Thursday, August 6, 2015

8 Lessons André Kertész Has Taught Me About Photography.

André Kertész (2 July 1894 – 28 September 1985) (Via Wikipedia) 

André Kertész was a Hungarian-born photographer known for his contributions to photographic composition and the photo essay (read more here). He is considered to be the pioneer of photojournalism. 
Kertész had a strong impact on several generations of photographers including such great photographers as Henri Cartier-Bresson and Brassai. H. Cartier-Bresso said about  Kertész, “We all owe him a great deal”.
He made pictures continually until his death, at the age of 91.
Being one of the most influential photographers of all times, Kertész “attained fame - according to his own view - too late in life.” (read more here)

 We could learn many things on photography from Kertész.
1. Be honest.

 “Of course a picture can lie, but only if you yourself are not honest or if you don’t have enough control over your subject.”  (André Kertész)
In photography ethical issues arise over the nature of creativity, ownership, photo manipulation. To lie with photography at the era of Photoshop is easier than in the past (read more here and here).
So for me this lesson from André Kertész is crucial and very modern.

2. Work for your own pleasure.
 “I do what I feel, that’s all, I am an ordinary photographer working for his own pleasure. That’s all I’ve ever done.”  (André Kertész)
It’s very important to do what you feel because you will not be able to tell about love with the help of your photography if you don’t love life, photography, your subject… You will not be able to demonstrate beauty if you take no notice of beauty…
Surely “an ordinary photographer” is the legendary photographer. So there’s one lesson more: come off your high horse…

3. Take a higher perspective.
“I like high shots. If you are on the same level, you lose many things.”  (André Kertész)
 Kertész took many of his famous images from a high vantage point.
Follow this advice, try to find a unique perspective we don’t normally see to receive interesting images.

4. Feel free to make mistakes!
André Kertész didn’t have any technical experiment when he began to take photographs.
“I tried to develop the pictures in my wardrobe, but too much light got in, even though I worked out what was good and what wasn't by trying over and over- one learns from one's mistakes. That's what I tell everyone: Feel free to make mistakes!
The next one will be better, and by the third it will turn out right. When I was learning how to develop, I would happen to over- or underdevelop a plate, but I drew lessons from the mistakes. I read textbooks and technical instructions, but in the end I learned by experimenting.” (André Kertész)
How often we are afraid to make mistakes and that’s why we are afraid to try something new in life and photography… Let us follow this wise advice and feel free to make mistakes.

5. Be patient for the right moment.
“There were other times when I saw something, but preferred to wait patiently for people to enter the picture. And then I profited from the moment. I allowed things to happen: that's why the pictures seem so natural.” (André Kertész)
Kertész suggested to consider the light when photographing and to observe scene from different angles.

 6. Give your interpretation of the reality.

Your camera is not a recorder. It’s a creative tool in your hands. Use your photography as a medium to convey your ideas and feelings.
“I do not document anything. I give an interpretation.” (André Kertész) 

7. Stay an amateur.

What associations do you have hearing the word “amateur”? Well, many people tend to think of this word as a negative term. We think about a person who has no skills, who takes bad photographs, who asks silly questions, etc.
But let’s remind the origin of this word.
An amateur (French amateur “lover of”, from Old French and ultimately from Latin amatorem nom. amator, “lover”) is generally considered a person attached to a particular pursuit, study, or science in a non-professional or unpaid manner.
“I am an amateur and intend to remain one my whole life long. I attribute to photography the task of recording the real nature of things, their interior, their life. The photographer’s art is a continuous discovery, which requires patience and time. A photograph draws its beauty from the truth with which it’s marked.
For this very reason I refuse all the tricks of the trade and professional virtuosity which could make me betray my career. As soon as I find a subject which interests me, I leave it to the lens to record it truthfully. Look at the reporters and at the amateur photographer! They both have only one goal; to record a memory or a document. And that is pure photography.” (André Kertész)

So even if you are a professional photographer, stay “the lover” of photography, i.e. an amateur.

8. Aim at perfection.
It’s important to stay motivated and to learn new things, not only to dream about your best photograph.
 “I am always saying that the best photographs are those I never took.”  (André Kertész)
Though in most things, including photography perfection is unattainable, you’ll be nearer to it if you don’t give up.

I’m sure that in order to gain more insights into photography it is necessary to study the greats. And André Kertész is one of the great masters of photography whose lessons could inspire your creativity.

How has André Kertész influenced you? What is the most useful lesson from him for you?
Share your thoughts and comments below.

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