martes, 3 de mayo de 2011


The film Eleven Frames, directed by Douglas Sloan, has recently being awarded the internationally prestigious CINE Golden Eagle Award in his category of Professional Non-Telecast Non-Fiction Division.

It is a short documentary movie exploring the life of John G. Morris, considered the most influential picture editor in History.

´The editors on those days really were running the show. John is the DNA of some of the greatest moments in History and he was instrumental in assigning the photographers to consider History which would live on forever ´ Bobbi Baker Burrows

´ He really knew the personality of the photographer, and he knew what the assignment would entail, so you would match that. Bob Capa was perfect for Omaha, for the D-Day landings ´Bobbi Baker Burrows

´How many people can actually rewalk a beach that Capa walked down in Normandy as I did with John a year or so ago?. And at the end of a very short walk together, he looked up and said: All of my life has been so braided with the fate of Robert Capa and I never really understood until I´ve rewalked this ´. Marie Brenner

´The people he knew and admired and who were his friends in the world of photography: Henri Cartier-Bresson, Gordon Parks, Eugene Smith ... These are giants he met over a period of time. This cannot be by accident ´. Robert Pledge

´I held up for four rolls, one at a time. Three were hopeless: nothing to see. But on the fourth roll there were eleven frames with distinct images. They were probably representative of the entire 35 mm take, but their grainy imperfection - perhaps enhanced by the lab accident - contributed to making them among the most dramatic battlefield photos ever taken. The sequence began as Capa waded through the surf with the infantry, past antitank obstacles that soon became tombstones as men fell left and right. This was it, all right. D-Day would forever be known by these pictures. ´ John G. Morris

© Robert Capa / Magnum Photos
First picture of the Eleven Frames. Omaha Beach, Normandy (France). Dawn of June 6, 1944. The first wave of American troops of the 16th Regiment of the 1st U.S Army Division have just landed from their LCVP at a distance of approximately a hundred yards from the sands of Omaha beach and advance towards it through the waters. Many of them will die within very few minutes under the German machine gun and artillery fire.

© Robert Capa / Magnum Photos
This is probably the most famous of the Eleven Frames exposed by Robert Capa at dawn of D-Day and salvaged by John G. Morris in the London Bureau of LIFE magazine Time Inc. : Omaha Beach, Normandy, dawn of D-Day June 6, 1944.

The PFC Huston S. Riley, belonging to the Fox Company, 1st Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment of the U.S 1st Infantry Division, is striving for making his way to the beach after the U.S Navy LCVP Higgins Industries landing craft inside which he went with many other American Army soldiers has landed in error on FOX GREEN sector (it was assigned to EASY RED one) at 6:40 hours a.m, in the first and most dangerous wave, enduring the fire of eighty-five MG42 and MG34 German machine guns located towards them, four artillery pieces, 18 antitank guns, 6 mortar pits, 6 tank turrets, along with the tough resistance of the soldiers of the German 716. Infanterie Division under the command of General Wilhelm Richter (distributed in defensive nests) and very specially the German 352. Infanterie Division under the command of German Generalleutnant Dietrich Kraiss (a highly experienced veteran of the Eastern Front, holder of the Knight´s Cross since July 23, 1942 when he was Generalmajor and commander of 168. Infanterie Division), who at his headquarters at Le Molay- Littry had given on June 5, 1944 the order to move 7,400 of his men, including two battalions of the Grenadier Regiment 916 - Oberst Goth-, the Grenadier Regiment 915 - Oberstleutnant Karl Meyer- and the Grenadier Regiment 914 -Oberstleutnant Ersnt Heyna- , from an assembly area in St. Lô to Omaha beach.

As if it were not enough, the Artillerie Regiment 352 under the command of Kommandant Oberstleutnant Wilhelm Ocker was also defending Omaha Beach area, dominating it with its cannons and machine guns from the observation post WN 62, the most powerful German stronghold (located by St Laurent), without forgetting the WN 72 on the east of Omaha beach (in the north of Vierville-sur-Mer), the WN 61 (located on the east of Colleville Valley) whose mission was to cover the entire beach with an 88 mm Flak cannon, the WN70 whose 75 mm ordnance secured the open stretch of field between St. Laurent and Vierville on the Plateau, the WN 71 with the best view of Omaha Beach of all the German observation posts, and some more resistance nests.

Needless to say that there were also minefields, barbed wire, concrete obstacles, hedgehogs, etc, everywhere.

The upshot of it is that Omaha Beach was with difference the most difficult point to attack of the whole Overlord Operation in Normandy and meant a turning point in its final result.

In the same way as his comrades, Huston S. Riley is very arduously crossing the water advancing towards the beach and crouching to offer as less target as possible to the enemy machine gun bullets and shells of all calibers that are being shot against them. He has already been hit by four machine gun bullets on his right shoulder, near his neck, and is seriously wounded.

Suddenly, Huston S. Riley becomes utterly dumbfounded for some seconds: two men, also in the waters, are coming to help him. One is an E Company buck sergeant and the other one a photographer with a camera in his hands (it hangs from his neck) and a press insignia on his shoulder, who is taking pictures of him in the heat of the battle, under a hail of bullets, greatly risking his life.

This photographer is Robert Capa, who under John G. Morris (LIFE magazine Time Inc. picture editor in London) assignment to cover the D-Day first wave of landings, is in Omaha Beach using a 35 mm format Contax II rangefinder camera (featuring an RF baselength of 90 mm with an effective one of 67.5 mm and combined eyepiece for both VF and RF, metal vertical travelling shutter and a maximum shutter speed of 1/1250) with a large aperture and coated Carl Zeiss Jena Sonnar 50 mm f/1.5 lens (a 1932 design by the genius optical designer Ludwig Bertele, with a strong cemented interface on the rear component making possible the correction on the higher order spherical aberration, with a very wise optical scheme featuring fewer surfaces than Planar, minimizing flare with the coatings made then, sporting a very good contrast and it all in a exceedingly small size and weight).

Capa also takes with him two more cameras: a second RF Contax II camera with another Carl Zeiss Jena 50 mm f/1.5 lens inside a sealed waterproof oilskin bag into one of the large pockets of his military style jacket, and a medium format 2 1/4 x 2 1/4 inches Old Standard Rolleiflex (also called ´ Standard Leverwind ´ by British experts) twin-lens reflex camera with b & w 120 roll Kodak Safety Super-XX film, Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar 75 mm f/3.8 lens and Compur shutter up to 1/500 sec is inside a further sealed waterproof oilskin bag into another of the big pockets of his military style jackets.

From the moment he jumped off the U. S landing vessel approximately at a distance of a hundred yards from the beach, Huston S. Riley has needed almost thirty minutes to reach the point appearing in the image (and located very near Omaha beach sands), in the same way as Capa (who was also on board of another U.S LCVP landing craft from which he had jumped with thirty-five American soldiers of the Easy Company, 2nd Battalion of the 16th Regiment of the U.S 1st Infantry Division at a distance of around 150 yards off shore), and both of them have separately advanced waist-deep water in the midst of great difficulties, constantly within gunfire range, and with a lot of American soldiers dying around them, some of whom can be seen lying dead on the water in some of the eleven frames.

Capa has had to crouch behind an iron hedgehog - where he took some pictures of American men stuck to the obstacles to protect their lives under German heavy machine and artillery fire-, etc, and after making some of the pictures (the one depicting Huston S. Riley being one of them), the increasing German fire makes him take the decision of struggling his way fifty yards ahead until being able to protect himself behind a half-burnt amphibious armoured vehicle stopped by German artillery. Here, because of the intensity of enemy fire, Capa is bound to stand still for twenty more minutes, after which he manages to reach Omaha beach sands going ahead with two American soldiers.

´While I headed for a disabled tank to get cover, I felt a new kind of fear shaking my body from toe to hair, and twisting my face. This is a very serious business.´ Robert Capa

Capa also thought that he was on EASY RED sector (he was really on GREEN FOX one), since the strenuous conditions in navigation had brought about that vast majority of U. S landing vessels to miss their targets during the dayAll the action photographs (106 frames, since one of the four 35 mm spools was unexposed because it spoilt while Capa tried to load it with his wet and shaking hands inside the 24 x 36 mm RF camera once the previous roll was finished, and on the other hand, one frame of two of the three exposed rolls hadn´t been shot, albeit the last in the sequence of the salvaged frames has the number 38) taken under German fire were made by Bob at dawn with the two rangefinder 35 mm format Contax II cameras.
Robert Capa used two Contaxs II 35 mm rangefinder cameras with Carl Zeiss Jena 5 cm f/1.5 high speed lens to make the action photographs during the first wave of landings on Omaha beach at dawn of D-Day June 6, 1944.

John G. Morris in his Life office on Dean Street, in the film district of Soho, London, during the D-Day. The Michelin map of Normandy can be seen on the right background. Picture by David E. Scherman

And when at 18:30 h in the Wednesday evening of June 7, 1944, there was a phone call made from Weymouth harbour (eight miles in the south of Dorchester, on the English Channel coast) to the LIFE magazine Time Inc. London main office in Dean Street, telling John G. Morris that Capa´s films would arrive at the British capital in one or two hours, taken by a motorcycled courier, there was a very jittery wait until the little package finally arrived in London at 21:00 h in the night with four 35 mm spools and six medium format 120 (2 1/4 x 21/4) rolls, together with an accompanying note handwritten by Capa reporting that things had been very rough in Omaha beach, that he had unintentionally come back to England with wounded being evacuated and that he was on his way back to Normandy.

Omaha beach turned out to be the bloodiest of all the D-Day landings areas, taking a heavy toll on American troops: around 3,000 dead soldiers, whose courage was decisive for the success of the Allied Overlord Operation in Normandy under the global command of General Dwight D. Eisenhower.

´ The only thing that´s important is that you come back with the picture. It has been the most significant factor in his life ´. Russell Burrows, speaking on John G. Morris career as a photojournalist.

´I would never have worked for Life again if they had fired Dennis Banks for ruining my negatives ´ Robert Capa, London, July 1944.

Eleven Frames, which has also featured Gail Kershner as Producer/Designer and Tania Sethi as Executive Producer, along with a thorough photographic research made by Robert Stevens (former international photo editor of Time Magazine for twenty years, former correspondent of Paris Photo Magazine, Trustee of W. Eugene Smith Memorial Fund for Photography, Photo History Professor at the School of Visual Arts and the International Center of Photography in New York), shows the fascinating story behind the pictures made by Robert Capa during the D-Day in Omaha Beach, Normandy (France)on June 6, 1944, and how they were miraculously salvaged from a laboratory accident after which only eleven photographs survived from the hundreds of frames (four rolls of 35 mm film and twelve rolls of medium format 2 1/4 x 2 1/4 inches) shot by Capa that day, greatly risking his life.

                                        Eleven Frames, Directed by Jerry Sloan

It has been for us great honour that five pictures of John G. Morris made on September 12, 2009 at his home in Paris by José Manuel Serrano Esparza have been included in the film:

This is a historical film who masterfully depicts in around eight minutes the pith of 72 years as a picture editor and photojournalist of John G. Morris and specially the unique circumstances surrounding the story of the photographs made by Robert Capa on D-Day and sent to Life magazine in New York, in which was one of the most important photojournalistic assignments in history, along with highly interesting commentaries by Marie Brenner, Bobbi Baker Burrows, John G. Morris, Robert Pledge and Russell Burrows, with the added bonus of a wise choice of legendary pictures made by Eddie Adams, Eugene Smith, Larry Burrows, Yosuke Yamahata, Werner Bischof, Cornell Capa, Robert Capa, Boris Yaro, David Seymour Chim, Ruth Orkin, Elizabeth Crockett Reeve, Burt Stern, Eisie, Peter Stackpole, Otto Hagel, Sebastiao Salgado, Nick Ut, Rus Arnold, and many more.

Eleven Frames also comprises a number of historical front covers of leading newspapers and magazines of XX Century like LIFE, Ladies Home Journal, The New York Times, etc, who were instrumental in shaping the collective understanding of images and the way we see the world and think about it.

4:08 September 12, 2009. Paris. 55 years later, John G. Morris holds one of the photographs taken by Dirck Halstead during Capa´s burial. Impossible to express with words the emotional intensity lived.

6:26 September 12, 2009. Paris. John G. Morris working at his home in Paris, inside his impressive library containing a very comprehensive assortment of books on the best photographers in history.

6:35 September 12, 2009. Paris. Another view of the amazing photojournalistic library of John G. Morris at his home in the French capital.

6:39 September 12, 2009. Paris. John G. Morris inside the library of his home in Paris, a city he greatly loves and where he has lived since 1983.

7:10 September 12, 2009. Paris. John G Morris posing inside his home by his famous book Get the Picture, considered one of the reference class works in its scope, together with the classic 1976 textbook Photojournalism by Cliff Edom.

Douglas J Sloan is the founder of Icontent, a highly acclaimed NYC based company that produces films, TV commercials and internet content, having directed, interviewed and collaborated with numerous notable artists, musicians and celebrity talent: Andre Agassi, Lance Armstrong, Eric Bogosian, Gabriel Byrne, Sean "Diddy" Combs, Elvis Costello, Cindy Crawford, Ellen Degeneres, Ken Griffey Jr, Debbie Harry, Elizabeth Hurley, Jewell, Bill T. Jones, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Nicole Kidman, William Klein, Maya Lin, Robert Longo, Loretta Lux, Mary Ellen Mark, Wynton Marsalis, Helmut Newton, Gordon Parks, paloma Picasso, David Remnick, Isabella Rossellini, Todd Rundgren, Cindy Sherman, Sharon Stone, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Hilary Swank, Mario Testino, John Travolta, Donald Trump, Oprah Winfrey, etc.

Mr. Sloan is the recipient of over 100 production awards and nineteen CINE awards for directorial excellence in film.

The CINE Golden Eagle Awards, distinguishing excellence in professional, independent and student works, are recognized internationally as symbols of the highest production standards in filmmaking and videography. Since its founding in 1957, CINE has been dedicated to discovering, rewarding, educating and supporting established and emerging talents in film and video. Illustrious media legends who have also received the CINE Golden Eagle include Steven Spielberg, George Lucas and Ron Howard, as well as great documentarians such as Ken Burns, Charles Guggenheim, Stanley Nelson, Albert Maysles and Frederick Wiseman.

The author of the previous five pictures also wants to express his deep gratitude to Javier Izquierdo Vidal and Joseba Bolot, founders of, for having given me the opportunity to work in it since 2008 and for their sincere appreciation and support at every moment.

Copyright Text and Indicated Photos: José Manuel Serrano Esparza. LHSA