I just received – one of the most wonderful birthday gifts ever – a copy of Michel Frizot and Annie-Laure Wanaverbecq’s ‘André Kertész’. Produced in tandem with a major retrospective exhibition that started at the Jeu de Paume, Paris, and now on its final leg at the Magyar Nemzeti Múzeum, Budapest (until December 31, so jump to it if you can!), this book has some great essays and around 500 exquisitely reproduced images. Kertész’ attitude and his photography have been very influential on the way I work as a photographer and teacher, and it is lovely to read essays that resonate with his passionate and holistic articulation of the poetic in photography…
“I interpret what I feel in a given moment. Not what I see but what I feel.” … “A good photograph will convey something not only to the eye, but also to the inside. Eyes are never enough. Eyes are always between the image and the soul…” – André Kertész, quoted on page 13 of the book.
Implicit in the comment about image being part of the continuum between seeing and feeling is an acknowledgement of a particular kind of photographic image – and as one looks at Kertesz’ work, intensely looks at it, we begin to realize that he is consistently compressing and conflating all the core components of the medium – time, focus, frame, distance, tone, optical distortion – with the core components of experience – memory, metaphor, narrative, place. This book, by presenting such a large body of work to us in one binding, should serve as a reminder to all students of photography: there is such a thing as a photographic moment, it is singular among all other visual media, and it marginalizes authorship. Barthes was right to recognize the power of Kertész’ work, but he missed the point slightly. Instead of placing most of his attention on photographs of people and the gaze (Camera Lucida, 1980), Barthes should have realized that he addresses the most magical aspects of Kertesz’ work in his earlier essay, Death of the Author, 1967. I know, post-structuralists are going to scream at me, and po-post-structuralists too… just chill out and read Author as if it is was a piece of prose poetry, fuzz your mind, and look with clarity at Kertész’ work. And don’t ask me to explain. All explanations are in my photograph above.
Thank you, Rachel, for this wonderful present. And thank you André and Elizabeth Kertész! (By the way, Elizabeth passed away on the 21st of October 1977. I was about to celebrate my 20th birthday while at art school.)
two versions of Elizabeth and I, 1933 and 1960