Friday, July 17, 2009

Robert Capa in the Rhondda

This portrait of a Rhondda miner by Robert Capa was taken in 1942. What was the war photographer doing in the Valleys? Well, the previous year How Green Was My Valley had won a best film Oscar (rather disturbingly, it beat Citizen Kane) and Capa wanted to check the area out for himself.

So, did he capture the true essence of the people, or was he merely seeking to recreate the spirit of John Ford’s rather sentimental movie? For me it is the latter, the portrait has a jaunty, sort of, er, Irish feel to it, which is very much in keeping with Ford’s cinematic vision. The upward angle of the shot puts the noble miner on a pedestal so that the image also functions as classic social realism. It is, essentially, a propaganda photo.

The above photograph is ©Robert Capa/Magnum