For our final assignment of the semester, it feels fitting that the 2021 HIST 427 class adds onto the preexisting work of the 2014 and 2019 classes. At the beginning of the semester Dr. McClurken shared his ongoing TimelineJS project from previous semesters, and while I found the software a bit confusing to work at first I do think it is an excellent tool. The goal of this assignment is to contribute to a timeline that includes information related to the history of the information age. While that may seem like a rather broad purview, I think it is fantastic. Not only does it give us an opportunity to learn more about the information age, but we get to share that information for future HIST 427 students to see and gain inspiration from!
For my entry on the timeline, I decided to focus on something that I knew about from previous studies yet had never really connected it to the history we learn in this class. When I was a junior in high school I discovered a love for photography, as both an artform and a medium to display information. One of my favorite topics to look at while studying photography and photojournalism was war photography. I even wrote a paper for my senior seminar a year later which focused on the evolution and influence of war photography during the Vietnam War. It’s a topic I tend to fall back on, especially since I’m currently writing a paper on M*A*S*H for HIST 298 and used some of my old research to compare and contrast events from the show with real life.
While I could have focused on the genre of war photography for the timeline, I felt like that was too broad since the dates would span from the Crimean War all the way to the present day. Instead of doing that, I chose to commemorate a war photographer whom many people unfamiliar with the history of photography have never heard of: Robert Capa. Now, there is quite a bit of history behind this man and his legacy as a war photographer that I was not able to include on the timeline due to the word limit. I tried to get around this by having my multimedia aspect be a YouTube video that covers some of his more famous photographs.
Like many famous individuals, Robert Capa was a pseudonym create by André Friedmann and his partner, Gerda Taro, to sell his work. Friedmann was born to Jewish parents in Budapest in 1913, however he left Hungary in 1930 to study journalism and political science at the Deutsche Hochschule für Politik in Berlin. While in Berlin he also served as a darkroom assistant at the Deutsche Photodienst Agency, where he gained much of his experience with photography. Friedmann decided to leave Germany after the Nazi party rose to power, since his status as a Jew would make his a target. He moved to Paris where he became a photographer for Alliance Press, meeting fellow German-Jewish photographer Gerda Taro who would go on to become his professional partner. Together they created “Robert Capa,” a name which they both published photographs under before separating aliases. Capa worked regularly as a photojournalist, and between 1936 and 1939, making several trips to Spain with Taro to document the civil war. Unfortunately, Taro died during the conflict after the vehicle she was riding on was crashed into by an out of control tank. Her death did not stop Capa from photographing the conflict. One of Capa’s most famous photographs, “The Falling Soldier” came from his time in Spain and is considered to be one of the foremost examples of war photography. After photographing the Spanish Civil War, Capa went on to document four other wars, including the Second Sino-Japanese War, World War II, the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, and the First Indochina War. Capa went on to photograph some of the most influential Allied victories during the Second World War, covering the landing of American troops at Omaha Beach on D-Day, the liberation of Paris, and the Battle of the Bulge. After World War II, Capa joined fellow photographers Henri Cartier-Bresson, Chim (David Seymour), George Rodger, and William Vandivert in founding Magnum Photos, a cooperative photography agency providing pictures to international publications. Between 1948-1950, Capa journeyed to Israel where he photographed the turmoil surrounding Israel’s declaration of independence. He traveled to Hanoi in 1954 to photograph the French war in Indochina for LIFE. Sadly, shortly after he arrived he stepped on a landmine and was killed. Like his beloved Gerda many years before, Capa lost his life to his line of work. Despite dying well before his time, Capa’s legacy lives on and he is often regarded as one of the greatest war photographers to have lived.
A preview of my entry can be found I under the history tab here on my website or you can simply follow this link: HIST 427 Timeline. The reason I chose Robert Capa for this assignment is because his work has heavily influenced the history of photography, the genre of war photography, and therefore the history of the information age as a whole. I am happy I got to include some information on the timeline about one of my favorite figures from the history of photography that may be fascinating to someone in the future as much as me. I would have loved to include a slideshow with some of Capa’s photographs, however I doubt I could live up to the one Magnum Photos has on their website. If anyone gets a chance, please visit Magnum’s Photographer Profile on Robert Capa and scroll through his photos. They are in chronological order and no matter the content, they are all beautiful in their own right.
About Photography. “Robert Capa – ‘The Greatest War Photographer in the World.’” YouTube Video. YouTube, April 8, 2019. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ehQgrmaJRlU.
Aronson, Marc and Marina Budhos. Eyes of the World: Robert Capa, Gerda Taro, and the Invention of Modern Photojournalism. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2017.
Magnum Photos. “Robert Capa.” Magnum Photos, 2019. https://www.magnumphotos.com/photographer/robert-capa/.