I was in New York City a few weeks ago and had a chance to see the International Center of Photography’s amazing exhibit “Capa in Color.” Why was this exhibit amazing? Well, for one, Robert Capa was best known for his World War II black and white photos which propelled him to well-deserved fame. Those images are still easily identifiable 50 years after his death. (Capa died doing what he loved, taking photos in a war zone, and stepped on a land mine in Vietnam). The Capa in Color exhibit showcases the photographer’s lesser known color photographs, many of them shot for Hollywood and travel magazines in the 1930s, 1940s and early 1950s. It is always amazing to see the work of an artist outside the genre he or she is best known for. Seeing Capa in Color was like seeing brand new work – but with a decidedly vintage, Kodachrome spin.
Just as I was getting ready to make this blog post, I was scrolling through Twitter and I saw a tweet that evoked the flipside of Capa in Color. That would be a review of a book by William Eggleston’s called “Before Color.” Here we have a photographer who was one of the pioneers of color photography for show. Prior to becoming known for his stark depictions of American reality in the 1960s (and beyond) with color film, Eggleston used the tried and true medium of street and documentary photographers of the day – black and white. While Eggleston’s black and whites may not have the same wow! factor as Capa’s color shots, the additional parallel between these two bodies of work (besides artists working outside of their defining medium) is that a Capa is still a Capa and an Eggleston is still an Eggleston. Fans will eat their photos up in color, black and white, or both.
Photo by Robert Capa. “Skier, Zermatt, Switzerland, 1950.” Copyright International Center of Photography/Magnum Photos.