Andre Kertesz's Polaroids

Apologies that this blog is a little late this week - how does life constantly interfere in our best laid plans and get away with it!? :)

Today I was flicking through one of the books I have about one of my absolute favourite photographers - Andre Kertesz. I had been thinking about more blogs about the books I have on my shelf or the photographers whose work I really admire.

This little book published well after the photographers death showcases the work he shot with a Polaroid SX70 in the 1970's and 80's and all within the confines of his New York apartment. At this stage of his life (he died in 1985) he was in poor health and his beloved wife Elisabeth had died (1977) leaving him, by all accounts, a broken man.

I stumbled on it in a Californian bookshop whilst on holiday and it was the first time I had seen anything by him in colour. Reading the introduction essay in the book it appears that at the right time the new technology of the instant Polaroid print gave him a late surge of creativity and a means to cope with the new reality of his life. In fact he became obsessed with it.

As with the rest of his work there is a lyrical quality of his observations of the street scenes from his window, the glass bust (that he said was Elisabeth the moment he saw it), other things in his apartment and the people who visited him. Unsurprisingly, to me at least as a fan, it is a remarkable collection of images.

Reading it with last weeks blog fresh in my mind it's a great example of someone's creativity helping them through a supremely difficult time, physically and emotionally.

He is quoted in the essay;

"I began shooting, slowly, slowly, slowly. But soon, going crazy...

Suddenly I'm losing myself, losing pain, losing hunger and yes, losing sadness."

Yet what struck me the first time I read this book was how he could still see new images in such familiar and restricted surroundings. I have, at times, felt frustrated with not having anything 'new' or 'interesting' to shoot. Maybe we have to make ourselves step back and see the world immediately around us with fresh eyes now and again. There is always, perhaps, something somewhere if we stop long enough to notice it.

And that's good mental wellbeing practice too - be in the moment, notice what is around you and appreciate the sights, events and feelings. Incidentally though, you don't always have to take a photo!!!

Many of Kertesz's images are among my all time favourites - he was a photographer who captured in the moment during his long career; whether it was on the streets of Hungary, Paris or New York, in the homes of his friends, and ultimately in his own apartment in the twilight of his life. His composition techniques, throughout his career, produced artistic and interesting images.

I will never tire of looking and learning from other photographers. Who is your favourite photographer? What can they teach you about taking photographs?

Quotation extract taken from Robert Gurbo's introductory essay in Andre Kertesz: The Polaroids p20 (see below)

If you'd like to know and see more of Andre Kertesz's work try these books.

Andre Kertesz: The Polaroids: Robert Gurbo: W.W Norton&Co

Good introductions to his work are the following (you may have to scour the second hand market):

Andre Kertesz (Photofile): Danielle Sallenave: Thames and Hudson

Andre Kertesz: Noel Bourcier: Phaidon Books

On Reading: Andre Kertesz: W.W Norton & Co

Great web resources are:

Ted Forbes Art of Photography series on YouTube where Ted discusses Kertesz's Polaroid work.


#photographs #AndreKertesz #polaroids #wellbeing #creativity

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All images © Sarah Holmes 2021 No reproduction without prior permission.