A 70-year debate over the authenticity of a Robert Capa photograph dating back to the Spanish Civil War (1936–39) may have been settled by an upcoming exhibition, reports the Independent (London). The release of the picture, Death of a Loyalist Militiaman, made the then-22-year old Capa’s reputation; he went on to co-found the agency Magnum Photos and become a celebrated war photographer. In the years since its original publication, however, the famed photograph of a militiaman tumbling backward in his moment of death has been suspected by art experts to be a staged event.
An exhibition at the Barbican Centre in London, “This is War! Robert Capa at Work,” marks the first time that all the images taken by Capa on September 5, 1936, the date of the famed image, will be collectively displayed. A recent audit of all the negatives held by the International Center of Photography in New York has unearthed previously unknown film taken by both Capa and his lover Gerda Taro on that day. The new pictures, some of which include the immortalized soldier, Frederico Borrell Garcia, 24, have led the curators to believe that Capa's "Falling Soldier" is authentic, but that the death occurred during an exercise rather than during combat.
“Looking at the photos it is clear that it is not the heat of battle," said Cynthia Young, the curator of the show. “It is likely the soldiers were carrying out an exercise either for Capa or themselves.”
“This is War! Robert Capa at Work” runs at the Barbican from October 17 through January 25, 2009.