War photography: Truth is the first casualty

(From Times Online)

Shakespeare hits the nail on the head on the subject of war when he has the jealous Othello bid his emotional farewell to “big wars that make ambition virtue!”. It is not ambition alone that gets turned into something else by war. Viewpoints become causes. Murderousness becomes strength of purpose. A pointless death becomes a national sacrifice. The most terrible thing about wars is not that they happen, but that in starting them, we alter the DNA of our values.

I kept having dark thoughts like these as I poked my way around the Barbican’s compelling yet dismaying investigation of war photography in general and Robert Capa’s in particular. Downstairs at the Barbican, contemporary artists from Israel, Vietnam and Holland are seen tackling the current wars in the Middle East, with intriguing results. Upstairs, Capa spends 1936 rampaging through the Spanish civil war and still has enough fight hormones coursing through his upstanding veins to rampage through the D-day landings in 1944. In Spain, he is joined by his notable girlfriend and fellow war photographer Gerda Taro, who has also been given a show to herself here. Taro was killed in 1937 at the Battle of Brunete. So Capa spends the rest of his action-packed career partnered flimsily by adrenaline and glory. In 1954, he stepped on a roadside mine at a small turn-off in the first Indochina war, and died the death he seemed always to have been angling for. Oh, and in between he founded Magnum Photos, that alpha-male photographers’ club that still calls so many of the photographic shots in modern media.

Read the entire article here.

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