PROBABLY EARLY SEPTEMBER, 1936
PHOTO BY ROBERT CAPA
The caption as published in LIFE magazine: “Robert Capa’s camera catches a Spanish soldier the instant he is dropped by a bullet through the head in front of Cordoba.”
For over 40 years, this photo was presented as a soldier falling in battle as a bullet strikes him. In a 1947 radio interview, Mr. Capa explained, “I just kind of put my camera above my head and even didn’t look and clicked a picture.”
This image, which came to be known as “Falling Soldier,” is history’s most celebrated war photo. It’s publication launched the career of legendary photojournalist Robert Capa.
Controversy has surrounded this image in recent decades.
Suspicions first arose when experts found the photo was taken not in Cerro Muriano, where Capa claimed, but in the town of Espejo, approximately 35 miles away.
Allegations that the photo itself was a staged event have also surfaced, although there is no conclusive proof. In a second frame by Capa of the same location, published in the French magazine Vu in 1936, one can see another soldier fallen in exactly the same location. Experienced war photographers find it extraordinarily unlikely that the the first soldier’s body could to be removed and a second man killed at the same location--and for Capa to photograph this death as well.
Some suggest that while Capa had been posing soldiers when the picture was taken, the “Falling Soldier” in the photo was actually hit by an unexpected enemy bullet.
Capa was later killed covering the French Indochina war in 1954.
- Read The New York Time's Article, "New Doubts Raised Over Famous War Photo"
- View Capa's archives on International Center of Photography's site
- Listen to a rare radio interview with Capa from 1947
Image copyright Robert Capa / Magnum