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HomeContents > People > Photographers > Cornell Capa

Born: Cornell Friedmann 
Born: Kornel Friedmann 
Dates:  1918, 10 April - 2008, 23 May
Born:  Hungary, Budapest

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Cornell Capa 
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Supplemental information

Cornell Capa was born Cornell Friedmann in 1918 into a Jewish family from Budapest. As a teenager, he had aspirations to become a doctor, for the sole purpose of helping people, but eventually decided that he could reach more people and have greater influence through photography.
At the age of 18 he moved to Paris where his brother Andre Friedmann (Robert Capa) was working as a photojournalist. He worked as his brother's printer for a year before moving on to New York in 1937 to join the new Pix photo agency. By l938 he was supporting himself by working in the LIFE Magazine darkroom, until his first photo-story on the New York World's Fair was published in Picture Post.
After service in the US Air Force, Capa became a LIFE staff photographer in 1946. With LIFE, Capa covered Eisenhower's inaugural parade and Adlai Stevenson's campaign, among other assignments. He continued to work for LIFE until his brother's tragic death in 1954, when he joined Magnum Photos, a photographic co-operative of great diversity and distinction owned by its photographer-members. In 1956, after David "Chim" Seymour's death in Suez, Capa took over as the president of Magnum-a post he held until 1960.
As a photographer, Capa has been particularly sensitive and keen when covering topics of social significance or politics. When he was working for LIFE he made the first of many trips to Latin America where he chronicled the decimation of indigenous cultures. Through the 1970s he traveled back to the area on several occasions to continue the tales of snuffed cultures. His efforts were rewarded in three books, among them the subsequently famous 1964, Farewell to Eden, a study of the Amahuaca Indians of the Amazon.
Capa was involved in a broad range of social issues, such as old age in America, and studied his own Jewish heritage through classic reportage, including a story on the Six-Day War. His 1957 book Retarded Children Can Be Helped was the product of his pioneering study of mentally retarded children, a project he started in 1954. He also covered the electoral campaigns of John and Robert Kennedy and Nelson Rockefeller. In the early 1970s, Capa coined the phrase "Concerned Photographer" to define 'a photographer who is passionately dedicated to doing work that will contribute to the understanding or the well-being of humanity.'
In 1974, Cornell Capa founded the International Center of Photography. Devoted to the practitioners and principles that define "Concerned Photography," the ICP is a fountain dedicated to the history of photojournalism, current makers and future producers through its archives, galleries, library and school. The ICP pays homage to Cornell Capa's brother Robert Capa, and colleagues David "Chim" Seymour and Werner Bischof by constantly bringing humanitarian documentary work to the public realm. Since its opening on Fifth Avenue in New York City, the Center has had over 450 exhibitions, exhibiting more than 2,500 photographers. Cornell Capa is now the Founding Director Emeritus of the institution.
Cornell Capa's numerous awards include the Honor Award from the American Society of Magazine Photographers (1975), Leica Medal of Excellence (1986), Peace and Culture Award, Sokka Gakkai International, Japan (1990), the Order of the Arts and Letters, France (1991), The Distinguished Career in Photography Award from the Friends of Photography (1995), a Honorary Membership from the ASMP (1995) and a Lifetime Achievement Award in Photography from the Aperture Foundation (1999).
[Contributed by the Alan Klotz Gallery, October 2007] 

Internet biographies

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Wikipedia has a biography of this photographer. Go to website
Getty Research, Los Angeles, USA has an ULAN (Union List of Artists Names Online) entry for this photographer. This is useful for checking names and they frequently provide a brief biography. Go to website

Printed biographies

The following books are useful starting points to obtain brief biographies but they are not substitutes for the monographs on individual photographers.

• Auer, Michele & Michel 1985 Encyclopedie Internationale Des Photographes de 1839 a Nos Jours / Photographers Encylopaedia International 1839 to the present (Hermance, Editions Camera Obscura) 2 volumes [A classic reference work for biographical information on photographers.] 
• Evans, Martin Marix (Executive ed.) 1995 Contemporary Photographers [Third Edition] (St. James Press - An International Thomson Publishing Company) [Expensive reference work but highly informative.] 
• International Center of Photography 1999 Reflections in a Glass Eye: Works from the International Center of Photography Collection (New York: A Bulfinch Press Book) p.211 [Includes a well written short biography on Cornell Capa with example plate(s) earlier in book.] 
• Lenman, Robin (ed.) 2005 The Oxford Companion to the Photograph (Oxford: Oxford University Press)  [Includes a short biography on Cornell Capa.] 


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