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Cornell Capa: The Eye Behind Compelling Stories

Hungarian - American Photographer

Cornell Capa

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Cornell Capa – Wikipedia

Cornell Capa [1918-2008] was a Hungarian-American photographer known for his passionate commitment to humanistic and socially concerned photojournalism.

Born in Budapest, Hungary, he moved to the United States in 1937 to work with Life magazine, following in the footsteps of his famous brother, war photographer Robert Capa.

Cornell Capa’s work spanned several decades and continents, capturing significant political and social events with empathy and insight.

He coined the term “concerned photographer” to describe his approach, emphasizing the moral responsibility of photographers.

In 1974, he founded the International Center of Photography in New York City, dedicated to preserving his brother’s legacy and promoting socially conscious photography.

Capa’s enduring legacy is marked by his commitment to using photography as a tool for social change and education.

Read the full Biography below.

Photography Quotes From Cornell Capa

"The camera is an extension of yourself... Your story treatment may be subjective, but it is important to remain objective as to truth." - Cornell Capa
"Photography has the capacity to provide images of man and his environment that are works of art as well as moments in history." - Cornell Capa
📸 Did you know?
Cornell Capa was the younger brother of the famed war photographer Robert Capa and dedicated much of his career to preserving his brother’s legacy. He founded the International Center of Photography (ICP) in New York City in 1974, which has become a major institution for photographic education and exhibitions.

Videos about Cornell Capa

📸 Did you know?
Cornell Capa is credited with coining the term “concerned photography,” which describes photography that aims to educate and change the world rather than simply document it. His own work often focused on social issues, including poverty, politics, and human rights.

Photography Books: Cornell Capa

Cornell Capa: Photographs Hardcover – January 1, 1992
by Cornell Capa (Author), Richard Whelan (Editor)
Cornell Capa Hardcover – January 15, 2002
by Cornell Capa (Author), Richard Whelan (Author), Peter Fetterman (Author)
Cornell Capa: JFK For President Paperback – June 15, 2004
by Richard Whelan (Author), Cornell Capa (Photographer)
📸 Did you know?
Before becoming a renowned photographer, Capa started his career as a printer in Life magazine’s darkroom, where he printed images for many of the era’s top photojournalists. This experience provided him with invaluable insights into the technical and artistic aspects of photography.

Biography of Cornell Capa

Early Life and Introduction to Photography

Cornell Capa, born Kornél Friedmann on April 10, 1918, in Budapest, Hungary, was the younger brother of the renowned war photographer Robert Capa.

Raised in a Jewish family during a time of political unrest and anti-Semitic sentiment, Cornell was deeply influenced by the sociopolitical environment of his early years.

His older brother Robert’s adventures and achievements in photography also played a significant role in shaping Cornell’s aspirations.

Emigration and Early Career

In 1936, following his brother’s path, Cornell Capa moved to Paris, where he initially worked as Robert’s darkroom assistant.

During this period, he was exposed to the vibrant artistic and journalistic community in Paris, further fueling his passion for photography.

In 1937, Cornell emigrated to New York City, escaping the escalating tensions in Europe.

In 1938, he joined the Life magazine darkroom staff and began honing his skills as a photographer.

World War II and Magnum Photos

During World War II, Capa served in the U.S. Army Air Forces as a photojournalist, capturing significant moments of the war.

His work during this time was characterized by a strong commitment to documenting the human condition and the impact of war on individuals and communities.

After the war, he returned to Life magazine, where he contributed numerous photo essays and stories, covering a wide range of topics from politics to social issues.

In 1954, after his brother Robert’s death while covering the First Indochina War, Cornell Capa’s resolve to continue his brother’s legacy strengthened.

In 1956, he became a full member of Magnum Photos, the cooperative photographic agency founded by Robert Capa, Henri Cartier-Bresson, George Rodger, and David Seymour.

Cornell’s association with Magnum allowed him to pursue his projects with greater independence and support.

The Concerned Photographer

Cornell Capa is perhaps best known for coining the term “concerned photographer,” a concept that emphasizes the role of photography in addressing social issues and advocating for change.

He believed that photographers had a responsibility to use their work to promote understanding, empathy, and social justice. This philosophy guided much of his work and efforts throughout his career.

Capa’s photographic projects often focused on social and political issues, including the civil rights movement in the United States, the impact of poverty in Latin America, and the lives of political leaders.

His empathetic and humanistic approach is evident in his series on the American politician Adlai Stevenson, which provided a deeply personal look at the man behind the public figure.

International Center of Photography

In 1974, Capa founded the International Center of Photography (ICP) in New York City.

His vision for ICP was to create an institution dedicated to the understanding and appreciation of photography as an art form and as a tool for social change.

Under his leadership, ICP became a leading institution in the field, offering exhibitions, educational programs, and a renowned photography school.

The ICP also housed the Cornell Capa Collection, a comprehensive archive of his work and the work of other influential photographers.

Exhibitions and Publications

Throughout his career, Capa’s work was exhibited in major galleries and museums worldwide.

His exhibitions often highlighted the power of photojournalism to effect change and bring attention to critical social issues.

Capa also authored and edited several influential books, including “The Concerned Photographer” series, which showcased the work of photographers who shared his commitment to social justice.

Awards and Recognition

Cornell Capa received numerous awards and honors for his contributions to photography and his advocacy for social justice.

These included the Missouri Honor Medal for Distinguished Service in Journalism from the University of Missouri and the Infinity Award for Lifetime Achievement from the International Center of Photography.

His work and vision have been recognized for their impact on both the field of photography and society at large.

Legacy and Influence

Cornell Capa’s legacy extends beyond his photographs; his dedication to the idea of the concerned photographer has inspired countless photographers to use their work for social good.

His founding of the International Center of Photography provided a lasting platform for the education and promotion of photography as an art form and a tool for advocacy.

Capa’s commitment to social justice, empathy, and the power of visual storytelling continues to influence and inspire the field of photojournalism.

Later Years and Death

In his later years, Capa remained active in the photographic community, continuing to mentor young photographers and advocate for the role of photography in social change.

He passed away on May 23, 2008, in New York City, leaving behind a profound legacy that continues to shape the world of photography.


Cornell Capa’s career is a testament to the power of photography to illuminate and address social issues.

Through his work as a photographer, educator, and advocate, he demonstrated the potential of photography to foster understanding, empathy, and change.

His legacy as a concerned photographer and his contributions to the establishment and growth of the International Center of Photography have left an indelible mark on the field.

Capa’s vision and commitment to social justice continue to inspire photographers to use their art to make a positive impact on the world.

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