In the overview post to this series of pictures on Amawalk Hill Cemetery I mentioned that I had a big surprise in store. As I was walking around I noticed what looked like a large glass display case. It seemed such a strange thing to come across beside the gravestones in the woods that I went over to look. Inside were a number of photographs and as I continued looking it gradually dawned on me that I was familiar with them: they were the work of Robert Capa. Why were they here. Obviously my brain wasn’t working too well. Then it hit me: they were there because it was here that Capa was buried. Sure enough there was his gravestone.
I’m passionate about photography and here was the last resting place of one of the all time greats. Time magazine recently published its list of the 100 most influential photographers of all time and Capa is one of only three photographers to have more than one picture included (the other two are Eddie Adams and Margaret Bourke-White).
Many of his photographs are well-known, but the one below is possibly the most famous. He was killed in 1954 at the age of 40 in Thai Binh, Vietnam after he stepped on a landmine while photographing the France/Vietnam war.
So here we have a Jewish photographer of Hungarian origins buried in a quaker cemetery. I wondered why? According to the Wikipedia entry on the Amawalk Friends Meeting House:
In 1954 war photographer Robert Capa, whose gritty “Magnificent Eleven”, taken under heavy German fire, are considered iconic images of the Normandy landings during World War II, died after he stepped on a land mine in Vietnam while covering the First Indochina War. John Morris (as I’m writing this post Mr. Morris just celebrated his 100th birthday a week ago), Capa’s editor at Life magazine in London during the Normandy landings and at Magnum Photos at the time of his death, felt that a Quaker funeral would be a fitting tribute to Capa, a nonobservant Jew who had immigrated from Hungary. Morris’ reasoning was that, even though Capa had not been a Quaker, he sought to promote peace through his depictions of the horrors of war. As a member of the Purchase Quarterly Meeting, which oversaw Amawalk, he arranged for a Quaker service there. At the service, Capa’s brother Cornell said Kaddish. A young Dirck Halstead was among the attendees.
The few remaining members of the Amawalk meeting allowed Capa to be buried in their cemetery. Later his mother and sister-law were buried in the same plot, and Capa’s biographer Richard Whelan joined them when he died. In 2008 Cornell, who had founded the International Center for Photography during the intervening years, was laid to rest alongside his brother. None of them were Quakers.