A review of new Robert Capa book

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Louise  Abbott's latest book review appeared in  The (Montreal) Gazette on Saturday, March 24, 2012.

Robert Capa: The Paris Years, 1933-1954

Here's a sample:

One of the most memorable photographs of World War II portrays an American soldier in the surf during the Allied invasion of Omaha Beach on the Normandy coast in June of 1944. Five years ago, the soldier was finally identified—Private First Class Huston Riley. When asked about the picture, the elderly veteran replied that he still wondered what that "crazy photographer" was doing in that hellish place.

  omaha beach_1944_cropped

(Photo: Robert Capa)

That crazy photographer was Robert Capa, an intrepid 30-year-old who had earned a reputation as the greatest war photographer in the world for his photo reportage of the Spanish Civil War in the late 1930s. Capa and his remarkable career constitute the subject of a bountifully illustrated new book titled Robert Capa: The Paris Years, 1933-1954, a translation of Robert Capa: Traces d'une légende.

As the French co-authors—Bernard Lebrun and Michel Lefebvre—acknowledge, American scholar Richard Whelan published "a thorough, formidable biography [of Capa] ... that will be difficult for anyone to improve upon." Thus they have focussed on "the all but forgotten 'French Capa,' nearly edged out of the picture by his American career. From 1933 to 1954, Capa used Paris as a global platform for his photography. It was here that artistically he was born."