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May 23, 2008


Cornell Capa, founder of Manhattan's International Center of Photography (ICP), photographer for Life and member of the Magnum Photo Agency, passed away in his sleep last night at the age of 90.

Cornell was a visionary, coining the phrase "concerned photography" (for documentary work that addressed social issues), forever championing the careers of up-and-coming photographers, and anticipating the cultural significance and intrinsic value of the still photograph in a media-saturated age by starting up the ICP in 1974 - two years after the weekly Life magazine succumbed, in part, to the rise of television, and during a period in which only one or two New York City galleries were devoted entirely to photography.

Online accounts of his life can be read by Richard Pyle, of the Associated Press, Philip Gefter, of The New York Times, and at the Web sites of Magnum Photos, and the ICP. As Philip Gefter notes, it was the battlefield death of Cornell's brother, photojournalist Robert Capa, in Southeast Asia, in 1954, that prompted the younger Capa to observe: “From that day, I was haunted by the question of what happens to the work a photographer leaves behind, by how to make the work stay alive.” The ICP, and a fund set up by Cornell Capa in his brother's memory, were attempts to answer that question.

Yet another photographic giant has fallen, his life now replaced by his legacy, leaving us with a bounty of memories and images.

Click HERE to see a selection of Cornell Capa's photographs.

(Herewith: an homage, "Let Us Now Praise Capa," by yours truly at VanityFair.com.)

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