Picks and Pans Review: Children of War, Children of Peace

UPDATED 09/23/1991 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 09/23/1991 at 01:00 AM EDT

Photographs by Robert Capa

Capa probably will always be best remembered for his combat photographs. But this moving collection of images newly amassed by historian (and Capa biographer) Richard Whelan is a striking document too.

Including 123 photographs of children—many of them in and around war zones—shot by Capa from 1933 to his death in Vietnam in 1954, the book is described as "Bob Capa's secret family album" in a touching introduction by Capa's brother Cornell: "Here we can see the love and admiration that he received in such bountiful measure reinvested by him, transferred to children around the world with his own tenderness. In this book are uncovered the secrets of a loving, lonely heart."

The "children in peace" sections are vivid, from two shyly engaging youngsters on a Paris street c. 1936 to the familiar shot of Pablo Picasso and his son Claude on the beach in 1948.

The "war" photographs testify to the crucial reservoirs of strength, unexpected maturity and resiliency shown by children under fire everywhere, whether the image shows boys playing on a crashed enemy plane in Barcelona in 1939 or a Vietnamese child peering warily at Capa on a Red River delta, hours before the photographer died when he stepped on a mine.

In their tone of respect and admiration for children, in fact, these photographs are reminiscent of Roger Rosenblatt's 1983 book Children of War, a text survey of the modern era's young victims (and often conquerors) of war. Either of these books is a not bad place to seek solace next time your optimism about the human condition is flagging. (Bulfinch, $50)

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