Digital History Seminar: 20th Century Spain

The Falling Man

Taken by Capa and published in Life magazine in 1936, the "Falling Soldier" image is rather famous, making Time's 100 Most Influential Images of All Time, and its likeness has been used in protest and public art installations around the world. In a radio interview in 1947, Capa claimed that the image was taken during a battle where he was in the trenches with militia men who would jump up and run with old rifles at Franco's soldiers who were armed with machine guns.  He claimed that for this famous shot, he held his camera above his head, heard the shutter, and somehow got the shot. [1]

In the 1970s, South African journalist O.D. Gallagher claimed that Capa told him the image was staged.  No evidence was given, and it was ignored for nearly forty years.  In the early 2000s, Jose Manuel Susperregui, a communications professor at the Universidad del PaĆ­s Vasco argued that Capa and Taro were in a non-battleground part of Spain for this photo, which their notes claimed was in a battle nearly 35 miles away from this hillside.  Some say that as Capa is credited with being the first ever war photojournalist, it is possible his notes were not perfectly reliable, but not meant to be misleading intentionally. [2]

The two other images are from the same series and taken on the same hill, but show different men and angles that point to the original also having been staged.  For one, the different men in the exact same spot is very noticeable, but the third image of the man laying down and presumable pretending to be dead in taken from an angle that suggests the photographer was behind him.  In the famous shot, it appears Capa is to the side of the action. [3]

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