I started to wonder what makes his work so inspirational. I realized that when I am feeling stuck in a rut and unsure how to approach a subject or scene I generally try to imagine how Kertesz would have seen it.
I've been looking back over his pictures trying to put my finger on what it is that is so special about his view of the world. I think it is something to do with a delicacy and subtlety of touch. His images are seductive but not sentimental. The world becomes a beautiful balanced pattern of light & shade with people becoming graphic shapes perfectly placed within the scene. Looking through his work is to experience the world afresh, to be constantly surprised and reminded of the power of the camera to reduce the world into beautiful mysteries.
Kertesz was born to a Jewish family in Budapest in 1894. He fought and was wounded in battle in WW1. He spent the 1920s and some of the 1930s living in Paris where he became close friends with the artist Piet Mondrian. In 1936 he made the practical choice to move to New York and seemed to have felt like an outsider for most of his life there - something that is often put forward as a reason for the amazing observational talents apparent in his work, the clear eyed view of the stranger. In 1941 America classified him as an Illegal Alien and banned him from publishing his work for several years. In 1963 he regained possession of the negatives he had left behind in France. When they arrived most of them were broken. He used this as a motivating force to make more work. In his eighties, living on the 18th floor of a New York apartment block and limited in his ability to move around, he produced a book of work called 'From My Window'.
As well as the delicacy of touch that makes his work so captivating, Kertesz is worth celebrating for his indomitable creative spirit in the face of a life of adversity.
I present to you a collection of his work below, it is not comprehensive, Kertesz produced some of the most iconic images of the 20th Century which I don't feel the need to reproduce here. If you like his work look him up.
While researching Kertesz - preparing a course on photographic theories and approaches - I discovered that throughout his life he worked on a project called 'On Reading'. This was a series of pictures capturing the intimate activity of reading in public, wherever Kertesz saw it. I have no idea of the dates or locations of any of these pictures, and they are rarely mentioned when his work is discussed, but I love them.