There is no other art that enriches humanity with so many world-famous artists of Hungarian origin as photography.
When thinking about combat photography, the first person to come to mind is Robert Capa. Born as Ernő Friedmann in a Jewish family in Budapest in 1913 the artist, who later tried to make his way to Berlin, covered five different wars, an achievement that earned him an eternal place in the Hall of Fame of photojournalist. Capa owes his reputation to his shocking photographic essays on the Spanish Civil War; he was also present at the Second Sino-Japanese War, the birth of the Israeli state, and the First Indo-china War as well.
He earned worldwide fame during the Second World War, with his action photos of D-Day from the frontline with his life at stake, in thick hail of bullets. His most famous photograph is known as “Loyalist Militiaman at the Moment of Death,” whose authenticity has been debated ever since it was shot; some people claiming that the picture was staged.
In 1947, the photographer founded a photographic cooperative called Magnum Photos with Henri Cartier-Bresson, William Vandivert, David Seymour,and George Rodger,.
He met his fate during the First Indo-china War on 25 May 1954,when he stepped on a land-mine and died afterwards. It reveals much of his strong vocation that he kept clutching his camera even on his deathbed.
No list of the world’s ten most famous photographers is complete without André Kertész (born as Andor Kertész), who was also forced to emigrate, and start his career by taking photographs of soldiers. He moved from Hungary to Paris and in turn, to the United States, on hearing the news about the Nazi. He is considered one of the pivotal figures of artistic photojournalism.
One of the most famous pictures of his Hungarian period is the “Underwater Swimmer,” taken in Esztergom. The progressive intellectual life of Paris revived him; his photographs were published in periodicals such as the Vu, the Art, and the Médecine, and he shot his most famous picture, “The Fork”, during this period. Yet his American period did not start out so smoothly. Eventually, Beaumont Newhall, the director of the Museum of Modern Art’s photographic department, took the artist under his wings.
At the time, Kertész was working for world-famous periodicals, such as the Harper's Bazaar, Vogue, Life, and Look. Although he received a number of prestigious artistic awards, adequacy and a craving for fame ceaselessly haunted him. Countless photographers considered the artist, who is called the father of photojournalism, inspirational. For example, Henry Cartier-Bresson once said, in the early 1930s, “we all owe him a great deal”.
In Hungary, the institution that offers the highest level of art education, was named after László Moholy-Nagy. Although Moholy-Nagy did not participate in the revolutionary events, he felt he had to leave the country after the fall of the Soviet Republic, in Hungary and fled to Vienna, and then moved to Berlin. His international career started after Walter Gropius, founder of the Bauhaus school, asked him to replace the retiring Johannes Itten, in 1923 as an instructor.
In the spirit of his thesis, “the New Vision,” Moholy-Nagy claimed that photography could create a new way of seeing the outside world, unseen by the human eye. He instructed in several fields of art, took up sculpture, painting, photomontage, and metalwork. He was also interested in films and typography. His name is associated with the photogram. He was innovative and carried out countless experiments. In 1937, he became the director of the New Bauhaus graduate school in Chicago, and occupied this position until his death in 1945.
“Think while you shoot” – the Kolozsvár-born Martin Munkácsi’s motto, now an adage, has never lost its topicality. Great, high-ranking photographers, such as the French Henri-Cartier Bresson, took his advice. Bresson himself said that he was inspired to take up photography by a Munkácsi picture that shows African boys running into the surf of Lake Tanganyika.
In Berlin, the Ullstein Verlag, Europe’s largest publisher of books, daily newspapers, and periodicals, backed Munkácsi. He earned worldwide fame in the United States, mainly owing to his innovations in the area of fashion photography. His innovation consisted of taking his models outside the studio to shoot outdoors, in natural environment. He also created the genre of celebrity portraits – the likes of Marlene Dietrich, Katharine Hepburn, and Louis Armstrong, posed in front of his lens.
Brassaï, whose original name was Gyula Halász, also acquired fame abroad. The artist, who first took up painting and sculpture as a young man, was born in Brasov, and moved to Paris at the age of 25, where he spent the rest of his life. In the French capital, he started out as a journalist; he was then, immediately captivated by the Parisian streets. His photographs depicting Paris by night immediately made him famous all over the world. His portraits also deserve attention, as he photographed many fellow artists, including Dalí, Picasso, Giacometti, and Matisse. Orders from the Harper's Bazaar guaranteed his financial security, but the photographer also wrote seventeen books and countless articles. Moreover, his film Tant qu'il y aura des bêtes, shot in 1956, clenched the “Most Original Film” award at the Cannes Film Festival.