In 1939, an assistant to photographer Robert Capa fled Paris before Hitler's troops descended. With him, he took three boxes of Spanish Civil War negatives by Capa and Capa's partner, Gerda Taro. The images were lost to history for nearly 60 years, until being discovered more than 9,000 kilometers away in Mexico City (Capa died thinking they had been lost in the occupation).
The negatives are a highlight of the "This Is War!" exhibit at London's Barbican Centre, which runs through January and also presents contemporary art on Iraq and Afghanistan. But the show's stars are Capa and Taro. Their cameras caught some of the mid-20th-century's momentous events, from Omaha Beach to Franco's bloodshed. Controversy lingers over whether Capa staged his most iconic photo, which shows a Spanish Republican militiaman falling from an enemy bullet. But Capa's D-Day images—shot as he waded ashore with American soldiers—exemplify his motto: "If your photographs aren't good enough, you're not close enough." It's a maxim that Taro—who was killed while covering Spain—also practiced. Her images of stolen seconds of peace, like that of a girl flirting with an infatuated militiaman, reveal a quiet intimacy with her subjects and their wartime lives.