Robert Capa's Lost Negatives

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Robert Capa's Lost Negatives

Post by Kenneth Armstrong on Sat Jan 26, 2008 8:40 pm

Amazing read. Interesting that these survived over 80 years, unbeknownst to Capa.

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Re: Robert Capa's Lost Negatives

Post by Nando on Sat Jan 26, 2008 11:59 pm

Yes, it is amazing. It is a fantastic read and it is worth sharing here. I truly hope that the photographs from these negatives will be published for all to see. These are like the Dead Sea Scroll of Photography.

I will never believe that "Falling Soldier" was staged. Robert Capa was the real deal. I hope that these negatives will settle it once and for all.

Here's an essay by Robert Capa's biographer Richard Whelan concerning the authenticity of the photograph.
http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/database/capa_r.html

I find it interesting that this photo was always considered authentic until 1975. In addition to what was written in the essay, I wouldn't doubt that there may have been a political motive to cast doubt on this photograph. The questions about the photograph's authenticity came in the midst of Portugal and Spain liberating themselves of their fascist rulers.

Edit: I am obviously mistaken that I saw that article before as it was published today. It wasn't that particular article that I came across but different one alluding to some discovery. Spent the last hour trying to find it. I'm thinking that the article I read was probably about something completely different but also related to lost negatives. Embarassed


Last edited by on Sun Jan 27, 2008 12:05 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Re: Robert Capa's Lost Negatives

Post by Nando on Sun Jan 27, 2008 1:42 am

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Re: Robert Capa's Lost Negatives

Post by Chako on Sun Jan 27, 2008 11:56 am

His whole life is an amazing read.

I agree. How those negatives survived is quite the story in itself.
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Re: Robert Capa's Lost Negatives

Post by pixcee on Sun Jan 27, 2008 3:20 pm

what an amazing piece of history that has come to light!
photos are such amazing things..and so interesting to look
at!
great story!

reminds me that I have a roll of 620 film sittin on my speaker on my desk
that i found in a vintage camera that I bought at a thrift shop...ive been wanting to get it developed but have just been too lazy to get to the store that can actually develop that sort of film! this kind of inspires me! haha I'm so curious to see whats on that roll!
Smile
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Re: Robert Capa's Lost Negatives

Post by Nando on Mon Jan 28, 2008 8:37 pm

It was inevitable. The discovery of Capa's photographs has put into the limelight the issue of longevity (or the lack of it) when it comes to digital storage. (Not to mention the longevity of digital equipment)

Bill Pierce, a renown photojournalist, shared an email received from another fellow photographer on Rangefinderforum.com. This looks like it will be a really interesting discussion. Another renown photojournalist and enthusiast, Tom Abrahammson, is also contributing his thoughts.

Link:
http://www.rangefinderforum.com/forums/showthread.php?p=736371#post736371
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Re: Robert Capa's Lost Negatives

Post by Chako on Mon Jan 28, 2008 9:42 pm

There are pros and cons to each in regards to longevity.

For instance, I know quite a few people who have had their negatives deteriorate due to heat, humidity, and other environmental issues. On the other hand, if properly stored, film will last a very long time. Not to mention you can pull them out and view them anytime you wish at a light source.

Digital theoretically could last a lifetime. However, cheap CD media isn't good, nor is the continuing advance of technology. The files are fairly stable (error can creep in); however, the software and the device readers may outpace the media, making your images obsolete for lack of a good way to retrieve them. There are ways around this, but they are far more costly then simply storing film.

This is a discussion that has been going on since the first digital image was produced and stored.

What I do know is that I have been into digital photography since 1996, and I have had no issues with storage yet, or of reading my photographs. 12 years is a short time for storage, however, I don't foresee any issues in the future with storing or reading my photographs.
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Re: Robert Capa's Lost Negatives

Post by Nando on Tue Jan 29, 2008 11:08 pm

I agree that the medium used (hard drives, optical discs, magnetic tape, etc.) are the primary culprit for digital files going bad. In my university days, I've worked on the planning of large scale databases projects for the provincial government and one of the largest retail companies in the world where the reliability of long-term digital storage was crucial so I've dealt with these issues. The hardware to store the data is extremely fragile. Hard drives will fail - guaranteed - it is just a question of when. Most optical CD-R's and DVD-R's that people buy are only reliable for around 3 years even when stored to reasonable conditions - after that, it is Russian Roulette. There are more expensive recordable optical discs that are made using phthalocyanine and azo dyes instead of the usual cyanine dyes. These are supposed to good for 100+ years if properly stored but frankly, I think that those claims are probably bogus. The most reliable medium for digital storage was and still is, magnetic tape. The problem is that standards in industrial tape drives change rapidly and there is usually only support for tape drives only go back 2 generations. The latest-greatest seem to LTO-4 HH tape drives which have 800gB capacities but at $4000-5000, this type of stuff is out of reach even to the best Pro photographers... also 800gB is nothing these days.

Personally, I've had a hard drive crash recently and lost about 700 photographs. Luckily, I had the original negatives. Last year a very good friend of mine decided to view a DVD-R containing photographs from her wedding about 4 years before. Despite the disc being handled with extreme care and stored properly in ideal conditions, it was unreadable on any computer. The photographer that shot the wedding didn't bother saving an original copy. Desperate, my friend sent the DVD-R to a data-recovery service in Toronto and for about $300, they were able to retrieve about 1/3 of the photographs. However, many of the recovered photographs had to be cropped extensively because much of the image was unreadable. They suspect that the adhesive used on the sticker label may have contaminated the disc. She asked me if that made any sense to me as she thought that this firm was pulling her leg and yes it did make sense. I've come across this before. Most people, even pro photographers, are unaware that sticky labels or even the act of writing something on the label side of the disc may cause damage. In fact, most permanent markers may also damage the disc by contamination. Only alcohol based markers should be used. Recordable opitical discs cannot be directly compared against music CD's and DVD's bought in a store. Those optical discs have several things done to them after the recording for protection. This will ensure that they can last for decades when properly handled and stored.

However, digital files, are unstable themselves. When it comes to reliability, digital data have a clear advantage over analogue when it comes to transmission over communication channels and direct copying. However, the opposite is true when it comes to storage. Analog data has the clear advantage. If even a little part of digital data is damaged, it is extremely difficult and expensive to recover it - sometimes impossible. A tiny damaged area can potentially cause the entire file to be unreadable - many times it can cause an entire collection of files to be unreadable. If analogue data is damaged, only the damaged area is affected, and in most cases, the damaged data can be easily recovered or fixed albeit often using digital means.

I strongly feel that we are at risk of losing an astronomical number of photographs of an entire generation (or more). 50 years from now, I bet that most people won't be able to show their grandchildren their baby photos because the parents used a digital camera and stored the photographs on an unreliable CD-R. Of course, they did so innocently and completely unaware of the risks. Perhaps the children of this generation are not going to care but I think that the parents would. None of the manufacturers of popular digital storage devices or digital camera makers warn anybody about this, of course. Expense of upkeep and conversions to newer digital formats is another factor. JPEG may be around for a while and will be readable for a long time. More problematic are the gazillion different RAW file formats.

Hollywood is going back to film. Why? Because it is way less expensive to store and maintain. A study done by Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences found that a digitally recorded movie master costs over $12,500 a year for storage and maintenance, whereas a movie master originally shot on film costs just over $1,000.
Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/23/business/media/23steal.html

Contrary to the popular belief, digital is not free. I hope that people will start realizing this sooner rather than later. I wouldn't look for digital camera makers or media manufacturers to come up with solutions to the problems I mentioned above either as a solutions would mean less $$$$ in their pockets.

In the current state of technology, film is still the best solution for long term storage. Many photographers, in fact, are now recording their photographs that were originally captured digitally onto film for this reason.

The discovery of Capa's negatives couldn't have happened at a better time. Unfortunately most of the world doesn't even know who Robert Capa was but at least photography enthusiasts should know who he was and his photographs. I truly hope that the discovery of Capa's negatives will result people questioning the current state of digital photography and demand better. How about affordable storage media that is reliable for decades not years? How about cameras with upgradeable sensors so one doesn't have to buy a whole new camera every time they want more MP's? To tell you the truth, I don't think it will happen. Maxell and Sony will make more money selling lots of unreliable DVD-R's instead of selling fewer reliable DVD-R's. Canon and Nikon will make more money selling people entire new cameras instead of individual sensor upgrades.

In any case, I am very much looking forward to the inevitable book with the photographs captured in Capa's long-lost negatives. I hope the question of authenticity of "The Falling Soldier" will be put to rest with the assertion that it was a real documentation of Federico Borrell García's ultimate sacrifice in the fight against fascism. I also think that this story is is great for a Hollywood movie too... ideally captured on 35mm film, of course.


Last edited by on Wed Jan 30, 2008 8:50 am; edited 1 time in total
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Re: Robert Capa's Lost Negatives

Post by Chako on Wed Jan 30, 2008 8:35 am

That is all true Nando. However, I can find little to worry about using digital. As I have said, I have stored my photos for around 12 years now digitally and can honestly say I am the least worried about their survival. I have back up of back ups, and my originals still haven't deteriorated.

Film still has storage issues like anything else.
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Re: Robert Capa's Lost Negatives

Post by Nando on Thu Jan 31, 2008 5:47 pm

It looks like Magnum Photos will be the sole distributors of these images. Seems perfectly fitting since Magnum was founded by Robert Capa, Chim Seymour and Henri Cartier Bresson.

Here's Magnum's statement announcing the discovery. Some photographs shown of Capa, Seymour and, perhaps of Gerda Taro, in this particular announcement were not from the negatives.
<< Link >>

Here's one of Gerda Taro that I don't remember seeing before:

Caption reads: Collection Capa SPAIN. A photo of Gerda TARO on the Spanish front at Brunete, some 30 kilometers from Madrid in 1936, where she was later killed on, the 25th July 1937. photo Collection R.Capa/Taro MAGNUM (click on the photo for the source webpage).
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Re: Robert Capa's Lost Negatives

Post by Nando on Mon Apr 07, 2008 10:50 pm

Here's a new flash presentation by Trisha Ziff on the story of the lost negatives. Some contact sheets and more photos by Robert Capa, David 'Chim' Seymour and Gerda Taro!

EVERYBODY LOOK AT THIS!!!!! Smile

http://www.zonezero.com/exposiciones/fotografos/ziff/
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Re: Robert Capa's Lost Negatives

Post by Nando on Wed May 13, 2009 2:53 pm

Finally, the photograph's from Robert Capa's Mexican suitcase are available for viewing at the following website:

http://museum.icp.org/mexican_suitcase/gallery.html
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Re: Robert Capa's Lost Negatives

Post by Nando on Fri May 15, 2009 1:05 pm

More interesting articles on Capa:

An article written by José Manuel Serrano Esparza of the Leica Historical Society of America on his visit to the spot where Capa made his famous shot of the fallen soldier (Part 1 and Part 2):
http://elrectanguloenlamano.blogspot.com/2008_08_01_archive.html
http://elrectanguloenlamano.blogspot.com/2008_09_01_archive.html
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