa was killed when he stepped on a land mine.