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  History of photography

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History of photography
 
 
 
Martin Munkacsi
 

Martin Munkácsi (born Kolozsvar, Austro-Hungary, May 18, 1896, died July 13, 1963 New York, NY) was an Hungarian photographer who worked in Germany (1928-34) and the United States.
Munkácsi was a newspaper writer and photographer in Hungary, specializing in sports. At the time, sports action photography could only be done in bright light outdoors. Munkácsi's innovation was to make sports photographs as meticulously composed action photographs, which required both artistic and technical skill.
Munkácsi's legendary big break was to happen upon a fatal brawl, which he photographed. Those photos affected the outcome of the trial of the accused killer, and gave Munkácsi considerable notoriety. That notoriety helped him get a job in Berlin in 1928, for the Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung, where his first published photo was a race car splashing its way through a puddle. He also worked for the fashion magazine Die Dame.
More than just sports and fashion, he photographed Berliners, rich and poor, in all their activities. He traveled to Turkey, Sicily, Egypt, London, New York, and famously Liberia, for photo spreads in the Berliner Illustrierte Zeitung.
The speed of the modern age and the excitement of new photographic viewpoints enthralled him, especially flying. There are aerial photographs; there are air-to-air photographs of a flying school for women; there are photographs from a Zeppelin, including the ones on his trip to Brazil, where he crosses over a boat whose passengers wave to the airship above.
On March 21, 1933, he photographed the fateful "Day of Potsdam", where the aged President Paul von Hindenburg handed Germany over to Adolf Hitler. On assignment for the Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung, he photographed Hitler's inner circle, ironically because he was a Jew and a foreigner.
In 1934, the Nazis nationalized the Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung, fired its Jewish editor-in-chief, Kurt Korff, and replaced its innovative photography with pictures of German troops.
Munkácsi left for New York, where he signed on, for a substantial $100,000, with Harper's Bazaar, a top fashion magazine. Innovatively, he often left the studio to shoot outdoors, on the beach, on farms and fields, at an airport. He produced one of the first articles ilustrated with nude photographs in a popular magazine.
His portraits include Katharine Hepburn, Leslie Howard, Jean Harlow, Joan Crawford, Jane Russell, Louis Armstrong, and the definitive dance photograph of Fred Astaire.
Munkácsi died in poverty and controversy. Several universities and museums declined to accept his archives, and they were scattered around the world.
Berlin's Ullstein Archives and Hamburg's F. C. Gundlach collection are home to two of the largest collections of Munkácsi's work.
In 1932, the young Henri Cartier-Bresson, at the time an undirected photographer who catalogued his travels and his friends, saw the Munkácsi photograph Three Boys at Lake Tanganyika, taken on a beach in Liberia. Cartier-Bresson later said, "For me this photograph was the spark that ignited my enthusiasm. I suddenly realized that, by capturing the moment, photography was able to achieve eternity. It is the only photograph to have influenced me. This picture has such intensity, such joie de vivre, such a sense of wonder that it continues to fascinate me to this day." He paraphrased this many times during his life, including the quotation, "I suddenly understood that photography can fix eternity in a moment. It is the only photo that influenced me. There is such intensity in this image, such spontaneity, such joie de vivre, such miraculousness, that even today it still bowls me over."
Richard Avedon said of Munkácsi, "He brought a taste for happiness and honesty and a love of women to what was, before him, a joyless, loveless, lying art. Today the world of what is called fashion is peopled with Munkácsi's babies, his heirs.... The art of Munkácsi lay in what he wanted life to be, and he wanted it to be splendid. And it was."

 
 
 


BerlinerIllustrierte Zeitung (BIZ), July 21, 1929. Magazine cover. Private collection.


Boys Running into Surf at Lake, Tanganyika, Liberia, 1930


Summer Camp Near Bad-Kissingen, Germany


Fred Astaire, 1936


Lovely autumn: the last warm rays of sunshine, circa 1929


At 100 Kilometers - Driver in Hungarian Tourist Trophy Race, 1929


Greta Garbo on vacation, ca. 1932


Flight D-LZ 127 'Graf Zeppelin' to Brazil—"Our grand experience: Encounter with the 'Cap Arcona'", ca. 1932


Opening of Parliament on March 21, 1933, 'Potsdam Day'—"The German Army marches out," 1933


"Jumping fox terrier," ca. 1930


"At a Berlin vs. Budapest match. Vilmos Kohut, one of the best Hungarian players," ca. 1928


Fun on the beach—Lunabad, Berlin, 1930


Lucile Brokaw on the Long Island Beach, 1933


Martin Munkacsi, photographing for Harper's Bazaar in Long Island, taking an angle shot of a diver, 1935


Beduin, Egypt, 1929


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Operetta soubrette Rosi Barsony in her entrancing grotesque dance, ca. 1932



Operetta soubrette Rosi Barsony in her entrancing grotesque dance


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On the Beach, 1929


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The Goalkeeper, 1928


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The Goalkeeper, 1928


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The Goalkeeper, 1928


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Karstadt, Germany


Healthy Body


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Leni Riefenstahl, Hitler’s protégée



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Doris Duke and her husband James
Cromwell pose by Shangri La's Jali Pavilion
1939


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Fun during Coffee Break, 1932


The Dance Team of Tibor von Halmay and Eva Sylt, ca. 1931


Coffee workers, Brazil, 1932

 
 
 

 
 
 
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