The Photograph That Raised the Photojournalistic Stakes
"If your pictures arenít good enough," war photographer Robert Capa used to say, "you arenít close enough." Words to die by, yes, but the man knew of what he spoke. After all, his most memorable shots were taken on the morning of D-Day, June 6, 1944, when he landed alongside the first waves of infantry at Omaha Beach.
Caught under heavy fire, Capa dove for what little cover he could find, then shot all the film in his camera, and got out Ė just barely. He escaped with his life, but not much else. Of the four rolls of film Capa took of the horrific D-Day battle, all but 11 exposures were ruined by an overeager lab assistant, who melted the film in his rush to develop it. (He was trying to meet the deadline for the next issue of Life magazine.)
In an ironic twist, however, that same mistake gave the few surviving exposures their famously surreal look ("slightly out of focus," Life incorrectly explained upon printing them). More than 50 years later, director Steven Spielberg would go to great lengths to reproduce the look of that "error" for his harrowing D-Day landing sequence in "Saving Private Ryan," even stripping the coating from his camera lenses to echo Capaís notorious shots.