Omaha Beach, Normandy, France – 1944 (Robert Capa)
If your photographs aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough. Robert Capa (1913-1954)
And he should know. Dubbed ‘The Greatest War Photographer in the World‘ in 1938 by Picture Post, Robert Capa went on to establish Magnum Photos with Henri Cartier-Bresson, David Seymour, George Rodger and William Vandivert in 1947.
Capa’s mantra highlights that the elements a photographer chooses to leave out of the frame are as important as those they choose to leave in.
Moving in close allows you to exclude extraneous and distracting elements and to focus in intimate detail on your subject, making for a more powerful image.
Sadly, this legendary photographer got a little too close when he was tragically killed by a landmine at Thai Binh in 1954. The Robert Capa Gold Medal Award was established in his honor the following year to reward exceptional professional merit.
You can see some of Robert Capa’s seminal work here.
You might also like to check out this slideshow showcasing some of the thousands of previously lost negatives Capa shot during the Spanish Civil War, before he fled Europe for America in 1939, leaving behind the contents of his Paris darkroom.
As Brian Wallis has said:
Capa established a mode and the method of depicting war in these photographs, of the photographer not being an observer but being in the battle, and that became the standard that audiences and editors from then on demanded. Anything else, and it looked like you were just sitting on the sidelines. And that visual revolution he embodied took place right here, in these early pictures.
So next time you’re out and about with your camera, shoot the compositions you intended, then move in closer and shoot some more frames… see which compositions work best for you!