Hungarian photographers in frame in UK exhibition

Tue Jun 28, 2011 11:06am EDT
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By Mike Collett-White

LONDON (Reuters) - Robert Capa once said "It's not enough to have talent, you also have to be Hungarian," and a new London exhibition on five leading figures of the medium shows that he was only partly joking.

"Eyewitness: Hungarian Photography in the 20th Century" at the Royal Academy focuses on Capa, Brassai, Andre Kertesz, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy and Martin Munkacsi, who were all born in Hungary.

All, apart from Capa, were born in the 1890s, all were Jewish though not strictly religious and all changed their birth names -- indicative of the anti-Semitism they experienced at varying stages of their lives.

Yet they were not part of a "Hungarian school" despite these connections, and the exhibition, which runs from June 30-October 20, throws up as many contrasts and comparisons as it does similarities through more than 200 images.

It opens with a room featuring photography in Hungary itself from around 1914, including many rural scenes, often idealized in the "Magyar" style, by photographers including Rudolf Balogh.

Included is the earliest surviving picture by Kertesz, the 1912 "Boy Sleeping."

The show then moves on to World War One, triggered by the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne.

Brassai, Kertesz and Moholy-Nagy were all called up to fight, but only Kertesz took war photographs although he was still only an amateur.   Continued...

<p>Satiric Dancer, a photograph taken by Andre Kertesz, is seen in a handout image. REUTERS/Royal Academy of Arts/Handout</p>