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László Moholy-Nagy

The László Moholy-Nagy (Hungarian, 1895 – 1946) Foundation includes a useful biography of the prolific artist – http://moholy-nagy.org/about/biography/ (accessed 15.3.15). It covers his experience in the First World War, his years at the Bauhaus School, and subsequent life in the UK and the USA.

The photographic work of Moholy-Nagy  is described by the Andrea Rosen Gallery – http://www.andrearosengallery.com/artists/lszl-moholy-nagy/images (accessed 15.3.15)

‘[he] was a pioneer of his time, exploring the complete transformation of light, reflection, and transparency through different media. In the 1930s and 1940s, László Moholy-Nagy developed an approach to colour photography using Kodachrome film that, like his kinetic sculpture, “Light Space Modulator”, incorporates both space and time. Moholy-Nagy was also a teacher at the Bauhaus, and his interest in incorporating technology into the arts comes out clearly in his photography. For example, the studies of abstract lights which were created using a long exposure of traffic lights.’

The gallery shows some of his photographs online. This image uses a shallow DOF to create a blur of colours as a backdrop to the main subject. The colours are saturated, giving them a vividness that is not present in our normal perception of the world. He is almost painting with the colours.

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It also quotes some words of wisdom from the man himself –

“The true artist is the grindstone of the senses; he sharpens eyes, mind, and feeling; he interprets ideas and concepts through his own media.” 
László Moholy-Nagy
Vision in Motion

This is an important message to photographers who want their work to be their art – we are surrounded by the media as snapshots and it is very easy to use the camera in an unthinking way.

Atget Photography is a website that ‘aims to provide a comprehensive list of photography sites, fine art artists and digital web sites links to museums, galleries, magazines, organisations, masters of photography, black and white photographers, individual artists, visual / computer web arts, contemporary art directories and various other online art resources related historical, modern and cultural fine art theme’. http://www.atgetphotography.com/Selection/moholy-nagy.html (accessed 15.3.15). It provides some examples of Moholy-Nagy’s work and some quotations. This quote resounds with me, against the backdrop of the www full of ‘how to do’ and ‘what to do’ prescriptions,

“The enemy of photography is the convention, the fixed rules of “how to do”. The salvation of photography comes from the experiment.”

In the black and white image below, I feel portrait photography as design. Great experimentation.

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Moholy-Nagy’s work embraces the spirit of experimentation and still feels fresh today.


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