Photographic pioneer Andre Kertesz was born Kertesz Andor to a middle-class Jewish family in Budapest, Hungary on July 2, 1894. At the age of 14, his father succumbed to tuberculosis, and received encouragement from is uncle to enter the family business of working for the Budapest stock exchange. When the young man became bored with a business career, he purchased his first camera. With camera in hand, the eighteen-year-old began photographing the displaced persons he encountered along the streets of Budapest. His camera also accompanied him to the front lines of World War I as he served as a recruit for the Austro-Hungarian army. While recuperating from his war wounds, he began taking what became his trademark ‘distortions’ photographs, but these negatives were unfortunately casualties of the Hungarian Revolution.
In 1917, after resuming his employment at the stock exchange, he continued pursuing photography, and some of photographs were published in local newspapers and periodicals. At this time, he became acquainted with Elizabeth Saly, a co-worker who shared his passion for art. She would later become his wife and muse. In 1924, he was prevented from receiving a silver medal by the Hungarian Amateur Photographers' Association for failure to conform to salon policies. This rebelliousness would stall his upward mobility throughout his career.
When he moved to Paris to escape Hungary's political oppression and focus on photography full time, he changed his name to Andre Kertesz. While living in Montparnasse, he became acquainted with a bohemian group of artists that included painter Piet Mondrian and photographers Berenice Abbott and Man Ray. The purchase of a Leica camera in 1929 forever changed his aesthetic approach to the art of photography. He resumed his experimentation of distortions in a series of female nudes that were commissioned by Le Sourire. These images reflected the Surrealist philosophy that was popular at the time and were published in such Surrealist journals as Andre Breton's Minotaure. His collections would be subsequently published in such volumes as Enfants (1933), Nos Amies les Betes in 1936, Day of Paris (1945), and On Reading (1971).
After his marriage to Elizabeth Saly, the couple sailed to the United States, which is where they remained for the rest of their lives. After briefly working as a contract photographer at Keystone Studios in New York City, Mr. Kertesz began freelancing for various American magazines including Harper's Bazaar, Town and Country, House and Garden, and Vogue. He photographed the New York waterfront for Life magazine, but the images were never published. He published several artistic photographs for Coronet. His refusal to shoot several rolls of film at a time and insisting upon editing his photographs himself created frequent problems. The Second World War compromised his employment due to his alien status, but this was resolved when he and his wife became naturalized American citizens. Mr. Kertesz began working regularly for Fortune and House and Garden, which provided a much-needed steady income. As in Budapest and Hungary, Mr. Kertesz and his camera were drawn to the marginalized members of American society as were captured in Sixth Avenue, New York (1959). He continued making his own prints until a severe chemical allergy prevented him from doing so. He became increasingly reclusive following his wife's death in 1977, but continued photographing what he saw outside his Washington Square apartment. Andre Kertesz died in New York on September 28, 1985 at the age of 91. His unconventional approaches to his life and his art make him one of world’s most original and intriguing photographers.
1984 Andre Kertesz: Photographs from the J. Paul Getty Museum (Los Angeles: The J. Paul Getty Museum), pp. 5-8).
2006 Encyclopedia of Twentieth-Century Photography, Vol. I (New York: Routledge/Taylor & Francis), pp. 856.-859.
2007 The Ongoing Moment (New York: Vintage Books/Random House), p. 27.
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