Hungarian Photographers 1914-2003
10 June to 29 August 2005
10 June to 29 August 2005
‘Kindred Spirits’ is the title the Hungarian writer and curator, Péter Nádas, has given to an exhibition of Hungarian photographs from 1914 to 2003. On display are works by such famous photographers as László Moholy-Nagy, André Kértesz, Brassaï, Lucien Hervé, Robert Capa, Eva Besnyö and Martin Munkacsi as well as by many other photographers hitherto unknown in the West.
Péter Nádas, whose own career began as a photographer, offers a subjective view of the history of 20th century Hungarian photography. He forges links between his own works and photos produced by those who left Hungary at an early stage – and subsequently became famous in countries like Germany, France and the USA – as well as photos by those who remained in the country.
Nádas detects some surprising common features in their choice of themes and motifs, which may well have something to do with Hungarian photographers’ special interest in history. The experience of the First World War in particular enhanced their visual perception and focused their interest on situations encountered by people in a threatening environment. Hence the photos taken by the young André Kertész during the First World War appear to harbour elements of the surrealist motifs that characterised his later work in Paris. At the same time they anticipate the photos shot by Robert Capa during World War II.
This interest in the living conditions of the poor and those deprived of their rights has since been a recurrent theme in the work of Hungarian photographers. Female photographers, such as Kata Kálmán, Klára Langer and Ata Kando, stand out in particular for their sensitive reportages and portraits from the 1930s to the 1950s.
Hopes of change were nurtured during the time of the Hungarian Soviet Republic. After its collapse in 1919 many revolutionaries and avant-garde artists left the country for Paris, Berlin and Vienna. In 1923, Walter Gropius invited László Moholy-Nagy to the Bauhaus in Weimar and he became perhaps the most successful Hungarian artist in Germany. His outstanding book Painting, Photography, Film was published in 1925 in the Bauhaus series. Moholy-Nagy had a crucial impact on the New Vision, developing the photogram and trying out daring photographic focusing, all of which provided a source of inspiration for Hungarian students at the Bauhaus, such as Judit Kárász. The synthesis of art and life advocated by the Bauhaus also attracted a young Budapest photographer by the name of Eva Besnyö to Berlin in 1930. She was bent on escaping the restrictive political atmosphere in Hungary under the Horthy regime. The same was true one year later of Endre Ernö Friedmann (better known under his assumed name of Robert Capa). They both had contacts with left-wing circles in Berlin. In photographic terms Besnyö sought the poetry to be found in everyday life and activities, while Capa devoted himself to political issues. After 1933 and the Nazis’ assumption of power, the Hungarian photographers resident in Berlin were forced to flee Germany.
Nádas develops a fascinating dialogue between his photographic oeuvre and the works of the other 29 Hungarian photographers. His philosophy of ‘distinguishing between black and black’ can be interpreted in a variety of ways: as a search for the difference between illusion and reality and as a search for clarity about himself and the world.
Angelo, Rudolf Balogh, Nándor Bárány, Eva Besnyö, Brassaï, Robert Capa, Ferenc Czík, Jenö Dulovits, Károly Escher, Ferenc Haár, Lucien Hervé, Kata Kálmán, Ata Kando, Judit Kárász, André Kertész, Imre Kinszki, Klára Langer, Lajos Lengyel, László Moholy-Nagy, Martin Munkacsi, Péter Nádas, Zoltán Nagy, József Pécsi, Márta Rédner, Miklós Rédner, Marian Reismann, Zsuzsa Sándor, Kata Sugár, Ernö Vadas, István Vecsényi, Iván Vydareny