Saturday, April 10, 2010

André Kertész: A Master in Photography

“The camera is my tool. Through it I give a reason to everything around me.”
- Andre Kertesz
Photographers play a key role in the society. They have a vision and a goal to help portray an image from their point of view. From the way they take pictures, to the place they take pictures; they are all unique in some way. One of the most recognizable photojournalists from the past includes André Kertész, a Hungarian photographer born on July 2, 1894 known for the many contributions to photographic work of art and the creation of the photo essay. Throughout his life, he felt his work was unrecognized by many, by taking his own camera angles and using a different approach towards his photography style. Kertész took photos that told stories and always believed he needed to be invisible while taking photos. He moved around to many places trying to rebuild his reputation in the industry after getting his work published only in magazines. André Kertész international success was soon to be discovered by people around the world.
Underwater Swimmer, Esztergom, 1917, André Kertész
One of the most famous works of André Kertész includes the “Underwater Swimmer” which was taken in 1917, when Kertész was wounded during the war. He took this photo from his hospital bed, and wanted to capture photos of distortion. If you take a look the image, it is distorted because the water alters the man’s body swimming the water, and shows different contrast of everything underneath. This photographed opened the doors for Kertész to take even more distorted photos. He did not manipulate his photos to show distorted effects. His friends quoted “You are crazy. Why did you photograph this?” I [Kertesz] answered: ”Why only girlfriends? This also exists”. This was something unusual for a photographer to take a photo of during those times, but is perfectly normal nowadays. Drawing attention and making others talk about a certain photograph which you take, is an effective way for a photographer to become more recognizable.
The Fork, or La Fourchette, 1928, André Kertész
Another one of André Kertész famous work includes the “The Fork” which was taken in 1928, during the French period of his career when he moved to Paris. The fork and plate is used as an everyday utensil during our everyday lives, however the way the fork is positioned portrays a shadow. The shadow is what captures the viewer’s attention and can mean that what we do in our everyday lives also hides something. Although this photo was not likely positioned this way and was taken out of surprise, the photographer can still take the same shot another time since it’s only objects, and not human beings.
Lilly of the Valley, 1928, André Kertész
“Lilly of the Valley” was also a photo taken in 1928 during the French period of Kertész’s career. The photo show’s a local vendor on the street giving a flower to a lady walking right by him. You can see the facial expression of the vendor and the way his body is positioned. It shows the life experience of a vendor on the streets selling or giving away flowers. He wants the lady to take the flower desperately. André Kertész was able to able to capture the shot during the right moment and the right time, as he does with all his other photos. It’s almost impossible to recreate this scene unless it’s staged.
André Kertész is still highly recognized in photography industry today. He has worked for several different magazines companies including Vogue and Look. His work was displayed throughout different museums across the world after his death on September 28, 1985. The most unique part about his photography was that all his shots were black & white and not altered. From the brightness, to the contrast, everything remained the same from when he took the shot. Not only did he capture images of human life, structures or objects, he was able to show feelings and emotions through his photography. During his time, no other photographers were able to tell stories through photographs. He was not considered a journalist, but instead a successful photojournalist. As a photographer, Cartier-Bresson who had a similar approach as him influenced Kertész. Nowadays, modern day photographers are influenced by André Kertész’s work. The different approach he took in photography, helped shape his career and become admired by other, even though he still felt unrecognized before leaving earth.

The following photos were taken using André Kertez’s style of photography:
Playing to Live, Downtown Toronto
Photo Credit: Osamah Asif

By my side, Downtown Toronto
Photo Credit: Osamah Asif

The first image is of a young girl playing the francophone in the streets of downtown Toronto. As the public walked by on the sidewalk, they witnessed a talented musician. They felt the urge to drop spare change into her instrument’s case. Not knowing she was going to be photographed, I was quickly able to capture an amazing shot during the right moment in time. With her hands playing the instrument, a smile on her face, and eyes on the man bending down dropping change. The girl had a positive facial expression and a unique posture, which makes this image come to life. The way she’s dressed also makes it authentic by giving a more modern look, since people are very fashionable these days. This photo can easily be compared to “Lilly of the Valley” taken by Kertez because that image shows a man on the streets trying to make contact with the women walking by, but instead this photo shows the opposite, a young girl trying to make contact with the man. Besides changing the image to black and white, nothing else was manipulated to make it into a Kertész type photo. With the technology nowadays, it’s impossible to take black and white photos immediately on our digital cameras, unless we change the settings or edit them later using a photo-editing program.

The second image was also taken in the streets of downtown Toronto, of a young couple walking on the sidewalk. The photo was not staged, just like all of André Kertez’s photos. I was able to capture this photo during the right time. The main focus here is on the couple because they’re the center of attention. We can see them holding on to each other and looking at their surroundings. The area was being used for a movie set, which is why it shows a police cruiser not from Toronto. There’s also a man walking away right in front of them, who is more blurred out compared to the couple. Usually photographers would alter the photo and crop him out, but it’s best to portray the truth. This image was also changed to black and white, since all of Kertész’s photos were black and white. Besides that, everything else remains the same. People might view this photo and instantly think of “love”, but I see this as “supporting and caring” for a special someone from my point of view. Both photos are not watermarked on purpose, because none of the photographers watermarked their photos before compared to now. Photographers want to be more recognized for their work these days.

More photos from other photographers influenced by André Kertész's style:

Photo Credit: Marcus Kartel

Photo Credit: Andy Morley-Hall

Photo Credit: Jesse Marlow

Other famous photographs by André Kertész:

Shadows of the Eiffel Tower, 1929, André Kertész
Distortion #40, 1933, André Kertész
Clock of the Academie Francaise, 1929, André Kertész


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