Watch: André Kertész, ‘Fork’

Born into a middle-class family in Hungary in 1894, André Kertész developed a passion for photography during his military service in the Austro-Hungarian army. Kertész created Fork, one of his early masterpieces, in 1928, a year after leaving his native Hungary for Paris, where he immersed himself in the avant-garde circles of the Dadaists and other artists. Simple in subject matter, a fork rests against the rim of a bowl placed on a table, while Kertész focuses on the formal composition of the photograph.

Kertész elevates the photograph above a simple record of kitchen utensils into a poetic statement by emphasising the beauty in the fork’s simple geometry and form. He has said of the medium “I attribute to photography the task of recording the real nature of things, their interior, their life. The photographer’s art is a continuous discovery which requires patience and time. A photograph draws its beauty from the truth with which it’s marked. For this very reason I refuse all the tricks of the trade and professional virtuosity which could make me betray my career. As soon as I find a subject which interests me, I leave it to the lens to record it truthfully. Look at the reporters and at the amateur photographer! They both have only one goal; to record a memory or a document. And that is pure photography.”

Kertész’s limited knowledge of French and English often left him feeling like an outsider and unable to fully communicate with those around him. This feeling of isolation escalated when he moved to New York in 1936 intent on establishing himself as a photographer in America.

Kertész expressed his feelings of loneliness through the subjects of his photographs. This ability to combine formal composition with an emotive charge in his photography has given his work its lasting appeal, revealing the true essence of the subject and the artist’s expressive feelings at one and the same time. Henri Cartier-Bresson later wrote about Kertész, “Each time André Kertész’s shutter clicks, I feel his heart beating.”

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