80 Famous People – Robert Capa

(All rights belong to their owners. Images used here for review purposes only.)

Endre Friedmann was born in 1913 in Budapest, Hungary, and left for Germany at age 18 to find work. He started at a small news publisher as a writer, but was given a few photography assignments, and he decided to concentrate on becoming a photo journalist. Being Jewish, things got difficult during the rise of the Nazi party, so he changed his name to Robert Capa (Capa = “shark”, which was his nickname in school) to look more American. His first assignment was to photograph Leon Trotsky during a speech in Copenhagen in 1932. He went on to become one of the world’s greatest war photographers, covering the Spanish civil war, the conflicts between China and Japan, WW II, a trip with writer John Steinbeck, and a tour of the newly-founded country of Israel. He cofounded Magnum Photos in 1947 and became its president in 1951. He was asked to go on assignment to southeast Asia for Life magazine to cover the First Indochina War. In 1954, while traveling with a French regiment in Vietnam, he accidentally stepped on a landmine and died shortly after, at age 40.

(Ken Wolf discovers that his mother is stalking sheep. One of her minions is crushed to learn that she has a kid already.)

The intro manga has Ken Oogami telling Mami that he’s joined the school’s newspaper club as a photographer. Merrino overhears this and tells the wolfboy that he has a big scoop – as the prince of the Sheep planet, he’s being stalked by a violent enemy group. Ken excitedly asks “where and when?” Merrino says “here and now”, as the Wolfpack gang jumps out of the bushes behind them. The leader sees Ken and calls out a retreat. Back at their hideout, the others ask why she ran away this time, and she refuses to answer. Then, there’s the clicking of a camera as the leader is taking off her mask, and Ken yells out “Mom!” His mother explains that the people on the Wolf Planet have to eat, too, but Ken refuses to accept this. In the wrap-up, Merrino rejects the photos of the unmasked stalker gang, saying that the story is too boring. Ken goes into a rage and Merrino accidentally takes his picture, which gets accepted by the newspaper as being really scary. Finally, Mami, Youichi, Merrino and Mohea tell Mami’s mother that Ken has run away from home, so is it ok for him to stay with them? (She happily answers “yes”.)

(Hemingway tells Capa to continue working, following the death of Gerda.)

The main manga is by Shinobu Takayama (Amatsuki, Arcana, Mr. Morning). The character designs have a rough, edgy look that are in keeping with people that hang out in battle zones. The backgrounds are occasionally detailed (such as when Capa is in a bar with Hemingway), but generally they’re left blurred and minimalistic. Overall, the art actually contributes to the story this time.

The manga starts out with Capa in Vietnam, stepping on a landmine and getting blown up. The scene switches to a group of kids playing with a camera. The narrator introduces herself as Eva Beshunia. She was 12 when she moved to a new neighborhood with her family. Her parents had given her a Kodak Brownie camera, and when she met Endre, the two of them became very interested in photography together. Endre moves to Germany and gets a job at Defoto News Agency, where he gets sent to Copenhagen to take photos of Trotsky giving a speech. This was Endre’s debut as a photo journalist, and the camera he used was a Leica 35mm because it was small enough to hide in his jacket while snapping pictures. Later, as Hitler gained power, the growing pressure against Jews caused Endre to move to Paris, where he met fellow refugee Gerda Pohorylle. He’d asked permission to take her picture, and her shared interest in cameras led them to working as a team on the battlefields. To help sell his news photos, the two of them created a fictional photographer named Robert Capa (Capa was partly selected because it sounded like the American film director, Frank Capra). When the truth finally came out, Endre ended up becoming Robert Capa himself, while Gerda changed her name to Gerda Taro.

They go to Spain, where Capa snaps “The Falling Soldier”. In 1937, while Gerda was covering the Spanish Civil War on her own, the car she was riding was struck by a tank and the injuries she received proved fatal. Capa is then spotted in a bar with Ernest Hemingway. Capa is deep in despair and wants to give up photography altogether. Hemingway states that the two of them are similar, in that the reason they visit battle fields is to tell the stories of the people there, including not only the blood, death and fear, but also the joy and humanity. Thus bolstered, Capa picks the camera back up, covering WW II, and other conflicts, as well as co-founding Magnum Photos. But it all ends with that landmine. The woman leaves and the kids wonder who she was, as the manga shows a close-up of a signed photo of Gerda Taro.

The textbook section goes into deeper detail on Capa’s life and professional career. There are several of his more famous photos, including the last one he took in Vietnam. Sidebars discuss his love of gambling with the troops he embedded with, the rise of Hitler, the creation of the Robert Capa character, the fact that when he visited Japan he refused to photograph Mt. Fuji, and his friendship with Hemingway and his affair with Ingrid Bergman. The last two pages discuss other groundbreaking photo journalists, including Margaret Bourke-White and Kyouichi Sawada. Plus, there are sidebars on Joseph Pulitzer (Pulitzer Prize) and Oscar Bernack the German engineer that designed the Leica camera.

Comments: Overall, this is a pretty good issue. It’s not just an attempt to glamorize Capa or to vilify war. One section specifically deals with the controversy over the authenticity of “The Falling Soldier”, but the bulk of his remaining work attests to his skills as a photo journalist. Recommended.

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