In 1967, during an overseas trip, Cornell Capa learned of the death of photojournalist Paul Schutzer, Life correspondent and member of the Overseas Press Club. Capa spent much of the late 1960s preserving Schutzer’s life’s work, and keeping his memory alive.
The Cornell Capa papers include a small biography of Schutzer written by John Loengard, a friend and fellow staff member at Life. Loengard writes that Schutzer was born in Brooklyn in 1931, and died on the job, documenting a battle near Nahal Oz, Israel on June 5th or 6th, 1967
Schutzer grew up in New York, and, after deciding not to pursue a career in law, directed his passion for human rights towards documenting political and social change. However, after joining the team of photojournalists at Life, Schutzer began to feel restricted by the magazine’s policies, and by the constraints of working within a group of other journalists.
Schutzer’s independent streak is evident in a 1961 letter to his wife, describing his decision to ride with and photograph (https://www.icp.org/browse/archive/objects/national-guard-escorts-freedom-riders-on-bus-on-way-from-montgomery-alabama) the Freedom Riders in Montgomery, Alabama:
“The magazine at first ordered me not to go, but the very reason for not going is the reason I must. I go with their sanction, but I planned to go even without.”
After the outbreak of the Six-Day War in May 1967, Schutzer negotiated with Life and with Israeli officials to document the ongoing conflict. Officials arranged for Schuzter to travel with his friend, Israeli General Dayan, in an armored unit. On the second day of the Six-Day War, the halftrack Schutzer was riding in was hit by an anti-tank shell and burst into flames. Schuzter was thirty-six years old.
The 1968 Capa-Chim Competition was dedicated to Schutzer’s memory, with an exhibition titled “The Fact of Israel, in her Twentieth Year.” The exhibit opened on June 5, 1968, the first anniversary of Schutzer’s death. The competition considered small portfolios and awarded 5 prizes to work that Cornell Capa described in a November 1967 letter:
“Portfolios (no more than 12 prints), the emphasis to be on the accomplishments of Israel, the visual facts of its existence, its achievements against great natural, political, and economic odds.”
Capa also established a fund to create a “Paul Schutzer Forest” in collaboration with the Jewish National Fund and Hadassah, The Women’s Zionist Organization of America. According to a letter dated November 20, 1968 the fund had raised enough money to plant a grove of 10,000 trees dedicated it to the memory of the late photojournalist.
Visitors at the entrance to the forest saw the same Moshe Pearlman quote that was used in the “Fact of Israel” exhibition: “IN MEMORY OF PAUL SCHUTZER, who came to Israel and was killed at the top of his form, engaged in the task that he most wanted to do, with his heart in the values for which the comrades he had elected to join fought for- and also died!”