A photojournalist’s “subtle and whimsical” city

Andre Kertesz, born in Hungary in 1894, made a name for himself with his photos of fellow Austro-Hungarian soldiers in World War I.

“Unlike other war photographs, Kertesz’s concerned themselves with the lives of soldiers away from the fighting,” writes PBS.org’s American Masters website.

“Part of Kertesz’s genius was his ability to cast attention on images seemingly ‘unimportant.’ These subtle images of the moments of joy and contemplation away from the front were a revolutionary use of the newly invented hand-held camera.”

After the war and artistic success in Paris, he arrived in New York in 1936. Kertesz intended to stay briefly, but financial difficulties and then World War II made it impossible to return to France.

So he remained in New York and took pictures‚ wonderful off-center images with a modernist sensibility of the urban landscape and the people inhabiting it through the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s.

“For nearly twenty years his gifts remained relatively unrecognized in New York,” states PBS.org. Only in 1964, when a one-man show was held at the Museum of Modern Art, did he get the notice his work deserved.

“Very few artists are able to witness the formation of their own artistic medium. Kertesz was not only able to witness much of the beginnings of hand-held photography, but had a profound effect on it.

“With subtle and whimsical artistry, he took full advantage of a medium not yet sure of its own potential, and for that, contemporary photography remains in his debt.”

[Photo at top left, 1944; top right, Third Avenue and 46th Street, 1936, bottom left, 1943; bottom, 1959 on Sixth Avenue]

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4 Responses to “A photojournalist’s “subtle and whimsical” city”

  1. Joly MacFie Says:

    Around 1980 Dick O’Dell, who owned the UK indie label Y Records used several Kertesz pictures on fliers and covers for The Pop group and The Slits leading to a local cult following. The Pop Group themselves used his “Gypsy Children” for the cover of their LP “How Much Longer Do We Tolerate Mass Murder” http://ragpath.blogspot.com/2010/12/for-how-much-longer-do-we-tolerate-mass.html

  2. wildnewyork Says:

    Thanks for the link–I don’t know much about the Slits or The Pop Group but that gypsy photo is really stunning.

  3. EVI Says:

    These photos are stunning. EVI

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