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May 2008 Archives

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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.)

May 21, 2008


She approached people as she approached photographs: immediately seeing the best in them.

- Colleen Keegan, at yesterday's memorial for photographer Theo Westenberg (1950-2008), New York City

Herewith, a link to Theo's photographs.

May 11, 2008


The photography community descends in droves on New York City this week. The First Annual New York Photo Festival will sprawl across DUMBO, in Brooklyn. The International Center of Photography hosts its 24th Annual Infinity Awards. Photo gallery openings are scheduled by the score, from the “Humankind” exhibition at Hasted-Hunt, dedicated to the work of photojournalists from the VII photo agency, to the Saul Leiter show at Howard Greenberg Gallery. Contemporary art and photography auctions are being held as well. Please, come to New York and join us. And make it snappy.


COPYRIGHT FIGHT GOES ON. The National Press Photographers’ Association and the Advertising Photographers of America are helping to spearhead opposition to the House and Senate “Orphan Works Bills” which, because of their radical recasting of copyright protection provisions, have the potential to seriously undermine the rights of photographers, artists, illustrators, and other visual creators. This week’s Photo District News Newswire has a comprehensive look at the ongoing battle royal.


ESQUIRE OVERSIGHT. Photographic eminence Helen Marcus, past president of both the American Society of Media Photographers and the W. Eugene Smith Fund, wrote an important letter that The New York Times published this week, in which she pointed out that in many of the articles about MoMA’s new show on classic Esquire covers of the 1960s - conceived and designed by master art director George Lois – few of the reviews seem to mention the photographer who created the cover photographs: Carl Fischer.

Says Marcus, “It is akin to publishing pictures of the Sistine Chapel and mentioning the pope who paid for them but not the painter.”

Ah, Michelangelo? Who he?

DISPATCHES. Finally...check out the new magazine-manifesto, Dispatches, created by Gary Knight, Giorgio Baravalle, and friends. The first issue has offerings from the likes of Antonin Kratochvil, Paul Theroux, John Kifner, Muzamil Jaleel, Samantha Power, and the illustrious, over-the-edge British illustrator Gerald Scarfe. Way impressive.

May 7, 2008


Newsmagazines seem to be withering, like curled-up husks. Picture magazines have been replaced by tabloid-types, all gossip-pocked. (Even overseas, formerly vital titles like Paris Match are on a Bruni binge, ruled by the steady flow of fashion shows, galas and bashes, and celebrity snaps.) And now that staple of the professional portrait photographer – Polaroid film – is packing it in. By year’s end, the once-magical formerly “instant” medium (pre-cursor to digital’s perpetually “instant” medium) will have gone the way of the Packard.

New York magazine this week parades out an impressive cordon of mourners: artist-photographer Chuck Close, photographer-filmmaker Timothy-Greenfield Sanders, filmmaker-provocateur John Waters. Says Sylvia Wolf, curator of the new Whitney show, “Polaroids: Mapplethorpe”: “There’s a sexiness and titillation to the instant process." Adds Waters, “Now what the hell am I supposed to do? Digital isn’t instant gratification, and those cameras don’t make that sexy sound.”

But what good is a stodgy old Polaroid when photographer and subject can pre-view pictures right there on a digital camera back?

Woe is Po.

Or, as Poe might have put it, “Quoth the dodo, ‘Nevermore.’”