A hungarian photojournalist who carved his own path

September 1, 2008 – 3:13 pm

Kertész Andor (July 2, 1894 – September 28, 1985), was a Hungarian -born photographer known for his groundbreaking contributions to photographic composition. In the early years of his lengthy career, his then-unorthodox camera angles, and his unwillingness to compromise his personal photographic style, prevented his work from gaining wider recognition. Even towards the end of his life, Kertész did not feel he had gained the worldwide recognition he deserved. He is recognized today as one of the seminal figures of photojournalism.

Kertész’s early work was mostly published in magazines. This continued until much later in his life when he stopped accepting commissions. He served briefly in WWI and moved to Paris in 1925, against the wishes of his family. There he was involved in the artistic melting pot  of immigrants and the Dada movement. The imminent threat of World War II pushed him to emigrate again to the US. He took offense with several editors, who he felt did not recognize his work. Despite the numerous awards he collected over the years, he still felt unrecognized, a sentiment which did not change even at the time of his death. His career is generally divided into four periods based on where his work was most prominent at these times. They are called the Hungarian period, the French period, the American period and, towards the end of his life, the International period.

Kertész bought his first camera (an ICA box camera) in 1912, as soon as he had earned enough money, despite his family’s protests to continue his career in business. In his free time away from work, he began taking photographs of the local peasants, gypsies, and landscape of the surrounding Hungarian Plains (the puszta).

Kertész emigrated to Paris in September 1925 against his mother’s wishes, leaving her behind along with both his brothers, his wife and his uncle Lipót, who died shortly thereafter. Jen? also left Hungary to live in Aregntina, but Elizabeth remained until her future husband was well established in Paris and they could live together. Kertész was certainly not the only artist emigrating to Paris; Man Ray, Germaine Krull (who also took part in exhibitions with Kertész) and Lucien Aigner all emigrated there during this period. In Paris he found critical and commercial success with magazine publications after doing commissioned work for several magazines across Europe from Germany to France to Italy.

Kertész’s work itself is often described as predominantly utilising light and even Kertész himself said that he writes with light. He was never considered to “comment” on his subjects, but rather capture them – this is often cited as why his work is often overlooked; he stuck to no political agenda and offered no deeper thought to his photographs other than the simplicity of life.

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