Cornell Capa (born Kornél Friedmann; April 10, 1918 – May 23, 2008) was a Hungarian American photographer, member of Magnum Photos, photo curator, and the younger brother of photo-journalist and war photographer Robert Capa
. Graduating from Imre Madách Gymnasium in Budapest, he initially intended to study medicine, but instead joined his brother in Paris to pursue photography. Cornell was an ambitious photo enthusiast who founded the International Center of Photography
in New York in 1974 with help from Micha Bar-Am
after a stint of working for both Life magazine
and Magnum Photos
Born as Kornél Friedmann in Budapest, he moved, aged 18, to Paris to work with his elder brother Robert Capa, a photo-journalist. In 1937, Cornell Capa moved to New York City to work in the Life magazine darkroom. After serving in the U.S. Air Force, Capa became a Life staff photographer in 1946. The many covers that Capa shot for the magazine included portraits of television personality Jack Paar, painter Grandma Moses, and Clark Gable.
In 1953 he visited Venezuela to make a photo-report of Caracas, on this trip he had the opportunity to photograph the artist Armando Reverón. In May 1954, his brother Robert Capa was killed by a landmine, while covering the final years of the First Indochina War. Cornell Capa joined Magnum Photos, the photo agency co-founded by Robert, the same year. For Magnum, Cornell Capa covered the Soviet Union, Israeli Six-Day War, and American politicians.
Beginning in 1967, Capa mounted a series of exhibits and books entitled The Concerned Photographer
. The exhibits led to his establishment in 1974 of the International Center of Photography in New York City. Capa served for many years as the director of the Center. Capa has published several collections of his photographs including JFK for President
, a series of photographs of the 1960 presidential campaign that he took for Life magazine. Capa also produced a book documenting the first 100 days of the Kennedy presidency, with fellow Magnum photographers including Henri Cartier-Bresson
and Elliott Erwitt
Capa died in New York City on May 23, 2008, of natural causes at the age of 90.
Cornell Capa (originally Cornell Friedmann) was born in Budapest and moved to Paris in 1936 to join his brother, Robert, who had escaped from the increasingly anti-Semitic climate of Hungary in 1930. Although he had intended to study medicine, Cornell was drawn to photography through his brother and began making prints for him, as well as for Henri Cartier-Bresson and Chim (David Seymour). This experience encouraged him to become a professional photojournalist, and in 1937 he moved to New York to pursue a career. After he had worked in the darkrooms of the Pix agency and LIFE for a few years, his first photo story was published in Picture Post in 1939. During World War II, Capa worked for the US Army Air Corps Photo-Intelligence Unit and the Army Air Corps's public relations department. In 1946, he became a staff photographer at LIFE, based mainly in the American Midwest, and covered some three hundred assignments over the next three years. He was the magazine's resident photographer in England for two years, after which he returned to the United States, to produced some of his most well-known photo essays, on subjects such as Adlai Stevenson's presidential campaign and the education of mentally retarded children. Upon Robert's death in 1954, Capa left LIFE to continue his borther's work at Magnum, the international cooperative photography agency co-founded in 1947 by Robert, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Chim (David Seymour)
, and George Rodger
. Over the next twenty years, Capa photographed many important stories for Magnum, including the activities of the Perón government in Argentina; the Democratic National Conventions of 1956, 1960 and 1968; and John F. Kennedy's first hundred days in office.
Capa's photographic production slowed in the mid-1970s as he devoted himself more to the care and promotion of other photographers' work through his International Fund for Concerned Photography. In 1964, he organized the exhibition The Concerned Photographer, which led to the establishment of the International Center of Photography, an organization dedicated to the support of photography as a means of communication and creative expression, and to the preservation of photographic archives as a vital component of twentieth-century history. Capa received ICP's Lifetime Achievement Award in 1995. Capa served as ICP's Director Emeritus until his death in 2008.
Source: International Center of Photography
In Mr. Capa’s nearly 30 years as a photojournalist, the professional code to which he steadfastly adhered is best summed up by the title of his 1968 book “The Concerned Photographer.” He used the phrase often to describe any photographer who was passionately dedicated to doing work that contributed to the understanding and well-being of humanity and who produced “images in which genuine human feeling predominates over commercial cynicism or disinterested formalism.”
The subjects of greatest interest to Capa as a photographer were politics and social justice. He covered both presidential campaigns of Adlai Stevenson in the 1950s and also became a good friend of Stevenson. He covered John F. Kennedy’s successful presidential run in 1960, and then spearheaded a project in which he and nine fellow Magnum photographers documented the young president’s first hundred days, resulting in the book “Let Us Begin: The First One Hundred Days of the Kennedy Administration.” (He got to know the Kennedys well; Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis would become one of the first trustees of the I.C.P.)
In Argentina, Mr. Capa documented the increasingly repressive tactics of the Peron regime and then the revolution that overthrew it. In Israel, he covered the 1967 Six Day-War. The vast number of picture essays he produced on assignment ranged in subject from Christian missionaries in the jungles of Latin America to the Russian Orthodox Church in Soviet Russia during the cold war, the elite Queen’s Guards in England and the education of mentally retarded children in New England.
His work conformed to all the visual hallmarks of Life magazine photography: clear subject matter, strong composition, bold graphic impact and at times even a touch of wit. In his 1959 essay about the Ford Motor Company, for example, one picture presents a bird’s-eye view of 7,000 engineers lined up in rows behind the first compact car all of them were involved in developing: a single Ford Falcon.
“I am not an artist, and I never intended to be one,”
he wrote in the 1992 book Cornell Capa: Photographs. “I hope I have made some good photographs, but what I really hope is that I have done some good photo stories with memorable images that make a point, and, perhaps, even make a difference.”
Source: The New-York Times