when Robert Capa was “embedded”



“Liberations”, by Robert Capa and Alexis Jenni, afterword by Clara Bouveresse, Seuil, 192 p., €39.90.

The great story and the one who captured it on the fly, intimately intertwined. This is the perfect cocktail that the album offers Releases, seventy years after the death of the great reporter of Hungarian origin. From Robert Capa (1913-1954) there remain, imprinted on the retinas, some extremely famous images, notably those of the assault of American troops on Omaha Beach, June 6, 1944, taken in the cold water of the English Channel and “slightly unclear”, as the magazine which published them apologized. That, too, of the “tondue de Chartres”, this woman with a shaved head, exhibited in the streets of the city, on August 16, 1944, carrying in her arms a baby conceived with a German soldier. The symbol above all of wild purification.

This magnificent volume reproduces these historical photos with one hundred and fifty others, sometimes unpublished, taken between 1942 and 1945 by Capa alongside American soldiers sent to liberate Europe and North Africa. But the originality of this book lies in the captivating text by Alexis Jenni which punctuates these photos. Under the writer’s pen, the special correspondent becomes a prodigious novel hero.

The character lends itself to it. His name, Robert Capa? “A pure fiction”recalls Jenni: an invention of André Friedmann, his real surname, and his partner Gerta Pohorylle, “two refugees from Central Europe who brought their own photos to the newspapers and passed them around” for those of an alleged American eccentric selling them at a very high price. His images? Staging, sometimes, as undoubtedly for the famous soldier who falls, mortally wounded, this icon of the Spanish War probably reconstituted by Capa, a day when he had not “nothing to take, nothing to send to the press when that’s what he lived on”. He then allegedly asked a Republican militiaman to throw himself to the ground as if he had been shot. A form of ” augmented reality “ before time, writes Jenni.

Three epic years

The story begins like a tale: “When he thought he had no reason to get out of bed, lying in the only room of his New York studio with a telephone as his only other furniture, three letters were slipped under his door. » The rest, a letter from the magazine Collier’s sending Capa across the Atlantic, leads to three epic years filled with reports, battles, dust, corpses, air raids, parachute jumps and poker games.

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