Unsolicited editorials on cameras, lenses, film, developer, and black and white photography in general.

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Location: New Orleans, Louisiana, United States

Monday, June 26, 2006

A Russian Journal

I loved reading John Steinbeck as a child. He wasn’t too deep for a 12-year-old, he didn’t use a lot of obtuse symbolism, and he relied more on prose than poetry. I liked reading a storyteller’s point of view, and Steinbeck was a gifted storyteller. As a 12-year-old, I had never heard of Robert Capa (he was killed when I was four years old), and never read A Russian Journal by Steinbeck as it was never on a reading list (but should have been). It is an obscure enough book to be absent from your local bookstore, but it is worth reading. No much longer than Of Mice and Men or The Pearl, A Russian Journal is the account of a trip Capa and Steinbeck took together to Russia in the late 1940’s. Both men wanted to know what post-war Russia was really like; Steinbeck wanted to write about it and Capa wanted to photograph it. Only Capa was censored (to a small degree) by the Russian government. I admire both men for what they did, i.e., move to the top of their game without a lot of fanfare preceding them. However, the two were not kindred spirits. The friction experienced between the traveling companions adds a bit of charm to the journal. In fact, Steinbeck even allows Capa to write an entry in the journal detailing his annoyances with Steinbeck. Steinbeck was equally annoyed with Capa. To give any details of the book would be recapitulating what Steinbeck can say far better than I. It’s a nice, short read. Once you get a taste for Robert Capa’s personality in this book, order Blood and Champagne for a more in-depth picture of the man.