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Omaha Beach, Normandy, France
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© Cornell Capa / Magnum Photos

Robert Capa
American, France, Negative, June 6, 1944; print, about 1964
Gelatin silver print
9 x 13 7/16 in.
2004.156.2

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"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."