"If your pictures aren't good enough," Robert Capa once remarked, "then you're not close enough." For more than 35 years, Capa's 1936 photograph "Death of a Militiaman" — arguably the most enduring image of the Spanish Civil War — commanded worldwide acclaim and helped establish Capa as the archetypal modern war photographer.
Robert Capa's iconic photograph of the Republican militiaman, Federico Borrell Garcia, at the moment of death.
(The Falling Soldier) Cerro Muriano, Cordoba front, Spain. September 5th, 1936. (Robert Capa / Magnum Photos)
The Falling Soldier (full title: Loyalist Militiaman at the Moment of Death, Cerro Muriano, September 5, 1936) is a photograph by Robert Capa, claimed to have been taken on September 5, 1936. It was said to depict the death of a Republican, specifically an Iberian Federation of Libertarian Youth (FIJL) soldier, during the Spanish Civil War. The soldier in the photograph was later claimed to be the anarchist militiaman Federico Borrell García.
The Falling Soldier appears to capture a Republican soldier at the very moment of death. The soldier is shown collapsing backward after being fatally shot in the head, with his rifle slipping out of his right hand. The pictured soldier is dressed in civilian clothing, but is wearing a leather cartridge belt.
Following its publication, the photograph was acclaimed as one of the greatest ever taken, but since the 1970s, there have been significant doubts about its authenticity due to its location, the identity of its subject, and the discovery of staged photographs taken at the same time and place.
Capa described how he took the photograph in a 1947 radio interview:
I was there in the trench with about twenty milicianos … I just kind of put my camera above my head and even [sic] didn't look and clicked the picture, when they moved over the trench. And that was all. … [T]hat camera which I hold [sic] above my head just caught a man at the moment when he was shot. That was probably the best picture I ever took. I never saw the picture in the frame because the camera was far above my head.Upon publication of the photograph, there were allegations from the Falange, an extreme nationalist political group in Spain, that the photograph was staged. However, outside of Spain, it remained unquestioned as a legitimate documentary photograph until the 1970s.
While some individuals, including one of Capa's biographers, Richard Whelan, have defended the photograph's authenticity, doubts have been raised since 1975.
Recent research suggests the photograph was staged. Staging photos was a common occurrence during the Spanish Civil War because of limits imposed upon photojournalists' freedom of movement: unable to go to active fronts, or cordoned off when they were, photographers resorted to pictures of soldiers feigning combat. Capa claimed the photograph was taken at the battle site of Cerro Muriano, but research suggests it was taken in the town of Espejo, about 50 kilometers (30 miles) away.
A 2007 documentary, La sombra del iceberg, claims that the picture was staged and that Frederico Borrell García is not the individual in the picture.
In José Manuel Susperregui's 2009 book Sombras de la Fotografía ("Shadows of Photography"), he concludes that the photograph was not taken at Cerro Muriano, but at another location about 30 miles (48 km) away. Susperregui determined the location of the photograph by examining the background of other photographs from the same sequence as the Falling Soldier, in which a range of mountains can be seen. He then e-mailed images to librarians and historians in towns near Córdoba, asking if they recognized the landscape, and received a positive response from the Spanish town of Espejo....MUCH MORE