EYES OF THE WORLD: Photojournalists Robert Capa and Gerda Taro

BookendsLynn: I need to start this post about Eyes of the World: Robert Capa, Gerda Taro, and the Invention of Modern Photojournalism (2017) with a disclaimer: Cindy and I had the privilege of watching part of this book’s creation. Marc Aronson shared some of his early ideas with us when we all spoke at a conference together. After that, he generously sent us some rough drafts, the manuscript, and finally, the advanced reading copy. It has been fascinating to watch how he and his wife / writing partner Marina Budhos shaped an idea into a finished book. I am happy to report the result is truly outstanding.

Eyes of the World: Robert Capa, Gerda Taro & the Invention of Modern PhotojournalismOne of the elements I most admire in this team’s books is their ability to take a number of topics, ideas, elements, and issues and weave them all together into one seamless narrative. That is most certainly the case here. Eyes of the World examines the evolution of photojournalism, the impact of technology on that form, the ethical issues it raises, and the ways in which this new kind of reporting has shaped world opinion. It recounts the creative partnership of two brilliant young people and explores the changing role of women. It provides an excellent historical background for a teen audience without letting all this information slow the narrative. Last but not least, it provides a crystal clear explanation of the Spanish Civil war—one of the most confusing events I have ever tried to sort out.

Aronson and Budhos actively engage their readers in these issues, asking them to think and decide for themselves, to investigate further and to challenge conventional wisdom. In a time of “alternative facts,” this could not be more important.

Framing it all is the romance between Capa and Taro, a young couple desperately trying to survive in a world on the brink of war. Aronson and Budhos portray their passion, reckless risk-taking, and bravery vividly. I think their story will be captivating for today’s teens, as a new wave of political involvement and activism sweeps the country.

There is so much I learned from reading this demanding, invigorating book and so much I admire—and I haven’t even mentioned the photography!

One of Robert Capa’s photographs of D-Day

Cindy: Before I read Eyes of the World, I knew nothing about Capa and Taro. I did have some familiarity with Capa’s iconic D-Day landing photographs but knew very little about the Spanish Civil War, which my history classes never covered. In other words, I was a good stand-in for high school readers.

This is a handsomely designed book (with many primary source images in addition to the photographs) that is worthy of the art within. The story launches with Capa’s dangerous plunge into the cold waters off the Normandy coast, taken to ensure he got the best possible photos of the landing. The story of what happened to his important rolls of film from that day and what he lost is minor when compared to the lives lost that day, but it’s still heartbreaking. Capa and Taro’s photography is as moving and powerful as their relationship and the tragic story that unfolds in these pages. Teens may not be familiar with these daring, starving, and brilliant artists, but they will recognize many of the people names that pass through their story: Ernest Hemingway, George Orwell, Pablo Picasso, Pablo Neruda, Langston Hughes, Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, and Franco.

Many topics in the book lend themselves to current issues. The comparisons between the Spanish Civil War and the Syrian Civil War would be an interesting topic for student research, writing, and discussion. This is one of several meaty topics woven through the text and highlighted in the appendix.  The back matter also includes a helpful cast of characters, groups, a time line, notes from the authors about the project and their collaboration process, and of course, sources, a bibliography, an index, and other documentation. A welcome addition comes in the form of an opening note to the reader that highlights the helpful resources included within; this will alert readers to the resources available to help them navigate the complexity of the cast and events.

Did I mention the fascinating tale of the discovery of 4500 missing Capo negatives forty years after his death? There’s much to discover here and to contemplate. Don’t miss the action.

For more on Robert Capa, look for Omaha Beach on D-Day (2015). The first half of the book is a graphic novel presentation of Robert Capa’s involvement in the D-Day invasion. The second half is Capa biography illustrated with his own photographs.

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About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

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