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Slightly out of focus by Robert Capa

Slightly out of focus (original 1947; edition 2001)

by Robert Capa

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209580,316 (4.31)13
Title:Slightly out of focus
Authors:Robert Capa
Info:New York : Modern Library, 2001.
Collections:Your library

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Slightly out of Focus by Robert Capa (1947)



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What a welcome surprise it was the quality of his writing, how unsurprising but also welcome the fact that he was tutored by Hemingway. So while not on the same level as Papa, and being a little too adept at using contrasting images for effect, his writing is effective even if devoid of adjective laden descriptions.

Regarding the stories told in the book, somehow the war is the main theme but Capa's gregarious personality takes over, both because it's that personality that allows him make personal connections and get where others couldn't and because he comes out of every story as a quite an enchanting rascal.

For me it was a plus that he doesn't try to explain the whole where, when and how of each campaign and battle, all of them being extensively covered in the abundant WWII literature. This is very much a first person book and all that matters is finding the proper cover for the time being and checking the contents of the flask.

The photographs appear in the pages right next to the passages narrating the time when Capa took them, which I find a much more interesting setup than the common amalgamation of pictures towards the middle of the book. ( )
  emed0s | Mar 25, 2016 |
Last year I read Robert Capa’s wartime memoir Slightly Out of Focus for the first time. It certainly won’t be the last time I read this book.

What immediately impressed me is Capa’s ability to turn a phrase. He generally presents himself in a sardonic pose, but also writes beautifully and with great compassion, for example when describing his mother’s ambivalence towards him going to war again.

“She was a very torn mother that morning, hoping for my sake I would succeed in getting the various permits and get away; for her own motherheart, praying that something would go wrong and that I would not be able to go off to war again.”

That single word motherheart sums up so much of the relationship between a parent and child.

Or describing the night before D-Day…

“Once a year, usually in April, every self-respecting Jewish family celebrates Passover, the Jewish Thanksgiving.

When dinner is irrevocably over, father loosens his belt and lights a five-cent cigar. At this crucial moment the youngest of his sons—I have been doing it for year—and addresses his father in column Hebrew. He asks, “What makes this day different from all other days?” Then father, with great relish and gusto, tells the story of how, many thousands of years ago in Egypt, the angel of destruction passed over the firstborn sons of the Chosen People, and how, afterwards, General Moses led them across the Red Sea without getting their feet wet.

The Gentiles and Jews who crossed the English Channel on the sixth of June 1944, landing with very wet feet on the beach in Normandy called “Easy Red,” ought to have—once a year, on that date—a Crossover day. Their children would ask their father, “What makes this day different from all other days?” The story that I would tell might sound like this:”

When he does describe his part in the D-Day landings, the full horror of that battle is made clear, and Capa does not spare himself in describing how he had an option to leave the beach and took it, unlike the other soldiers dying around him.

When I started to read this book I expected it would be about photography, but Robert Capa was also a fine writer and produced a touching and funny description of the events he took part in. I just couldn’t put this book down once I started reading it.
  Craiglea | Sep 17, 2011 |
Slightly Out Of Focus is a book by the famous, and in my opinion the best, World War II Europhean Theater photographer. Capa's book takes the reader on his journey (if briefly) of photojournaling WWII, from the Battle of the North Atlantic, to D-Day in Omaha Beach, the Battle of the Bulge, the crossing of the Rhine all the way to Leipzig. Capa narrates each event, and then some, and the book is full of Capa's striking and emotional photography. Everyone who has experienced the war sees it through different eyes, in this book, you are looking through Capa's eyes (and lens, for that matter). The book is a quick, easy read, definately worth it for WWII buffs. ( )
  elleayess | Dec 28, 2008 |
This was a great book! Funny and entertaining, yet thought provoking. Robert Capa is possibly the greatest war photographer who ever lived. This book gives some insight into his mentality, without talking too much about photography. ( )
1 vote eveso | Oct 1, 2006 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0375753966, Paperback)

Robert Capa, the great photojournalist who is perhaps best known for his searing images of WWII, infused his autobiography with the same brio and warmth that he expressed in his now classic photographs. "Victory was pleasant and exhausting," the Hungarian-born American notes after the Allies' capture of Tunisia. "During the day in the streets ... we were kissed by hundreds of old women.... We had enough liquor from a captured Gestapo warehouse to keep our singing throats from drying out." Always on the frontlines (he was killed in 1954 in what would later become known as the Vietnam War), Capa went ahead with the parachute invasion of Sicily even though he had been fired from Colliers Weekly--flying in with a squadron of young soldiers he refers to as "boys." When Capa's turn came to jump, he forgot to count "one thousand, two thousand, three thousand" before pulling his cord, instead murmuring, "Fired photographer jumps." "I felt a jerk on my shoulder and my chute was open. 'Fired photographer floats,' I said happily to myself." Stuck dangling in a tree all night, he didn't dare call out for help. "With my Hungarian accent, I stood an equal chance of being shot by either side."

Writing or clicking the shutter, Capa was the perfect conduit for his time, with the war's almost casual heroism, palpable danger, and the importance of every moment of life--whether lying in a foxhole or shopping in London at Dunhill's for a silver flask. Slightly Out of Focus is dotted with his pictures, including the most famous ones of the D day invasion. "I am a gambler," Capa writes. "I decided to go in with Company E in the first wave." Capa's priceless, self-deprecating text tells much, and his photographs show the rest: how thin the Europeans were in Italy, France, and Germany, for example, trim as saplings from years of deprivation. And then there's Capa's famous series showing the plump Frenchwoman, a German collaborator, marked for shame by her shaved head, hurrying past her taunting neighbors, all of whom are gaunt by comparison.

This is a war book, of course, but it will transfix documentary photographers. And this Modern Library edition, which links Capa with such great writers as Ernest Hemingway (whom he photographed wounded), confers suitable honor on his earthy genius. --Peggy Moorman

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:06:44 -0400)

The photographer and author recalls his experiences during World War II.

(summary from another edition)

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