ICP celebrates 40 years
Anna Winand, Reflections

United States, written by Anna Winand

ICP Founder Cornell Capa presents André Kertész with the Master of Photography award at the inaugural Infinity Awards, held at the Waldorf Astoria on April 23, 1985. Courtesy International Center of Photography.

The first ICP Infinity Awards were held in 1985.  The idea for the program originated with Robert Brockway, then Chairman of Olympus Camera, and also the President of ICP's President's Council, since disbanded.  He felt we had established ourselves sufficiently by then to be giving out awards.
     
The award categories were chosen by Cornell Capa, then as most of us know founder and executive director of ICP.  Cornell eventually removed the executive from his title henceforth known as director.  He wasn't an executive, he said.
      
Cornell asked me to take on the nominating and judging process for the awards and I did.  I wanted the awards to be reached by consensus of the photographic community at large, not by ICP or more specifically by Cornell himself.  As director he was very much at home in being the decision maker for all that went on at ICP.  
       
The categories as established by Cornell included Young Photographer, Design, Publication, Writing, Art, Photojournalism, Applied Photography and Master of Photography.  The  last to be decided upon by Cornell with stated approval of the Presidents' Council.  In other words, Cornell made the decision.
     
In 1986 an added category of Lifetime Achievement was added to the roster, again to be decided upon by Cornell.  He knew so many deserving photographers and he wanted a chance to recognize as many of them as he could.  Even at that there were those who felt neglected, outside the main stream, and resentful.
     
In the year 2000 the design category was dropped.  Cornell, ill and no longer at the helm asked, "But why, we were successful with that category?"
     
I had no answer for him other than people felt the program was too long.
     
For that reason also ICP stopped having presenters.  One of the grand moments of the presenter process was Robert Frank's presenting to Eugene Richards for his book "Americans We, Photographs and Notes".  Gene had dedicated it to Frank.  But it made the program too long and people "had trains to catch."
      
In 2000 the Master of Photography award was changed to the Cornell Capa Award.  In 2013, five years after Cornell's demise this award was merged and became the Cornell Capa Lifetime Achievement Award, but only after Phil Block insisted that Cornell's name be retained on an award, which was in question.
     
Along the way there were also awards given by Getty Images (chosen by ICP), an ICP Trustees Award, and last but not least Special Commendations.
      
All of which brings us to 2014.  This year there is no Writing award, that is writing on photography; it has been dropped.  In fact the first three years did not produce an award in this category.  The first Writing award was given to Peter Galassi in 1988 and then every year till 2013.
     
This year for the first time one of the judges, or selectors as Ingrid Sischy insisted on being called, is an ICP staff member.  Something we never did, holding fast to the notion that these awards should be an expression of the tastes and discernment of the photographic community, not ICP.
     
Ticket pricing has always been a problem.  The program as it evolved was expensive and ICP's most visible event.  It did not come cheap and became our yearly fundraiser.  The hope to give photographers easy access to a program that was after all about them was a loosing battle.  Single tickets this year are $1,250.
     
But change is good, they say.

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