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André Kertész – master photographers

[recreated from pdf following blog crash]



This 40 minute BBC documentary is an interview with André Kertész (1894 -1985) as an old man looking back on his life and his work. I always find it fascinating to hear photographers talking about their own work and views on photography and to get some sense of the person. Things I learned:

Despite being persuaded by his agent to move to America between WW1 and WW2, his work was not accepted there at that time. Stuck there because of the war, it is still a period in his life about which he seems to feel resentment. He describes how his work was rejected by Life and other magazines. They considered it too sentimental and carrying too much of a story. I assume that this was at odds with the straight, documentary style photography of Walker Evans and Robert Frank.

We are treated to a discussion of some of Kertész’s work – I find it charming with a pictorial style; he comments that the details (through photographic technique) are not necessary to tell his story. Instead I can enjoy the simple forms contrasted within broad areas of deep blacks and highlights within the frame.

We learn that he processed his own photos, but his approach was not discussed in any detail. The style reminds me of Bill Brandt – images sculpted out of black and white.

On photography itself, Kertész has some observations:

He believes that subjects find him – he does not deliberately seek them out. He photographs firstly for himself and does not take on work he does not believe in.

He sees the camera as an instrument and the human eye as an equivalent organic instrument. In creating a photo (and in seeing things), he says it is the thinking that is important, not so much the instrument.

He looks for stories when framing photos and talks enthusiastically about the unfolding scenes in his work.

In his old age and since the passing of his wife, we are told that Kertész rarely leaves his New York apartment and spends his time photographing some of the objects he has collected over his years. These are featured in a picture book, From my Window, and share the pictorial style of the rest of his work.

Kertész sounded like a romantic when he was speaking and I see his masterful work as romantic.


BBC TV production (1983). André Kertész – Master Photographer. Available from:https://youtu.be/Olc_QLDPUeU [accessed 6.9.15]

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