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Alternate History: Robert Capa and John Morris (e)

If, as we are regularly encouraged to do, we pay heed to the lives and works of Robert Capa and John Morris, then, in the spirit of the field of journalism in which they both worked and to which they declared their commitment, we should do so “warts and all.” The fabrication of their D-Day myth has a prominent place among those blemishes. […]

Alternate History: Robert Capa and John Morris (d)

Prior to his centennial confession to James Estrin of the New York Times that our conclusions in this investigation have proved correct in almost every particular, John Morris worked feverishly to cover his tracks. This ill-conceived effort took the form of a series of madcap variations on his original fable of the famous emulsion melt that purportedly ruined Capa’s D-Day negatives. […]

Alternate History: Robert Capa on D-Day (30)

Clearly, we still have much work to do if we hope to dislodge this fable from the mythology of photojournalism and photo history — not to mention the larger D-Day into which it has become so thoroughly woven. Yet there’s grounds for hope, that “thing with feathers.” […]

Alternate History: Robert Capa and John Morris (c)

Robert Capa’s habit of self-invention proved contagious for John Morris, his self-styled “adopted brother,” both of them prone to the condition Steven Colbert named “truthiness,” which he formally defined as “the belief in what you feel to be true rather than what the facts will support.” […]

Alternate History: Robert Capa and John Morris (b)

Clearly, Capa fudged the truth and even lied outright whenever it served his purposes, telling multiple versions of his anecdotes and choosing his sometimes extreme variations according to how he gauged his listeners and the professional consequences of his disclosures. For reasons of his own, John Morris still chooses — at least publicly — not to see it that way. […]