Close Enough: Robert Capa

The Kogan Collection


15 September – 1 October 2021


‘Close Enough’ is a touring exhibition featuring unique vintage photographs by Robert Capa. ‘Close Enough’ opened at our London gallery and previewed at Photo London on 8 September 2021 before touring our Wiltshire and Yorkshire venues. Shown alongside Laura El-Tantawy’s ‘In the Shadow of the Pyramids’, the two exhibitions formed our ‘Documenting Conflict’ shown at Messums London.

Robert Capa (1913 – 1954) is a legend in the history of photojournalism and possibly the most famous war photographer of the last century. Born in Budapest, he moved to Berlin when he was 18, and worked as a darkroom assistant. With the rise of Fascism in Germany, he went to Paris and later to New York to work as a photojournalist. He changed his name to ‘Robert Capa’ because he thought it would be easily recognisable – and it sounded American. Capa died at 40 years old and covered five different wars during his lifetime: the Spanish Civil War; the Sino-Japanese War; the Second World War; the 1948 Arab-Israeli War; and the first Indochina War.

The exhibition ‘Close Enough’ will feature a succession of iconic stories made throughout Capa’s career, from the altogether varying contexts in which he found himself. The title of the show references and questions Capa’s iconic photographic mantra. ‘Close Enough’ evokes the scenes he witnessed and the risks taken, the challenges he encountered in photographing tragedy and death while remaining a detached observer, as well as the legacy of this photographic approach today.

“If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.” Robert Capa

The exhibition presents 50 vintage photographs selected from the Kogan Collection, including the second earliest print in existence of The Falling Soldier – now widely recognised as one of the most important war photographs of all time. The central piece in this exhibition is Capa’s original Leica camera which took his earliest photographs. Exhibited for the first time, the camera offers a rare insight into Capa’s image-making process and forthcoming extraordinary photographic journey. Photographs of anonymous soldiers and civilians will sit alongside portraits of luminaries, such as Trotsky and Steinbeck. ‘Close Enough’ highlights the inclusive nature of Capa’s work encompassing as it does the suffering, tenderness, humour – and wonder – of the human condition.

The Kogan Collection is one of the largest private collections of conflict photography in the UK and has to this date, never been shown. David Kogan OBE, historian, journalist and former Magnum Photos CEO, started this collection twenty years ago, with a particular interest in significant

events of modern history and their photographic documentation. With more than 350 prints dating from 1895 to 2015, a group of 800 vintage NASA photographs, first and limited-edition photography books, Life, Picture Post and Time magazines and artefacts, the Kogan Collection offers the immediacy of first-hand documents of history, as well as an in-depth and comprehensive view of the history of photojournalism and documentary photography in Europe and North America.

Over the next three years, our series of exhibitions curated from the Kogan Collection will cover key moments in the history of European and North American politics, ranging from the Spanish Civil War, World War II, the Vietnam War, Kennedy’s presidency, the Civil rights movements and Apollo 11 – to the on-going refugee crisis. The materials forming the Kogan Collection provide fertile ground for research and curatorial investigation on the photography of history and the history of photography. These works will be the framework of not only an ongoing exhibition programme but also a digital platform to explore the varying approaches and artistic choices compiled under the label of documentary photography and the wider narratives surrounding the history of press photography as an industry and photojournalism as a profession.

‘Close Enough’ reflects Messums Photography’s ambition to offer its clients, members and broader audience expertise in the genre of photography. The department aims to present compelling content across its online and physical platforms that is timely and relevant, encouraging us to think of photography as a way to navigate, comprehend and question how history has been depicted and is remembered.

Launched in May 2021 with a programme of talks and exhibitions featuring international, renowned and emerging artists and photographers working in various parts of the world.

Images credits:

Top: Robert Capa, Death of a loyalist militiaman, Córdoba front, Spain, September 5, 1936
Vintage gelatin silver print
Illustration by courtesy of Messums/the Kogan Collection
© Robert Capa © International Center of Photography/Magnum Photos

Middle: Robert Capa, Leica II Mod. D, 1930
Capa’s first Leica
Illustration by courtesy of Messums/the Kogan Collection

Bottom: Robert Capa, Near the Cathedral Maria Santissima Assunta, Triona, Sicily, August, 1943
Vintage gelatin silver print
Illustration by courtesy of Messums/the Kogan Collection
© Robert Capa © International Center of Photography/Magnum Photos