How to Mock the War in One Frame

Boy On a Tank- Photographed by Capa

Photography takes an instant out of time, holds it still, and let the people study it deeper and interpret different meaning through it. Most of the successful photos have layers of meaning. Photographers convey their main ideas by using icons, symbols, colors, and frames. Robert Capa is one of the most successful war photographers who use iconic images, symbols, and close frames to convey his point of view about the war. Boy on a Tank is one of his famous photos which is taken in the parade celebrating the liberation of the city, Paris. Capa uses iconic images such as a boy who sits on the tank and puts his finger in his nose, the tank, the hotel in the background, and all in a tight and closed frame to convey his point of view about war and mocks the war.

            In general, different, and unique point of view is significant in Capa’s photos, as a war photographer. Boy on a Tank is taken in 1944, The Liberation of Paris. It was a military battle that took place during War II from 19 August 1944 until the German garrison surrendered the French capital on 25 August 1944. The photo is taken when People were celebrating in the street and the soldiers were marching for the victory. Capa was the World War II photographer, who is famous because of his different point of view as a war photographer. His photographs never contain violent scenes of war or dismembered corpses. Although he is a war photographer, he has photographed more about the impact of war on life, and humanity. Also, in this particular picture, his different point of view about war is significant. the photo has unusual elements, a boy on tank away from the hustle and bustle of the celebration, silence in the middle of chaos. It is Capa’s style, he isolates his subject from what is happening around and shows us a different point of view from the same subject.

            One of the techniques that Capa uses in Boy on a Tank photo is tight framing; A tight framing will put a frame very close around the subject, put focal point on the main subject, and let the audience feel the moment. Also, tight framing conveys silence, isolates the subject, and let the audience feel the frame scenes. In this kind of framing, the subject is self-sufficient to carry a strong emotional charge for the audience. Copa chose tight framing because his subject has singular expression, details, form. In the time that the photo is taken, there were not any zoom lenses, so to achieve this frame the photographer would go too close to his subject, isolated it in his frame, and took the photo. Therefore, audiences’ distances to the subject are proximity the same as a photographer, and they can feel the moment’s scene as the photographer felt. In other words, Copa uses a tight frame to grab the audience’s attention from his point of view without any distraction.

            Additionally, the boy is the main subject and focal point which includes some iconic images, such as mucking, carless, and innocent. The boy is staring at the camera as he sits on the tank with his finger in his nose. It seems that he warns the audience to see that war is worthless. The boy is sitting on one of the powerful weapons of war while putting his finger in his nose, a scene that is nothing, but a mockery of war. The photo is a big grimace to war, the photographer uses a boy who is an iconic element for the innocent and powerless person to climb a tank which is a powerful element of the war as a killer machine. He is on top of the tank like a conqueror to convey that the innocence can overwhelm the devil. Furthermore, the boy is the focal point and the main subject, his body leads the audience’s eyes to the tank and finally to the background. However, Tight frame leads the audience to go back to the main subject and force them to study it more deeply, to derive the meaning.

            The other iconic image in the photo is the tank as a symbol of masculinity and war. Capa by placing a boy on the tank, in effect, placing innocence against the power of masculinity which is one of the war properties. In fact, the tank and the boy are contradictory in many ways, the boy’s small size against the tank’s size, the boy’s white color as a symbol of goodness against the tank’s blackness as a symbol of evilness, the boy’s carelessness and comfort against the tank’s roughness and inflexibility. Capa shows us how this dark, huge, and rough power defeated by a small, innocent, careless boy. Furthermore, the boy’s eyes directly look at the audience, however, the tank muzzle is blurred, which shows the power is in his hand, not the tank. Overall, the whole conflict between the boy and the tank and the figure that the boy has on the tank is a mockery of the war, in mockery of the power that the men of war seek to seize. The power that is now in the possession of a little boy.

            correspondingly to foreground elements the hotel in the background has iconic meaning. Capa Uses the hotel as an iconic and informative image. As an iconic image because the hotel in the background is a symbol of the fleeting nature of everything. It shows how people come and go in life; Like Nazis who were not able to stay in Paris for a long time; The accommodate of German soldiers in hotels strengthens this iconic concept. Also, as an informative image because of the French letters on the hotel, the audience can be aware of where the photo has been shot. Therefore, Capa uses the temporary quiddity of the hotel to show that the war is short and worthless. It may have some short victory and joy, but these are not continuously. To convey these concepts, he crops all elements of the background, but the hotel. He has framed the photo in a way that the French name of the hotel and the “hotel” word is clear and legible in the background.

Generally, Boy on a Tank is one successful example of a close frame photo. A Closed Frame refers to a shot that does not require knowledge of what is off-screen to communicate a concept or action. The photo tells its own history. In the first place, the boy sitting on a tank shows the war is ended. Second, the French words on the hotel show it happens in France. Therefore, every person with a little study on the photo without needing any other sources can recognize the frozen story in the photo, such as where and also when the photo happened. Capa not only tells the whole story of the moment in one frame, but he also conveys his point of view and his opinion about the war. A closed frame full of history which aware the audience about the nature of war. Capa uses a closed frame like a magician who brings out rabbits and other stuff from his tiny hat.

All things considered; Boy on a Tank is Capa’s viewpoint about war. He uses tight framing, iconic images, and close frame storytelling to mock the whole war and show how useless it is. He chooses to put a little boy, as a symbol of innocent and powerlessness on a tank, as a symbol of war and masculinity to mock the war and mock the people who think their power is invincible. Also, the boy sitting style with his finger in his nose while looking directly at the lens conveys the power of innocent and satirizes war. He also uses a hotel in the background to reminds people nothing stays forever, especially the evil power. Again, he uses every little part of his frame to tell the war story with his unique point of view. Therefore, Capa as the greatest war photographer just needs one frame to satirize and mock the whole meaning of war. So, it seems the power of the camera’s shutter is more than a guns’ shooter.