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New home for images by famed war photographer

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A trove of long-lost iconic images captured by famed war photographer Robert Capa has been recovered and is being examined, cataloged and scanned at the International Center of Photography.

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Some 3,500 of Capa’s images arrived at the center in recent weeks after years of efforts to find and recover them, Brian Wallis, the ICP’s chief curator, told Reuters on Monday.

The photographs from the Spanish Civil War “form the visual basis for representing modern warfare,” said Wallis, who called Capa “one of the most important war photographers of the 20th century.”

Still unknown, however, is whether the famed 1936 photograph of “The Falling Soldier,” which shows a Republican soldier at the moment a bullet strikes him down, is among those in the three battered cases, some now held together with black tape and known collectively as “the Mexican suitcase.”

Lingering questions about whether the picture might have been staged could be answered by the negatives, which are said to be in very good condition.

“We’ve really just started to go through them,” Wallis said. “But the sequence appears to start in 1937 so we just don’t know.”

Wallis also said while the negatives included “many familiar images, there’s a lot of stuff in there that’s new.”

After cataloging and scanning the images, the center expects to post them on its Web site, with a book and exhibition distinct possibilities.

The ICP made its acquisition following preparations for a 2007 Capa exhibit.

“We knew these legendary lost negatives were being held in Mexico,” Wallis said, describing a cloak-and-dagger sequence of events that began with Capa fleeing Europe in the 1930s and ending in Mexico City, by way of France.

Working through curator Trisha Ziff, the center convinced the keeper of the stash to return it to Capa’s heirs. Capa’s brother, Cornell, founded ICP in 1974.

Wallis revealed the keeper on Monday to be Benjamin Tarver, who he described as a Mexico City filmmaker. Tarver had previously declined to be publicly identified in connection with the Capa negatives.

Capa, also known for his World War Two photographs, died in 1954 in Vietnam.

Editing by Bill Trott