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Through the Lens of Robert Capa
Overview Procedures for Teachers Oranizers for Students


Media Components

Computer Resources:
  • Modem: 56.6 Kbps or faster.
  • Browser: Netscape Navigator 4.0 or above or Internet Explorer 4.0 or above.
  • Personal computer (Pentium II 350 MHz or Celeron 600 MHz) running Windows® 95 or higher and at least 32 MB of RAM and/or Macintosh computer running System 8.1 or above and at least 32 MB of RAM.
  • Software: Any presentation software such as Power Point or Hyperstudio (optional).
Bookmarked sites:

Bookmark all of the Web sites used in the lesson and create a word processing document listing all of the links to distribute to students. Preview all of the sites and videos before presenting them to your class.

Web sites for the Guided Reading portion of the lesson:
Web sites that feature Robert Capa's photographs:
Web sites that contain general tips about taking photographs:
Examples of Photo Essays:


Teachers will need the following supplies:
  • Board and/or chart paper
  • Handouts of Web resources if computers are not available in the classroom
Students will need the following supplies:
  • Computers with the capacities indicated above
  • High quality color printer
  • Notebook or journal
  • Pens/pencils
  • Ideally, each student should have a camera (disposable, film, or digital). If this is not possible, students will search the Internet for images to use for their photo essays.
  • Poster boards for each presentation
  • Rubber cement, glue sticks, and/or glue

Introductory Activity:

1. Before the first lesson, ask your students to bring in two photographs each from their family albums. If they feel uncomfortable about bringing in family photographs, they should bring in pictures from a magazine. They should also bring in a copy of their local newspaper. The publication date of the paper is irrelevant.
2. During class, divide the class into groups of four to six students. They will share their family photos in the group.
3. After looking at the photos, they will determine the most interesting ones. The students will then brainstorm the reasons for their choices.
  • What makes a photograph interesting to look at?
  • Why do some photographs catch your attention while others do not?

4. The students should then look through the newspapers that they brought into class. Ask them to cut out the interesting photographs that appear in the newspaper and to list reasons why those photographs are interesting.
5. Their lists may include the following reasons:
  • shows emotion, passion or action
  • tells a story
  • offers a different angle or perspective of an event or concept
  • is pleasing to look at
  • the photographer was there to capture the moment
6. Finally, go to a's guide on how to take better pictures.
The tips on this Web site will help novice, non-artistic, and/or non-technical picture-takers immediately improve their photographs.
7. After reading the tips, have students return to their family photographs and consider how they could be improved if they were to re-shoot the photograph.

Learning Activities:

1. Now that students have learned some of the qualities of good photography, they will learn a little about what it means to be a photojournalist. In a discussion with the entire class, pose the following questions:
  • What is a journalist?
  • What is a photojournalist?
  • What do you think makes a good photojournalist? Think about the newspaper photos that your group selected. What made them interesting? Why are they powerful images?
2. After brainstorming their ideas about what makes a good journalist, students will read two articles that describe Robert Capa's work ethic and style. Distribute the "Guided Reading Questions Organizer" and have the students skim the questions. Then, ask students to read the articles:
  • "Inventing Robert Capa" is a brief biography about Robert Capa and how he achieved fame as a war photographer.
  • "Combat Photographer Robert Capa and the Battle of the Bulge" by Kenneth Koyen is a first person account of the author's meeting with Robert Capa during the Battle of the Bulge.
    Give students time to respond to the questions from the "Guided Reading Questions Organizer."

    3. Distribute the AMERICAN MASTERS: Robert Capa Organizer and go over the questions with students. You will use the video to inform the students about Robert Capa, but you should try to steer their focus toward his style and what made his photographs so distinct and informative. (Note the following important sections of the film. These sections will help students answer the questions from the organizer (listed below). You may want to stop the film at these points for discussion: Capa's work on the Riviera at the 17-minute mark; his experiences during the Spanish Civil War at the 21-minute mark; and his participation during the invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944 at the 45-minute mark.)
    • What does the phrase, "He wasn't just an observer" mean?
    • What are some of the ways in which Robert Capa "experienced" the lives of his subjects before he photographed them?
    • Why was this important to his work?
    • One of his subjects said that "he was there, but you didn't realize he was there." Why might this be an important quality for a photographer?
    3. Students will now watch the AMERICAN MASTERS episode on Robert Capa.

    4. After giving students time to fill in the Robert Capa Organizer, bring the entire class back together to discuss the questions.

    4. Finally, using the resources listed in the Bookmarked Sites, have students view a selection of Robert Capa's photographs and determine why these photographs are so compelling. You may complete this activity with the entire class (in order to avoid making another transition) or you may divide the class into smaller groups. In either case, have students share their answers in a discussion with the entire class. Use the following questions to encourage discussion:
    • What do you notice about the people in his photographs?
    • Why are his photographs so compelling?
    • Do his photographs use some of the "Good Tips" recommended by's photo guide?
    Culminating Activity/Assessment:

    1. In his book, "Photojournalism: Content and Technique," Greg Lewis writes, "To many photojournalists the photo story is the ultimate in photojournalism because it offers a chance to dig into a situation, develop a close rapport with the subjects, and display the result in the best possible manner." Write this quotation on chart paper so that it can be posted on the wall. Have students discuss the meaning of this quotation before you introduce the project.

    2. Explain the final project to students: For their final project, they will each create their own photo essay. It should tell the story of something significant in the student's life (spring break, school theater production, family, dating, athletic practice and games, cheerleading, a meaningful holiday, after school jobs, etc.). The photo essay can also be more newsworthy in content, dealing with issues of recycling, homelessness, poverty, war, etc. The photo essays and the accompanying written essay will be displayed in the classroom or school after the students present their work to the class.

    3. Distribute the "Photo Essay Rubric" and discuss the criteria with the students. The essay must include:
    • A title for the photo essay
    • photos that are mounted on a poster board
    • captions for each photo
    • composition and storytelling through photographs
    • a minimum of 12 photographs
    • an essay that will accompany the photo exhibit
    4. Before beginning the work on their own project, students should look at examples of other photo essays. When looking at these Web sites, students should notice the variety of perspectives, images and elements of the photographs. Presented together, the photographs should tell a complete story for the event, concept or issue.
    5. Keep the following tips in mind as you help students work on the photo essays:
    • As students select topics, help them focus their ideas so that they are not picking topics that are too broad in scope (e.g.,"war"; instead, students might focus on one particular war).
    • Encourage students to take their own photographs if possible.
    • Inform students that the photographs may be different sizes.
    • Instruct students to include captions for each image.
    • Encourage students to select images that are of good quality.
    6. Students will present their photo essays. Each presentation should include the following components:
    • explanation of the photos and what is depicted in the images
    • why they chose to use those photos
    • explanation of how they decided on their topic and why
    • how they obtained their photos

    • The photo essay unit can be transferred to any unit or theme in a social studies or history class. For example, if the class is studying the Women's Right Movement, then a student can create a photo essay from photos that can be found on the Internet. Other ideas include:
      • Civil Rights Movement
      • Harlem Renaissance
      • Slavery and Emancipation
      • Elections
      • The Space Race
      • The Cuban Missile Crisis
    • The students can create a rubric to critique a photo essay. The rubric can later be used to evaluate the students' efforts.
    • Arrange a visit to a museum or gallery for a photography exhibit.

    Community Connections:
    • Have students interview a war veteran and create a photo essay based on the veteran's experiences.
    • Have students contribute memoirs based on interviews they conduct with various people who lived through World War II. The memoirs can be assembled for a classroom project that would provide a comprehensive look at the lives of those who experienced the war. For example, students could try to get interviews with American veterans, Jews who survived the Holocaust, Japanese Americans who lived in the internment camps, Eastern Europeans, Italians, and Russians.

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