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.
Handy et al. Reflections in a Glass Eye: Works from the International Center of Photography Collection,, New York: Bulfinch Press in association with the International Center of Photography, 1999, p. 211. [text edited, 2008]