Monday, 12 September 2011

'You have to be Hungarian'

I've always had a certain fascination for the exposed insides of demolished buildings (pictured below). This is due to the revelation of secret spaces, as well as the abstract patterns they create (above). It took a photograph by André Kertész, however, to show me how to capture these sites properly. In Landing Pigeon (New York, 1960), which features in Eyewitness: Hungarian Photography in the Twentieth Century, he sets off the angles of vanished stairways with a bird in flight.

The Royal Academy's show concentrates on five big names: Brassaï, Robert Capa, Kertész, Lászlo Moholy-Nagy and Martin Munkácsi. You sense the curators have tried their damnedest to draw themes from the displayed work, though they struggle to explain Capa's joshing maxim, 'It's not enough to have talent, you also have to be Hungarian.' This is especially so when for much of the period under review, photography was severely restricted in Hungary, leading most of the names here to practise their art abroad - how to separate Brassaï from his views of Paris or vice versa?

Opening with a folkloric vision, notably espoused by Rudolf Balogh, the exhibition comes full circle in Miklós Rév's Straight Road (Inota, c1955), which pitches a rural idyll against industrial reality. (Tibor Schoen's Ravens - Az Erdekes Ujság, 1915 - is another picture of two halves: a dead soldier in a Christmas card scene.) There's a predictable cavil: the most recent work here is from 1992 - a shame the Royal Academy didn't throw open one of its free rooms to bring the story up to date.

Eyewitness runs until 2 October and the bumper catalogue is now only £14.95.

No comments:

Post a Comment