The J. Paul Getty Museum

Omaha Beach, Normandy, France

Object Details

Title:

Omaha Beach, Normandy, France

Artist/Maker:

Robert Capa (American, born Hungary, 1913 - 1954)

Culture:

American

Place:

Normandy, France (Place Created)

Date:

negative June 6, 1944; print about 1964

Medium:

Gelatin silver print

Object Number:

2004.156.2

Dimensions:

22.8 × 34.1 cm (9 × 13 7/16 in.)

Copyright:

© International Center of Photography / Magnum Photos

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Object Description

"Laurent-sur-Mer must have been at one time a drab, cheap resort for vacationing French school teachers. Now, on June 6th, 1944, it was the ugliest beach in the whole world ... I took out my second Contax camera and began to shoot without raising my head."
-- Robert Capa

Under heavy fire, photographer Robert Capa swam ashore along with American soldiers on D-Day in World War II, making images of their successful yet deadly attempt to establish a beachhead in France. While troops around him aimed their guns at enemy forces above the beach, Capa aimed his camera at them, capturing the soldiers' bravery and the battle's intensity. Because Capa was standing in the water with them, the camera angle provides a sense of the chaos of war that soldiers surely felt on that day.

Although Capa shot 72 images that day, all but eleven were ruined when the negatives were placed in an overheated film drying cabinet in a London lab. The images that survived appear grainy and blurry, partly due to this error, and partly due to Capa's nerves. Despite the damage, the effect appears almost intentional--as a visual metaphor for the confusing experience of combat. As with many of his war photographs, this image exemplifies Capa's oft-quoted philosophy, "If your pictures aren't good enough, you aren't close enough."

Exhibitions
Exhibitions
Pictures for the Press (September 20, 2005 to January 22, 2006)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), September 20, 2005 to January 22, 2006
Bibliography
Bibliography

Capa, Robert. Slightly Out of Focus (New York: Henry Holt and Company, Inc., 1947), p. 158.

Robert Capa, War Photographs, exh. cat. (New York: Magnum Photos, with LIFE Magazine, 1960), unpaginated.

Menschen im Krieg, text by Jozefa Stuart, exh. cat. (Zürich: Das Kunstgewerbemuseum, 1961), unpaginated. Published title: Normandie 1944, Die Invasion.

Mensen in de oorlog, text by Jozefa Stuart, exh. cat. (Amsterdam: Stedelijk Museum, 1962), unpaginated. Published title: Normandië 1944 - De Invasie.

Capa, Robert. Images of War (New York: Grossman Publishers, Inc. 1964), pp. 106-07.

Capa, Cornell, ed. The Concerned Photographer: The Photographs of Werner Bischof, Robert Capa, David Seymour ("Chim"), André Kertész, Leonard Freed, Dan Weiner. (New York: Grossman Publishers, 1968), unpaginated. Published title: D-Day, Omaha Beach, June 6, 1944.

Capa, Cornell and Bhupendra Karia, eds. Robert Capa (New York: Grossman Publishers, with International Fund for Concerned Photography, Inc., 1974), pp. 72-73.

Capa, Cornell. Robert Capa: War and Peace, Photo Exhibition Commemorating the 30th Anniversary of His Death, exh. cat. (Tokyo: Pacific Press Service, with International Center of Photography, 1984), p. 77, cover ill.

Capa, Cornell and Richard Whelan, eds. Robert Capa: Photographs (New York: Alfred A. Knopf Inc., 1985), pp. 148-149. Published title: Omaha Beach, near Colleville-sur-Mer, Normandy coast, June 6, 1944. American troops landing on D-Day.

Capa, Cornell and Richard Whelan, eds. Robert Capa: Photographs (New York: Aperture, 1996), p. 100. Published title: U.S. trops landing on D-Day, Omaha Beach, Normandy coast, June 6, 1944.

Whelan, Richard. Robert Capa: The Definitive Collection (London and New York: Phaidon, 2001), p. 361, cover ill.

Beaumont-Maillet, Laure. Capa connu et inconnu, exh. cat. (Paris: Bibliothèque nationale de France, 2004), pl. 216. Published title: Débarquement.

Whelan, Richard. This is War! Robert Capa at Work, exh. cat. (New York: International Center of Photography, with Steidl, 2007), fig. 292. Published title: [American soldiers landing on Omaha Beach, D-Day, Normandy, France].

Education Resources
Education Resources

Education Resource

Subjects

Grades

Format

Historical Witness, Social Messaging

Additional works of art related to the themes and topics of the curriculum.