Biography of André Kertész (1894-1985)

Hungarian photographer born in 1894 in Budapest and died in New York (United States) in 1985.


Since one day found, still a teenager, a manual of photography in a loft, André Kertész knew to it devoted body and soul to this art. However, had to wait some years that it has come that time. His father died, was forced to work in the stock market of Budapest, and at the age of twenty years, to serve in the Austro-Hungarian army. In 1914 he purchased his first camera and decided to devote himself entirely to photography, but the destruction of their negatives in 1918 caused him to return to his job in the bag. However, he kept this work for a short time, as in 1922 photograph of Hungarian society awarded him the diploma of honor. Thereafter not left already that would be his great craft, photography, although to do so had to go to Paris and wrong to sell images for 25 francs to survive.

He arrived in Paris in 1926 and was established as a portraitist and illustrator photographer. At this time he began his collaboration with publications Frankfurter Illustrierte, Berliner Illustrierte, Fiorenza Nationale, Sourire, Uhu or Times and fraternizó with the avant-garde of the French capital movements, without ever joining any of them. His work is hardly classifiable, although often has said that he is "nineteen".

The miniature camera not only turned out to be very useful to photojournalists, but it also opened new aesthetic possibilities. Ease in handling allowed the photographer to look for unusual angles and recorded episodes of everyday life. Already in 1915, André Kertész made photographs sensitive and poses with people in their natural environments. But, 1926, his vision became more architectural, and learned to take the fleeting and unrepeatable moment on the bressoniana line. It was Grandmaster of another large, Brassaï, who learned the technique you used so eloquently to photograph Paris by night, either that was the light that you will find it. The Hungarian worried is by the same problems as Moholy-Nagy, also Hungarian, to back the document limits and use aerial perspectives, forms structured in diagonal and difficult lights.

I never theorized about his work; It is limited to taking pictures for pleasure, to sell them and expose them. His first individual exhibition took place in 1927, in a small gallery of Montparnasse: "Le Sacre du Printemps". A year later exhibited with other artists in the first Salon of the independents photography, which also included a retrospective of the work of Nadar and Atget. Kertesz presented his work "La fourchette" for indignation of other artists who criticized the simplicity of the image: "Anyone can take a picture of a fork and a plate". However, the Revue hebdomadaire considered this image as the only one of the purely artistic exhibition. And is that photography has all the beauty of austerity: a carefully composed framing that accurately depicts the curvature of probes and profiled handle with astonishing aesthetic quality lines. Be that as it may, the truth is that "La fourchette" from this moment on led a double life between art and commerce, to serve as illustration for the advertisement for a brand of cutlery.

It was also in Paris, to 1933, where Kertész began his series of "Distortions". Working with his Leica, photographing subjects in a distorting mirror reflecting showing as all photography is formed actually by the sum of a multitude of Visual cues, a form that is read by fragments due to the significant details and not in its global unit. This series revealed tensions and inequalities of photographic representation and the importance of the choice of the artist. Thus, it drew attention to the possibility that the purest picture could lead to the essence of subjectivity.

In 1936 he emigrated to New York, where he signed contract with Keystone. A year later he began his collaboration with Vogue, Harper´s Bazaar and many other publications. During the 1960s, and after recovering from a serious illness, he decided to work as an independent photographer. He received the title of Doctor Honoris cause from the Royal College of Art and the French Legion of Honor. In the Decade of the seventies, the work of Kertesz was one of the most listed companies in Europe and United States, $ 500 cost a photograph his paradoxical if one takes into account that he did fifty years from the time when a young Hungarian man was installed in Paris selling photos to 25 miserable francs.


LEMAGNY & ROUILLE: history of photography, Barcelona: Alcor, 1986.

VV. AA.: The photography of the 20th century, Taschen, 1997