Robert Capa was born in Budapest on October 22, 1913 as Endre Ernő Friedmann. After his school leaving examination, in 1931 he moved to Berlin, where he studied journalism at the German College for Politics (Deutsche Hochschule für Politik). He encountered photography as a laboratory assistant in the photographic agency Dephot (Deutscher Photodienst). Dephot commissioned him to photograph Leo Trotsky during his lecture in Copenhagen, Denmark. His work received full-page coverage in Der Welt Spiegel – this was his first photo-reportage in print, and made his name. From 1933 he lived in Paris where André Kertész helped him to get jobs. His first French photo-report appeared in the magazine VU in 1934, following which he changed his name to Robert Capa.
In 1936 he began to photograph the events of the Spanish Civil War for the left-wing French weekly Regards. In this year he took what is perhaps his most famous picture: Death of a Militiaman. In a stunning series of pictures he recorded the bombing of Madrid and the fall of Barcelona. Meanwhile he worked in London and Paris. In 1938 he spent over seven months in China. By this time his photographs were being printed in the great magazines of the time: Life, the Weekly Illustrated and the Picture Post.
He moved to the United States of America before the outbreak of World War II. During the war he photographed in England, North Africa and Italy. On June 6, 1944, the famous D-day, he disembarked onto the French coast in Normandy with the first American First Infantry Division. He reported on the Battle of the Bulge in the Ardennes, and he took photos of the bomb-devastated Germany.
After the war he received US citizenship. Ingrid Bergman persuaded him to work in Hollywood for a short time as a cameraman and film director.
In 1947 he made a report tour in the Soviet Union with American writer John Steinbeck. The same year he founded the photograph agency Magnum in New York, together with Henri Cartier-Bresson, David Seymour, George Rodger and others.
In 1948 he documented in photographs the birth of the State of Israel. Also that year, he spent six weeks in Hungary.
In 1954 he was sent by Life to Indochina to report on the fights of the French colonies. On May 25 he died in Vietnam, next to Thai Binh, victim of a land mine.
In order to safeguard his bequest, his brother Cornell Capa, also a photographer, set up a foundation in 1964. The organization later acquired works from other Magnum photographers, too, then was transformed to the International Center of Photography (ICP), New York in 1974.