“The moment always dictates in my work…Everybody can look, but the don’t necessarily see…I see a situation and I know that it’s right.”- André Kertész
After seeing episode 1 of the documentary by the BBC called The Genius of Photography I decided to do a little more research on André Kertész as I loved the work that was mentioned in this programme.
André Kertész (1894–1985), born Kertész Andor, he was a Hungarian-born photographer known for his groundbreaking contributions to photographic composition and photo journalism. In the early years of his career, his then-unorthodox camera angles and style stopped his work from gaining wide recognition. He though is hailed as one of the most important photographers of the twentieth century. Working intuitively, he captured the poetry of modern urban life with its quiet, often overlooked incidents and odd, occasionally comic, or even bizarre juxtapositions. Neither a surrealist, nor a strict photojournalist, he nevertheless infused his best images with strong tenets of both. “You don’t see” the things you photograph, he explained, “you feel them.”
He earned his Bachelor’s Degree from the Hungarian Academy of Commerce in 1912 and soon found a job working as a clerk at the Budapest Stock Exchange. He did not enjoy his work and just saw it as being a means to an end. It allowed him to buy his first camera at the age of 18 and immediately began to make intimate portraits of his family and friends, studies of the Hungarian countryside, and he brought it with him when he was drafted into the army two years later. After his military service, photography was not paying well enough to make a leaving, so he returned to the stock exchange and remained there for the next seven years. In 1925, he immigrated to France to live the life of a bohemian artist.
All of his family was left behind, including his fiancé Elizabeth. As with many others at the time, Paris was an inspiration for Kertész. For the next decade he photographed the streets of the French metropolis and finally marry his fiancé.
In 1936, the Keyston Agency in New York City lead him to cross the Atlantic. This though proved to be a mistake for his career. A year after joining the Keyston Agency, he cancelled the contract but was left with few options of what to do next. World War II was developing and made a return to Paris at that time impossible. At the same time, the US government treated him like an enemy of the state and prevented him from publishing for many years. Once the war was over, all of Kertész’s momentum was gone. It wasn’t until 1964, when Museum of Modern Art curator John Sarkowski organised a show for André, that his career finally took off again and the art world began to appreciate his work, this continued throughout the 70s and 80s and he was exhibited across the world. Towards end of his life, he would be one of the first to experiment with Polaroid’s SX-70 cameras. In 1983, the French government awarded him the Legion of Honor, he also received numerous honorary doctorates, lifetime achievement awards, a Guggenheim fellowship and the Mayor’s Award of Honor for Arts and Culture in New York.. He died at the age of 91 in New York.
While searching the internet for information I stumbled across this blog which is really worth a read, in this article he discusses 10 lessons that can be learnt from studying André Kertész:
- Always have a camera with you
- Follow your dreams
- Take a higher perspective
- Focus on geometry and form
- Experiment with different equipment
- Feel what you photograph
- Be patient for the right moment
- Stay an amateur
- Be satisfied
- Stay hungry
I know I will take away quite a lot from looking at Andre Kertesz’s work and also the articles I have read about him although I personally do not like his more surreal work I do find that like with Trent Parke I could look at his street work for hours dissecting the photographs to see why they work so well and hopefully become better at seeing situations because of it, I guess only time will tell!
All the above images were taken from the following websites:
– Wikipedia (Accessed 21 February 2015)
–Erik Kim Street Photography Blog (Accessed 21 February 2015)
– At Get Photography (Accessed 22 February 2015)
– Photographers Gallery (Accessed 22 February 2015)