Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Heavy cold, taking the waters

Martin Munkácsi taking a shot of a diver for Harper's Bazaar, at Long Island, USA,1935

Woke with sore throat and soon enough the cold arrived, so I have been working and drifting most of the day. The work is the 5000 word essay on Hungarian photography for the coming show at the Royal Academy. It is one of three essays as far as I recall and I don't know what is in the others. What I do know is that I am the Hungarian-born contributor so I imagine I am to provide a Hungarian perspective, which might be to show in what way the Hungarian photographers represent something specifically Hungarian and why this should have proved to be so successful in the period between the wars.

Organising a 5000 word essay on the basis of limited knowledge and a few ideas is quite hard work, but it's almost done.

Underwater Swimmer, André Kertész, 1917

In the meantime the piano tuner calls. I am looking up references. My nose drips. Another idea this time to last me through three paragraphs. If poetry is the best words in the best order, perhaps an essay is the best paragraphs in the best order. I still have another 500 words or so to play with, then I'll see whether I have bored the pants off myself and everyone else. I do think there are some ideas in there. Are they good ones? I will have a clearer idea tomorrow. In the meantime, one more Hungarian swimming pool.

Károly Escher, The Bank Director's Bath, 1920s (I've had him before)

Water as a subject: science, beauty and mirror. Broken form, grace, weight, vulnerability, occupation. I have a head full of water at the moment.


Nicola said...

'I've had him before...'

Do you mean bank director or Escher? Was it here I first saw touching Escher photo of woman in headscarf with baby close? I have been trying to track down ever since. Grateful if you could link to.

Mark Granier said...

I checked wiki on Hungarian photographers. There are only two I know of, André Kertész (one of my all time favourites) and that great photographer of the city at night, Brassaï (whom I had thought of as French). Sylvia Plachy's work looks wonderful (love the stark simplicity of Transylvanian Woods), though it's hard to get a clear idea from the thumbnails I've found. I'm tempted to order her "Self Portrait with Cows Going Home"; the title is almost enough to do the trick.

Paul Hellyer said...

There are so many wonderful Hungarian photographers it is hard to know where to start: Kertész, Capa, Brassaï, László Moholy-Nagy, to name but some. One of my favourite photo featuring water is Kertész's "Martinque". A wonderful, menacing photo. Pure art.

Paul Hellyer said...

That should be "Martinique" of course.

George S said...

Nicola, both Escher and that photo have been on this blog before. The photograph you want is the fourth one down, here:

Mark - As it happens I have two copies of Sylvia Plachy's book - one she sent to me (we met in New York and have stayed in touch), and one given to me as a gift by another photographer, here in England. It is well worth it. I wrote a rambling (deliberately rambling) essay for the web based Indian magazine, Almost Island., not yet out, that includes a meditation on Plachy and Kertesz. As you know she was his assistant and apprentice. Paul mentions some other Hungarian photographers, to which list I would add Marton Munkácsi - and a number of excellent women photographers. I must write a post on them.

Paul, Martinique is indeed a wonderful disturbing photograph.

charles said...

The National Museum of Photography in Bradford did an exhibition of Hungarian photography ('The Hungarian Connection') in - let's see: golly, more than two decades ago - 1987. One of those magic exhibitions you stumble into in ignorance and emerge changed. The catalogue is possibly my most cherished photography book.

George S said...

I saw that exhibition, Charles. Travelled up from Hertfordshire to see it. I might even have reviewed it for the TLS. The catalogue is on my desk as I write. The man who asked me to write the essay I am struggling with is Colin Ford, the founder and first director of the National Museum of Photography Film and Television. Wonderful photos by Escher there.