Saturday, November 1, 2014

Tank Man: How a Photograph Defined China’s Protest Movement

Burgan, Michael.  Tank Man: How a Photograph Defined China’s  Protest Movement.  Capstone Publishers  2014  64p  $25.49  ISBN 978-0-7565-4731-8  ms/hs series: Captured World History  Nonfiction 

Sometimes it is true that one picture is worth a thousand words.  The photo of one man standing in front of a row of army tanks as they bear down on him became an iconic image of China’s student protest of 1989.  This unnamed and anonymous man chose to take a stand in support of what he considered to be right.  After weeks of tense standoffs and protests by thousands of Chinese people who wanted political and economic reforms, a photographer working for the Associated Press just happened to be in the right place at the right time to capture this image.  His perseverance under hostile circumstances and his ability to enlist help from another American testify to the lengths photojournalists will go in order to capture a story.  Readers will come to understand what the Chinese people were protesting, why the government took a militantly violent stand to disperse the crowds of protesters, and how the event is viewed today in China.  Numerous color photographs show the brutality of the military as well as the power of the masses in this confrontation between citizens and government.  Jeff Widener’s background story is riveting, from the moment he arrived in China to how he managed to get the photo to the Associated Press.  The book is perfect for history classes as well as photography classes.     

Captured World History includes four new titles, each of which focuses on a major world event and the way that one iconic photo managed to define a moment in time.  Each book has excellent photos, with the background story about the event and the photographer. Grades 4-12.   

Summary: One image captured the protests in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in 1989.  The events leading up to this one-person protest in front of a row of army tanks are described, as is the journalist’s hair-raising efforts to obtain the photo, an excellent example of photojournalism. Gr 7+.

China-Cultural Revolution                             --Lois McNicol

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