Margin of Life


Margin of Life was a book (published in both English and Spanish) and an exhibition by Cornell Capa. It was produced to coincide with World Population year in 1974 and an International Fund for Concerned Photography Task Force was set up for the occasion which worked with the International Population Program at Cornell University. The project was essentially about social justice and planned-parenthood.

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“It’s not the slums that are marginal,
it’s the people, it’s us . . .
We are on the margin of health,
The margin of education,
the margin of work;
We cry to the four winds
That we don’t  want to be marginal . . .”
Slum dwellers’ petition to Congress (p.7)

Margin of life:  population and poverty in the Americas / photographs by Cornell Capa ; text by J. Mayone Stycos. New York.  Grossman Publishers, 1974.  TR820.5.S63 .C36 1974

An event took place a The Center for Inter-American Relations on September 9th 1974 with an opportunity to see some of the photographs from the project exhibited and a panel discussion on planned-parenthood.


For the 1975 exhibition, Margin Of Life was billed as a “One Man Show: Cornell Capa, Margin Of Life” from the Soho Photo Foundation held at the Alfred Stieglitz Gallery, December 7th to December 30th 1975. The show was installed on December 5th according to the photographer. The dutiful photographer signed and dated the contact sheets of the installation. It is great to see Cornell working away with a hammer and to see him being there and totally involved with the installation process (even if the photographs are a little cloudy and somewhat of a poor quality *. . .). In these installations shots alongside Cornell we see the ever constant support that he always received from Edie Capa and how she always there and involved with all of Cornell’s projects. Images like this are a great behind-the-scenes insight for researchers and historians as they give us a real sense of just how it all happened back then.


“Images at their passionate and truthful best are as powerful as words can ever be. If they alone cannot bring change, they can at least provide and understanding mirror of man’s actions, thereby sharpening human awareness and awakening conscience.”  – Cornell Capa

Margin of Life is not a happy or hopeful book/exhibition but it is exacting in its reality and stark portrayal of the grim problems that faced Latin America then and now. What the poor want and what they need are good jobs, houses, schools, healthcare, welfare, land reform, hope and ideology. What the poor are getting is the opportunity to become poorer. Margin of Life is a journey through the issues of poverty and population, war and colonization, working women and birth control. The conclusion at the time of publication was the need for radical action and here we are now over forty years later and still waiting.


* If you are wondering about the poor quality of the installation shot images [only teasing!]. . .Photography credit for the photos goes to . . .




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The Supreme Court Vs. Ralph Ginzburg

Working through the papers of Cornell Capa I came across a folder marked with big bold sharpie drawn letters ‘Ralph Ginzburg’. There were not a lot of materials in the folder, mainly newspaper clippings about what was happening to Ginzburg and some notes between Ralph and Cornell.

This new discovery in the Cornell Capa Papers made me think again about the Ginzburg story. I had written about Ralph Ginzburg and his periodical Eros in a post on this blog  ”Passion” in June 2014



The Story. . . Ralph Ginzburg (1929 –2006) was an author, editor, publisher and photo-journalist. In 1962, Ralph Ginzburg after years working for magazine such as Esquire, Harpers, Colliers, LOOK and readers digest began his own publication Eros. Eros was a quarterly hardbound periodical containing stories, articles and photo-essays on love and sex.

“Contributions included a manuscript given by the Bishop of Exeter to his cathedral in 1070, an interview with Bobby Fischer, an introduction by psychoanalyst Theodor Reik, a short story by Ray Bradbury, a photo essay by Marvin Newman, Bert Stern images of Marilyn Monroe, Love in the Subway a photographic essay by Gary Winogrand, Me and the Male Prostitutes of Bombay by Art Kane, The Agonies and the Ecstasies of a Stripper by Nicholas David”

There were only ever four issues of Eros published and by the time of issue no.4 Ginzburg was indicted for distributing obscene literature through the mails under federal obscenity laws.

U.S Attorney General Robert Kennedy indicted Ginzburg for distributing obscene literature through the mails, in violation of federal anti-obscenity laws. The indictment comprised three allegations of obscenity:  First, publication of Volume I, No. 4, of Eros; second, publication of his newsletter Liaison; and third The Houswife’s Handbook on Selective Promiscuity.  It was considered that the mailed advertisements for Eros had exaggerated the erotic content of the book in such a way as to appeal to “prurient interests”. The advertising of Eros apparently emphasized the sexual imagery of the publications. The quarterly included a guarantee of a full refund inserted into each magazine.  On a postcard sized slip there was an advertisement labeled “GUARANTEE” which stated that “Documentary Books, Inc. unconditionally guarantees full refund of the price if the book fails to reach you because of U.S. Post Office censorship interference.”


After a brief trial in June 1962, Ginzburg was convicted in the city of Philadelphia by the U.S. Court for the Eastern District of Pensa-Tucky for violating federal obscenity laws. He was sentenced to five years in prison but ultimately served only eight months of that sentence. [God knows what the righteous VP Elect and Grand inquisitor Pence would have made of it all].  After various appeals, the case was argued before the Supreme Court in 1965, and in 1966 Mr. Ginzburg’s conviction was upheld. Despite protests by First Amendment advocates, he served eight months in a federal prison in 1972 after the Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal of his sentence.

It has been suggested that the real issue with Eros was that in Eros No. 4 (Winter, 1962) included ‘an eight-page “photographic tone poem”‘ titled “Black and White in Color”, featuring a nude couple (no genitalia shown), but the girl was white and the man was African-American. Would there have been persecution and prosecution if the photographs had featured a couple of the same colour? This was after all a challenge to the taboo of interracial love. The same publication also included a previously suppressed portfolio of nude photographs of Marilyn Monroe, taken by Bert Stern. (Intriguingly it was U.S Attorney General Robert Kennedy who indicted Ginzburg – can you feel the synergy here?). Clearly nudity wasn’t the issue.


The same periodical also included a delightful letter from the most reverend Allen Ginsberg. Ginzburg also published many of the responses that he received from those outstanding citizens protecting the morality of America. Allen Ginsberg later protested the incarceration of Ginzburg in Washington DC. Somebody had to speak out against the morality madness. Who better than a Ginsberg namesake?

“I have always felt that I might have become a major force in American publishing had it not been for my conviction. Instead, I’m just a curious footnote.”
– Ralph Ginzburg.


Ralph Ginzburg retired at 55 from publishing and pursued a career as a photojournalist specializing in New York scenes and sporting events. He worked mainly for the New York post as a freelance spot-news photographer until his death. His first self-published book was “100 Years of Lynching,” a compilation of newspaper accounts that exposed American racism.

Four Volumes of Eros Magazine in the ICP Library
Eros magazine was produced in 1962, consisting of four volumes:
Eros – Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter.
TR676 .E76 1962

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December 7th is Noam Chomsky Day!

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The Concerns of Roman Vishniac


The Concerns of Roman Vishniac: Man, Nature and Science was a project directed by Cornell Capa. It was an exhibition organized by and promoted under the umbrella of The International Fund for Concerned Photography. The exhibition opened at the Jewish Museum in New York in 1971.

The Concerns of Roman Vishniac was also part of what was known as Concerned Photographer III. The first two iterations of the Concerned Photographer had publications the third and the fourth were a series of special programs, lectures, seminars and master Classes. The Concerns of Roman Vishniac was a master class that was produced in cooperation with New York University School of Continuing Education.

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From the Cornell Capa papers: Paul Schuzter

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

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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 ( 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.”


Paul Schuzter, National Guard escorts Freedom Riders on bus on way from Montgomery, Alabama to Jackson, Mississippi, May 1961, The Life Magazine Collection, ICP accession number: 1856.2005


Still at Life, Schutzer continued to work independently after moving from the United States to Paris. His work became increasingly focused on depicting international stories: Schutzer documented famine in India, U.S. soldiers in Vietnam, and everyday life in Eastern Europe and South America. His images of Vietnam were published in a November issue of Life Magazine [The article can be read here:] and in turn became part of Martha Rosler’s 1967-1972 anti-war photomontage series, House Beautiful: Bringing the War Home with the woman holding her child becoming the main element of the montage Balloons.

Martha Rosler, Baloons from House Beautiful: Bringing the War Home, 1968-1972


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.

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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.”


Extension of the exhibition, held at the Overseas Press Club Ballroom

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.


Jewish National Fund pamphlet, c. 1968


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!”



Moshe Pearlman on Paul Schuzter






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Happy Birthday ICP

On the evening of November 15th 1974 the International Center of Photography opened its doors for the first time to for an exhibition.



November 16th 1974 was declared to be “International Center of Photography Day” by then New York City Mayor Abraham D. Beame, this was a proclamation made again by Mayor Rudy Giuliani in November 16th 1994.

ICP’s first home was in the historic Willard Straight House, a mansion located on the corner of 94th Street and Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. The 94th street building was purchased on July 15th 1974 and cost $625,000 (Henry Margolis supplied the $25,000 cash down payment).

From the Cornell Capa Papers the purchase of the building:


Before the physical location of the ICP uptown there were many talks, presentations, workshops, publications and exhibitions relating to the early ICP and the concept of Concerned Photography. The Concerned Photography events took place in New York and all over the world.

Exhibitions, events and talks like The Concerns of Roman Vishniac: Man, Nature and Science which is organized by the International Fund for Concerned Photography and opened at the Jewish Museum in 1971.


Key dates for the ICP:

  •  ICP was incorporated June 28, 1974 by a provisional charter issued by the NY State Dept of Education *
  • The building at 1130 Fifth Avenue was purchased July 15th 1974 by the International Fund for Concerned Photography for $625,000.
  • ICP opened for its first exhibitions November 15th
  • Before the International Center of Photography there was The Fund for Concerned Photography incorporated as a 501(c) (3) on December 10th 1965
  • The name change: The Fund for Concerned Photography was changed to The International Fund for Concerned Photography, Inc. On December 3rd 1969

*BTW, the charter lists the incorporating Board as: Cornell Capa, Howard M. Squadron, Harvey Karp, Henry M. Margolis, Nina Rosenwald, David Finn, and Rita Hillman. By 10/10/74 (per filing with IRS for tax exempt status) several other trustees were added: Thomas Hess, Beverly Karp (replacing Harvey Karp), Karl Katz, Jerry Mason, Bess Myerson, Frederic S. Papert, Louis Salton, Susan Tepper, Edward M. M. Warburg, and Lester Wunderman.

Happy Birthday ICP

Founders Scrapbook



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Cornell Capa in Japan 1968

Cornell Capa on Japanese Television in 1968.



From the Cornell Capa Papers: The TV Monitor Report documenting the occasion of Cornell Capa on Japanese television. The TV program on Robert Capa and the Concerned Photographer exhibit went on the air August 4th 1968 at 11pm for 30 minutes on NET-TV. The show was recorded on August 3rd at 6pm.

The Concerned Photographer Exhibit opened in Tokyo’s Ginza Matsuya Department Store August 9 – 21 1968 and consisted of about 350 photographs many enlarged to 4 to 6 ft. The exhibition was co-sponsored by Mainichi Shinbun Ltd. and the Encyclopedia Britannica (Japan).

Cornell installing the Concerned Photographer show in Tokyo and André Kertész at the opening in Tokyo 1968.

Some Notes on Capa in Japan:

  • Robert Capa was in Tokyo in April of 1954 covering for a LIFE photographer for a couple of weeks. After which he went to Vietnam, never to return . . .
  • The Japanese kept the title as The Concerned Photographer because they were unable to translate it. The Japanese sub-title was ‘Witness of Our Times’ (they invented it).
  • The entrance for The Concerned Photographer Exhibition at Tokyo’s Ginza Matsuya Department Store was 150 yen and 100 yen for students.

Princess Takamatsu and Cornell Capa at the opening of the Concerned Photographer Exhibition in Tokyo 1968. cornell_capa_papers-japan_trip001

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From the Cornell Capa papers: Magnum coverage of election season, 1968

In spring of 1968, Magnum photographers began outlining their coverage of the upcoming 1968 election. In this statement of purpose issued by Lee Jones, photographers are assigned to cover the candidates and issues of the upcoming election. Lee states: “ALL OF THE ATTACHED IS FLOUR OUT OF WHICH WE SHOULD BAKE THE CAKE FOR PRESENTATION. OBVIOUSLY, WHEN WE HAVE DECIDED WHAT ROUTE WE WILL TAKE, A MORE FORMAL AND SOMEWHAT LESS REALISTIC HARD SELL MUST BE WHIPPED TOGETHER.”


Three photographers were assigned to President Lyndon Johnson: Cornell Capa, Henri Cartier-Bresson and Burt Glinn. Capa was also detailed to the campaign of then-New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller. Richard Nixon’s campaign received no Magnum photographers.


On May 13th, 1968, a photograph of Governor Rockefeller was published on the cover of Newsweek. While processing Cornell Capa’s papers, we discovered a copy of Rockefeller’s tentative schedule in Iowa. Capa likely used this schedule to follow and photograph the candidate. Newsweek’s digital archive only begins in 2013, but some shrewd web searching will turn up photographs of the May 13, 1968 cover depicting Rockefeller and his wife, Happy.


Capa’s papers also contained the proposed schedule of eventual Democratic nominee Hubert Humphrey as he traveled around Mississippi and Tennessee.


Capa’s photograph shows Humphrey shaking hands with a young black man; this photo might have been taken during one of Humphrey’s trips to the University of Mississippi, or during an assembly in Jackson, Tennessee detailed in his itinerary from April 24, 1968.

USA. Hubert HUMPHREY campaigning. 1968.


More images Capa made while on assignment covering this campaign can be seen on Magnum’s website:

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