I chose to make a commentary on a picture from Robert Capa entitled “Refugee Transit Center, Barcelona (January 1939)”. This picture particularly touched me because even though it was taken in 1939 and has that historical vibe, it is still very timely considering the curent situation in Europe today. When I saw it at the exhibition, it actually reminded me pictures I saw in the news of Syrian refugees piled up in Keletipàlyaudvar, one of the main railway station in Budapest.
- The Thing in Itself
Choosing to capture this very moment has a contradictory effect. All these people seem like they had been frozen for the time of the shot: we can imagine the noise, the mouvements, the agitation, but at the same time this picture looks very surreal, almost like a painting. To get this result the photographer must have chosen a very fast shutter speed that didn’t allow movement to be captured.
- The Detail
This pictures represents migrating people in a refugee transit zone in Barcelona. As the photograph was taken in 1939, we can assume those people are fleeing a conflict zone. Therefore, Robert Capa immortalized one of the several reality of wartime and the effect of ongoing wars on civilians.
- The Frame
The way in which Robert Capa framed this shot is very interesting: he zoomed in on the crowed, so that we don’t see how far it extends (expect from the very top go the image) and this intensifies the scene and makes it even more busy. As this picture is supposed to be a reporter document, he also took care of including some factual and contextual information, such ad the Transit Center’s name on the the front of the building.
Considering the lightening, we can assume that this picture was taken during daytime without exactly knowing the hour. However, this scene looks very dark and it seems like the weather was very overcast that day. This absence of light, bringing darkness on the aggregated crowd also plays a role in the picture: it reinforces the tense atmosphere and makes the whole scene quite suffocating.
- Vantage Point
In this photograph, vantage point is a particularly important aspect. Indeed, Robert Capa chose to capture this scene from above, intensifying this impression of chaos, disorganization and confusedness. The chosen vantage point highest even more this incredible mix of men, women, children moving around bags and luggages of all sort.