Monday’s Inspiration – Laszlo Moholy-Nagy

“The organisation of light and shadow effects produce a new enrichment of vision.” – László Moholy-Nagy

I haven’t shared any inspiration in a while so I thought that I would with this Hungarian photographer. What really struck me in his work is his abstract and his amazing use of items to create incredible shapes and play with shadows. So let’s start with getting to know him a little better.

Laszlo Moholy-Nagy was a Hungarian painter and photographer born in 1946.  He was highly influenced by constructivism and was a strong advocate of the integration of technology and industry into the arts. Laszlo Moholy-Nagy possessed one of the liveliest and most versatile minds to come out of the revolution in artistic thinking that occurred in Europe after the First World War.

In addition to being a painter, designer, and photographer, Moholy was perhaps the most persuasive and effective theoretician of the concept of art education that grew out of the Bauhaus, the experimental design school that flowered briefly in Germany during the days of the Weimar Republic. Through his own work, his teaching and writing, and through the influence of his colleagues and followers at the Chicago Institute of Design (which Moholy founded in 1938), his ideas have had a profound effect on the art and art theory of the past generation. In none of the areas of his concern has his influence been greater than in photography.

His key ideas include:

  • He believed that humanity could only defeat the fracturing experience of modernity – only feel whole again – if it harnessed the potential of new technologies. Artists should transform into designers, and through specialisation and experimentation find the means to answer humanity’s needs.
  • His interest in photography encouraged his belief that artists’ understanding of vision had to specialise and modernise. He believed that artists are used to be dependent on the tools of perspective drawing, but with the advent of the camera they had to learn to see again. They had to renounce the classical training of previous centuries, which encouraged them to think about the history of art and to reproduce old formulas and experiment with vision, thus stretching human capacity to new tasks.
  • His interest in qualities of space, time, and light endured throughout his career and transcended the very different media he employed. Whether he was painting or creating “photograms” (photographs made without the use of a camera or negative) or crafting sculptures made of transparent Plexiglass, he was ultimately interested in studying how all these basic elements interact.

Moholy-Nagy’s influence on American art was felt broadly in several disciplines. Along with the other emigres from the Bauhaus, he succeeded in instilling a modern aesthetic into American design. His impact was felt most strongly by his students, but his use of modern materials and technology impressed other young designers, including Charles Eames, who visited the New Bauhaus while studying at the Cranbrook Academy of Art. Moholy-Nagy’s influence on photography is felt equally through his writings as through his photographs and photomontages. His first Bauhaus book established photography as a fine art equal to painting. His experiments in light and shadow reinforced photography’s value as a subjective medium, and therefore an artistic medium, rather than simply a means to document reality.

Recent years have brought international attention to Moholy-Nagy’s achievements with several major museums organising retrospectives, including the Tate Modern in London, the Schirn Kunsthalle in Frankfurt, and the Loyola University Museum of Art in Chicago, that celebrate the impact of his work on American art.

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Monday’s Inspiration – Germaine Van Parys

Germaine Van Parys (1893–1983) was a pioneering Belgian photojournalist and first woman in Belgium who practiced this profession. By the end of the First World War, she was recognised as one of Belgium’s most competent photographers.

She first worked for Le Soir(1922), then for La Meuse (1932), also contributing to the Paris weekly L’Illustration. In addition to images of royalty, she covered national catastrophes, plane crashes and assassinations. Of particular interest are her photographs of the Namur floods in 1926. She was one of the few women photographers to be a correspondent during the Second World War, also covering the Belgian liberation.

In 1956, she created her own agency, Van Pariys Media. Van Parys died in Brussels in 1983.

Monday’s Inspiration – Ed Van Wijk

Ed van Wijk was a self-taught Dutch photographer. As with most photographers of his generation, he started young. Precisely at 12 years after he received a camera from his grand-father. At school he gained more experience by taking candids of his classroom unnoticed using a Rolleicord. After school, he chose to turn his hobby into a profession and soon bought a Leica 35mm.

Although he is know for his black and white imagery, van Wijk initially applied himself intensively to colour photography.  His early experiences with colour photography resulted in his first large official commission. He documented the famous sixteenth-century stained-glass windows by the Crabeth brothers in the Church of Sint Jan in Gouda, because of the threat of war.

After the war he made portraits and pictures of children, as well as photo reports for the theatre group Residentie Toneel. His photographs appeared in the women’s magazines.

One of the first photo books in which his work appeared was Nederland – wonder uit water (The Netherlands – Miracle out of Water, 1954) published by W. van Hoeve after the example of publishing house Contact’s series ‘De schoonheid van ons land’ (‘The Beauty of our Country’). This was followed by the books: ‘s-Gravenhage (1955), Amsterdam (1958), Rotterdam (1958), Leiden (1961), Madurodam (1963) en Friesland (1963).

From 1952 onwards, Ed van Wijk was a core member of the Dutch Photographer’s Art Society. In his work the influence of Otto Steinert’s ‘subjective’ photography is clearly in evidence. In the sixties he was a member of GKf for a short period. Having made a name for himself with his photo books, he was given teaching positions at a number of academies.

In 1957 he became a teacher at the Vrije Academie voor Beeldende Kunsten in Den Haag, in 1959 at the Haagse School voor Fotografie en Fototechniek and in 1964 at the Akademie voor Beeldende Kunsten in Arnhem.

Monday’s Inspiration – Harold Cazneaux

Harold Cazneaux was an Australian pictorialist photographer; a pioneer whose style had an indelible impact on the development of Australian photographic history.

Cazneaux moved to Sydney in 1904 and worked in Freeman & Co. Ltd’s studio, becoming manager and chief operator. In his leisure time he began to document old Sydney. In 1907, he showed photographs at the members’ exhibition of the Photographic Society of New South Wales and two years later held his first solo exhibition in Australia: the critics praised the diversity of his work – landscapes and portraits.

He sent some of his images overseas and was recognised as a pioneer of the pictorial movement. In 1916 with five friends, he founded the amateur Sydney Camera Circle. Opposed to slavish imitation of overseas trends, he argued for a break with the typical low-toned British print in favour of ‘truly Australian sunshine effects’.

In 1914 Cazneaux won Kodak’s ‘Happy Moments’ contest and used the £100 as a deposit for a house in Roseville where he lived and from 1920 worked for the rest of his life. Frustrated and in poor health, he had left Freeman’s in 1918 and was rescued from penury by S. Ure Smith, who gave him regular work for his new publications the Home and Art in Australia. His frontispiece photograph for the first issue of the Home in 1920 used sunshine effects so successfully that it sparked a new trend in local photography. He benefited greatly from the publicity. A member of the London Salon of Photography, he exhibited there from at least 1911 and in 1924, with other members of the camera circle, opened the short-lived Australian Salon with a hanging of 170 pictures.

He produced a series of portraits of well-known artists, musicians, and actors and many books including Canberra, Australia’s Federal Capital (1928), Sydney Surfing (1929), The Bridge Book (1930), The Sydney Book (1931), Frensham Book (1934), and the jubilee number of the B.H.P. Review (1935). As a critic he wrote for the Australasian Photographic Review and the Gallery Gazette, London, and columns for the Lone Hand and Sydney Mail. Sometime president of the Photographic Society of New South Wales, he was elected an honorary fellow of the Royal Photographic Society of Great Britain in 1937.

Harold Cazneaux
Harold Cazneaux
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Harold Cazneaux
Harold Cazneaux

Monday’s Inspiration – Eva Besnyo

Born in Budapest, Eva Besnyö was brought up in a well-to-do Jewish home. In 1928, she started to study photography at József Pécsi‘s studio where she also served as an apprentice.

In 1930, she moved to Berlin where she became Peter Weller’s assisitant. first worked for advertising photographer René Ahrlé before working on with press photographer  Peter Weller. She became part of the social and political circle of intellectuals which included  Gyorgy Kepes, Joris Ivens,  Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Otto Umbehr and Robert Capa.

The city is, at the time, a modernist and experimental centre where she plays with objects within precise compositions before exploring the lives of workers, the swimmers of the Wannsee lido or the games of gypsy children. Sensing the imminent political turn of Germany, she moved to Amsterdam where, introduced by artists such as Gerrit Rietveld, she earned recognition. There, she documented the innovative and functional forms of a new architecture and, inspired by the New Vision movement, she experiments different perspectives, playing with angles and framing.

In 1931, she opened her own studio where she was successful in receiving agency work. Her well-known photograph of the gipsy boy with a cello on his back stems from that period. Threatened by the onset of National Socialism in 1932, she moved to Amsterdam with her Dutch friend John Fernhout whom she married. With the assistance of Charley Toorop, she participated in exhibitions which led to commissions in press photography, portraits, fashion and architecture.

Her solo exhibition in the Van Lier art gallery in 1933 consolidated her recognition in the Netherlands. Besnyö experienced a further breakthrough with her architectural photography only.

In 1934 she became a member of the association of artists for the defense of cultural rights. In this capacity she participated in the association’s 1936 protest exhibition against the Berlin Olympic Games, the “Olympics under Dictatorship” and organised the internationally-oriented exhibition “Foto ’37” at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, intended to enhance awareness of photography as an art form.

After the capitulation of the Netherlands army in May 1940, as the conditions of Jews steadily deteriorated, Eva Besnyö was forbidden to engage in all journalistic activities. In 1942, when her sole source of income was a few private commissions, she went underground for two years. After the war she received numerous commissions for photo-documentation and remained professionally active, though she was now the mother of a son (born in 1945) and a daughter (born in 1948), fathered by the graphic designer Wim Brusse, from whom she separated in 1968.

From 1970 to 1976 Eva Besnyö was active in the Dolle-Mina feminist movement for women’s rights and through her photographs became the chronicler of events. In 1980 she rejected the Ritterorden (knighthood) which was to have been bestowed on her by the Queen of the Netherlands. In 1999, in Berlin, the “grand old lady” of Dutch photography was awarded the Dr. Erich Salomon Award for her life’s work and at the end of the same year the Stedelijk Museum held an exhibition of her work.

 

Untitled, 1933 (John Fernhout, Anneke van der Feer, Joris Ivens, Westkapelle, Zeeland, Pays-Bas) /Eva Besnyö /sc

Photography struggles – Self doubt

Every so often, I learn more about photography as an art form but I have also struggled with some part. From finding balance between pursuing the photography that I love and posting images that is expected of me or things that get the most likes. I’ve also felt the pressure of gear upgrade every time I open a magazine.

Some days, I feel drained and I’m not sure where to start, how to grow etc… On other days, I feel really inspired and have creative ideas oozing out of my head. For me photography is a passion that comes from the heart, the passion to try new things, a passion to create and hopefully make a difference. I share my images in the hope that it will say something to someone at the same tile I get a sense of accomplishment.

We all have our struggle. One of mine being self doubt. Tho this day, when I finish an image, I send it to my friend who lives in France and an accountant what she thinks. Sometimes she says yes, while other tîmes she simply just says to me that she doesn’t understand it. Then she asks me, is it what you are looking to achieve, if my answer is yes, then it’s ready. No matter which stage we are at during our journey, we always have that doubt creep in from time to time.

Beeing too critical can be detrimental to our own progress and it also hinders our growth especially comparing ourselves to others. I would personally like to take a leaf out of the photographer Cole Thompson book. In order to create images that are of his vision, he doesn’t look at any else work and when he’s visiting a new place to photograph, he doesn’t look at google images for images of the area prior to his visit. I have seen his work and I believe they are the most genuine and authentic images that I’ve ever seen. His story telling and vision is completely unique.

We all have doubt. Even Michelangelo wrote in his book that he is no painter. Had he chosen to give up right there and then, we would never have been privileged to witness his talent. He chose to carry despite his doubts.

I like to remind myself to enjoy the journey, the good, the bad and the ugly. It is what makes it a true experience and to remember to stick to my vision no matter how many great photographers work I truly admire.

Everyone has doubts including the Masters but how we choose to deal with those doubts is what can make and break us.

Monday’s Inspiration – Philippe Halsman

“Most people stiffen with self-consciousness when they pose for a photograph. Lighting and fine camera equipment are useless if the photographer cannot make them drop the mask, at least for a moment, so he can capture on his film their real, undistorted personality and character”- Philippe Halsman

Philippe Halsman was born in Riga and began to take photographs in Paris in the 1930s. He opened a portrait studio in Montparnasse in 1934, where he photographed André Gide, Marc Chagall, André Malraux, Le Corbusier and other writers and artists, using an innovative twin-lens reflex camera that he had designed himself.

He then moved to the United States in 1940, just after the fall of France, having obtained an emergency visa through the intervention of Albert Einstein.

In the course of his career, Halsman produced reportage and covers for most major American magazines, including a staggering 101 covers for Life magazine. His assignments brought him face-to-face with many of the century’s leading personalities.

In 1945, he was elected the first president of the American Society of Magazine Photographers, where he led the fight for photographers’ creative and professional rights. His work soon won international recognition, and in 1951, he was invited by the founders of Magnum Photos to join the organization as a ‘contributing member’, so that they could syndicate his work outside the United States. This arrangement still stands.

Halsman began a thirty-seven-year collaboration with Salvador Dalí in 1941 which resulted in a stream of unusual Photographs of Ideas, including Dalí Atomicus and the Dalí’s Mustache series.

In the early 1950s, Halsman began to ask his subjects to jump for his camera at the conclusion of each sitting. These uniquely witty and energetic images have become an important part of his photographic legacy.

Here are some of those great images

 

US comic actor Groucho MARX. 1952.
US actress Marilyn MONROE
Spanish Surrealist Painter Salvador DALI. 1954.
The American trumpeter, singer, composer and conductor Louis ARMSTRONG.
British filmmaker Alfred HITCHCOCK, during the filming of “The Birds”. 1962.
Dutch actress Audrey HEPBURN posing for a LIFE Magazine cover image.
American actress Grace KELLY
French actress Brigitte BARDOT jumping in front of her villa, “La Madrague.”
1958. The Duke and Duchess of Windsor.
Tippi HEDREN, main actress in the movie “The Birds”. In the background: British film director Alfred HITCHCOCK. 1962.
New York City. 1965. Barbra STREISAND
Russian-born writer Vladimir NABOKOV chasing butterflies near his home.
The American actor and film director Woody ALLEN.
British Prime Minister Winston CHURCHILL with his poodle, Rufus
American actors Dean MARTIN and Jerry LEWIS.
British Prime Minister Winston CHURCHILL.
American actress Marilyn MONROE. 1952.
1952. US Senator from Massachusetts John F. KENNEDY.