Robert Capa - Photographs New York Wednesday, October 11, 2023 | Phillips
  • The photograph offered here is the final black-and-white image made by Robert Capa on the day of his death on 25 May 1954. While he made a subsequent exposure on color film, the present image is the one illustrated in LIFE magazine in the days after his death, and the one which has become emblematic of his tremendous drive to capture combat on film.   


     “If he saw a good picture which could only be made with risk, he took the risk”
    —John Mecklin


    Robert Capa was called to Vietnam in 1954 as Viet Minh forces were gaining ground in their fight for independence in what was then known as French Indochina. Shortly after he arrived, the city of Dien Bien Phu fell to the Viet Minh and the French government stepped up efforts to quell increasing rebel activity along the Red River Delta, an agricultural area honeycombed with irrigation dikes and rice paddies. Along with LIFE writer John Mecklin, Capa accompanied French troops, many of them Vietnamese, along the road between the cities of Namdinh and Thaibinh. The convoy’s progress was halted repeatedly by ambushes, roadblocks, and landmines. Capa kept his cool and kept photographing. Mecklin wrote: ‘Capa was everywhere but always showing an expertness in calculated risk that only a man in his fifth war could know. He was cautious about crossing exposed areas, but if he saw a good picture which could only be made with risk, he took the risk’ (LIFE, 7 June 1954, 'A Great War Photographer and his Last Battle,’ p. 31).


    As he photographed the conflict between French forces and the Viet Minh, and saw the plight of the local farmers and villagers caught between them, he conceived of a photo essay entitled Bitter Rice. As Mecklin wrote, his images from this assignment dramatized ‘the contrast of tanks next to peasants working in paddies, of men dying in the struggle for the rice harvest.’ During one halt on May 25 th, Capa left the road to find a good vantage point for a photograph of the fields. As he walked through a field he  stepped on a landmine which exploded and killed him. He was the first American correspondent killed in the conflict in Vietnam.

    • Provenance

      Gift of the photographer to a Japanese collector, 1980s
      Private Collection, California

    • Literature

      LIFE, 7 June 1954, 'A Great War Photographer and his Last Battle,' p. 33
      Whelan and Cornell Capa, Robert Capa: Photographs, p. 187
      Gnugnoli, Robert Capa, p. 123


Along the Road from Namdinh to Thaibinh, Red River Delta, Indochina

Gelatin silver print.
5 x 7 1/4 in. (12.7 x 18.4 cm)
Magnum and LIFE copyright credit stamps, annotations in pencil and ink in unidentified hands, and typed caption affixed to the verso.

Full Cataloguing

$4,000 - 6,000 

Contact Specialist

Sarah Krueger
Head of Department, Photographs


Vanessa Hallett
Worldwide Head of Photographs and Chairwoman, Americas


New York Auction 11 October 2023