"Close Enough" Will Focus on Robert Capa and Gerda Taro's Romance

"Close Enough" Will Focus on Robert Capa and Gerda Taro's Romance
War photographer Gerda Taro (1937)
(Wikepedia)

English actors Tom Hiddleston and Hayley Atwell have been cast as the combat photographers Robert Capa and Gerda Taro in “Close Enough,” a romantic drama to be directed by Paul Andrew Williams (“London to Brighton,” “Song for Marion”). Atwell has replaced Gemma Arterton in the cast. Principal photography on the British-Dutch-Spanish co-production will begin in June, according to Screen Daily. The title of the film comes from Capa’s most famous remark, “If your photographs are not good enough, you’re not close enough.”

“I look at [Capa’s] life and see it in heroic terms,” Hiddleston told shortlist.com. “He was fantastically charismatic, dynamic, vigorous, exciting, and energetic…. I plan to go to the places he lived, those places he visited, read books about him, study his photographs, and, crucially, learn how he took them.”

 

Capa and Taro were, as Sean O’Hagan wrote in The Guardian last May, “the most celebrated visual chroniclers of the Spanish Civil War. Together, too, they would change the nature of war photography, reinventing the form in a way that resonates to this day.” Without the example of Capa and Taro’s fearless proximity to carnage, much of the photojournalism of the Vietnam War, in particular, may not have been either as dramatic or as humanistic as it turned out to be.

Capa’s real name was Endre Friedmann. Born in Budapest in 1913, he originally intended to be a writer but found work as a photographer in Berlin in the early 1930s. Living in poverty in Paris in 1934, he met Gerta Pohorylle (born in Stuttgart in 1910) when a friend who was modeling for Friedmann brought her to an advertising assignment, as her chaperone, in a Montparnasse park in 1934. Friedmann and Pohorylle were Jews and radical leftists who had fled Nazi Germany, each arriving in Paris in 1933.

Friedmann hired Pohorylle as his assistant and they became a couple. He taught her photography and she acted as the intermediary for the sale of their news photographs, published under the name of the then non-existent “Robert Capa,” to the American market; the name was inspired by that of the Hollywood director Frank Capra. Pohorylle named herself Gerda Taro after Greta Garbo and the Japanese artist Tar? Okamoto.

Their early collaborative work included photographs depicting the rise to power of the Popular Front in France, which culminated in its victory in the 1936 legislative elections. That same year, Capa and Taro traveled to Spain to document the Republican resistance to fascism. “Like many writers and artists, including George Orwell and André Malraux, they went there out of political conviction and scorned any notion of journalistic detachment,” O’Hagan wrote. “The fight against fascism was, in a very real and personal way, their fight, given their history as exiles and refugees, and the Spanish Civil War was the literal and metaphorical frontline of that battle.”

Taro was 26 when she returned to Spain in 1937 without Capa. She teamed up with the Canadian journalist Ted Allan (who later claimed to be her lover) and became trapped in a foxhole during a fascist bombardment on the last day of the Battle of Brunete, 15 miles from Madrid. Escaping the foxhole, they jumped onto the running board of a car that was smashed into by a tank in the chaos of the Republican retreat. She died from her injuries the following day. Capa, reputedly engaged to her, was shattered. He would never marry, though he subsequently had romances with Elaine “Pinky” Justin, the wife of the actor John Justin, and Ingrid Bergman. His two-year affair with Bergman is the partial basis of the romance between James Stewart’s invalided photographer and his socialite girlfriend, played by Grace Kelly, in Alfred Hitchcock’s “Rear Window.”

Probably best known for his photograph “Loyalist Militiaman at the Moment of Death, Cerro Muriano, September 5, 1936” and his “Magnificent Eleven” images of the Omaha Beach landings taken on D-Day, Capa covered not only the Spanish Civil War and the Second World War in Europe, but also the Second Sino-Japanese War, the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, and the First Indochina War. It was during the latter conflict that he was killed by a landmine in Thai Binh in North Vietnam in 1954.

Believed to be the first woman frontline photographer, Taro has emerged from Capa’s shadow in recent years. “Many photographs attributed to him… have now been identified as [Taro’s],” O’Hagan wrote. The International Center of Photography in New York launched an international traveling exhibition of her work in 2008; Steidl’s accompanying catalogue was the first major book devoted to her work.

Friedmann and Pohorylle’s bohemian romance inspired Susana Fortes’s short 2009 novel “Waiting for Robert Capa.” The film rights were optioned by the director Michael Mann, though with the greenlighting of “Close Enough,” the future of that project must now be uncertain.

In 2010, Guggenheim scholar Trisha Ziff directed “The Mexican Suitcase,” an independent documentary about the 2007 discovery, in a closet in Mexico City, of 4,500 unique negatives made by Taro, Capa, and David “Chim” Seymour during the Spanish Civil War. Like his two friends, Seymour (born in Warsaw in 1911) died when working. Covering the 1956 Suez Crisis, he and the Paris Match photojournalist Jean Roy were killed by Egyptian machine-gun fire that November, three days after the armistice had been agreed.