Masters of Photography: Andre Kertesz
Greetings Photoion students and photography fans, we’ve got another entry in our Masters of Photography series for you today. This series looks at some of the most influential photographers in the last 100 years and examines their life and their work.
This time we’re looking at the work of Andre Kertesz, who is best known for his incredible work with composition and interesting angles.
Kertesz was born in Budapest, Hungary in 1894 and purchased his first camera in 1912. His family had hoped Kertesz would pursue a career in business, but his focus soon shifted to photography.
From his first image, thought to be Sleeping Boy, Budapest, 1912, Kertesz’s style has been unmistakable. Many of his images play with extremes of light, casting long or deep shadows, and there is a common theme of people or objects in the frame being askew.
Kertesz’s first published images were those taken in the trenches of WWI while he was serving in the Austro-Hungarian army. Many of the images taken during this period were in the photo essay style for which Kertesz is still known for. Many of his images from this period were destroyed, but those that survive explored everyday life for soldiers in the trenches of WWI, including the mundanity of life between battles.
Kertesz was wounded in 1915 and spent the rest of the war in hospitals. During his recovery, he continued to capture images, including his most well-known from the period, Underwater Swimmer, Esztergom, 1917. This image shows a swimmer whose body has been distorted by the refraction of the water.
Inspired by this image, Kertész began to work on an entire series of images based on “Distortions”. This series of images include some of Kertész’s most recognisable and interesting work. This series explores themes of body perception and the relationship with one’s body. However, Kertész felt that this unusual style was one of the major reasons his work did not receive the more widespread acclaim he felt it deserved.
Kertész is often referred to as the “unknown soldier” based on his wartime photography work, much of which was widely distributed through the media without crediting him. Throughout most of his life, he felt he did not receive the fame or acceptance he deserved, despite critical acclaim and many awards. It is ironic that he is now remembered as the father of photojournalism when he spent so much of his life chasing such lasting remembrance.