Snowy Day Throwback – André Kertész: Washington Square, Winter, 1954

I was hoping we would have another snowy day to feature this wonderful photograph by André Kertész : Washington Square, Winter.

Of the compelling image taken of Washington Square Park in 1954 – spot the fountain, the lights, the low fences(!), the pathways, two lone figures, all set amidst the snow – The J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles writes:

Photographing from the high vantage point of his apartment window on New York’s Fifth Avenue, Kertész silhouetted leafless trees against the snow in Washington Square Park. He released the camera shutter to perfectly capture two pedestrians in midstride through the wintry landscape, introducing an element of dynamism to the carefully constructed composition.

Fans in a Flashbulb notes that after Kertész moved to Paris in 1925, “photographs of almost-empty benches in the Luxembourg Gardens speak of [his] initial loneliness, but also of his rapture at the urban beauty around him. He began to gain recognition as a photographer who poetically captured traditional Parisian life and culture through his images of cafés, fairs, parks, streets, and bridges. … By the 1950s and early ‘60s, Kertész again began to photograph those spaces of quiet contemplation—rooftops, parks, benches—that offered a haven from the bustling pace of urban life. Photographing for over half a century in Hungary, Paris, and New York, he created some of the most deceptively simple yet poetically compelling pictures ever made.”

Background on André Kertész from The Amica Library:

American, b. Austria-Hungary, 1894-1985

André Kertész was one of the first photographers to work with the small, 35mm camera, becoming famous for his skill at capturing the fleeting moments of everyday life. In 1911 he bought his first camera and began taking photographs in his native Budapest and the surrounding countryside. The following year, after graduating from Budapest’s Academy of Commerce, Kertész took a job as a clerk at the Budapest stock exchange. His interest in photography continued, and he began making spontaneous photographic studies of the city’s people and street life. Kertész also took photographs recording the daily life of his fellow soldiers during his service in the Austro-Hungarian army during World War I.

After his discharge in 1918, he returned to Budapest and worked there until 1925. He moved to Paris, establishing himself as a freelance photographer, and soon became a member of the avant-garde. His work was published in a variety of magazines and newspapers, including the Münchner Illustrierte Presse, Berliner Illustrierte Zeitung, Uhu, Vu, the London Sunday Times, and L’Esprit nouveau.

In 1927 he had his first exhibition at the progressive Galerie au Sacre du Printemps and two years later took part in the Film und Foto show in Stuttgart. Kertész became known for his candid photography and was recognized as a leader in modern, subjective photojournalism. In the early 1930s he also made his well-known series called Distortions, featuring almost 200 studies of the nude female figure reflected in a parabolic mirror.

In 1936 Kertész came to New York to work for Keystone Studios under a one-year contract. He remained in the city, producing pictures on a freelance basis until joining the staff of Condé Nast Publications in 1949.

Following his retirement in 1962, Kertész focused on his own work, remaining active as a photographer until his death. Over the years he published a number of books and was featured in many exhibitions and publications, including André Kertész: Of Paris and New York, a major show organized by the Art Institute of Chicago and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (1985).

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