Eyewitness, Royal Academy, London
Wednesday 29 June 2011
If, before visiting this exhibition, you don't have a strong sense of 20th-century Hungarian photography, that is probably because the most important photographers from Hungary were actually positioned across the globe, at the helms of their various practices – fashion, portraiture, documentary, conceptual and photojournalism – in New York, Paris, London and other cities. This instructive exhibition makes the case that the history of photography was shaped to a large degree by practitioners from Hungary, focusing on five key players; and it functions both as an eyewitness history of the 20th century told through images and the tracing of a brave experimental artistic medium. So, whilst László Moholy-Nagy was experimenting with abstract photography at the Bauhaus, Robert Capa was capturing the bloodshed of war. Brassaï was in Picasso's studio or capturing the sleazy nightlife of Paris in the 1930s, whilst Martin Munkácsi was injecting athleticism into the fashion photography at Harper's Bazaar in New York and André Kertész was experimenting with surrealism, narrative and abstraction in his images as he moved around Europe.
It's perhaps Hungary's early embrace of photography that engendered such experimentation: Budapest was home to some of the first publications to print photography stories in the 1920s – a type of reportage that would become photojournalism. It's striking that, as Hungarians became scattered across the globe to escape an increasingly fascistic government, they injected a dazzling amount of drama and movement into their images. Capa's Death of a Loyalist Militiaman (1936), taken during the Spanish Civil War, depicts a man at the point of death, sent flying back by the force of a bullet (the question as to whether Capa staged such imagery takes nothing away from the sheer physical force of the image). Munkácsi's photograph of Nazi poster girl Leni Riefenstahl skiing, wearing only tiny shorts and a vest in the snow as the sun glints off her sweaty, smooth skin is utterly strange, whilst his glorious fashion images of women running and gliding through the landscape were instrumental in creating a type of imagery that we now think of as profoundly all-American. From this vantage point, where we can see how much images create a culture as much as they reflect it, it's possible to see that these photographers were creating history at the very moments that they captured it on film.
Thursday to 2 October (0844 209 0051)
TV reviewBroadcasting House was preparing for a visit from Prince Charles spoiler alert
Glastonbury Michael Eavis reveals final headline act 'most likely' British pair
Film Ewan McGregor joins star-studded Beauty and the Beast cast as Lumiere
TVThe Island with Bear Grylls under fire after male contestants kill and eat rare crocodile
Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Migrant crisis: Greek soldier saved 20 people singlehandedly off Rhodes beach
- 2 Sofyen Belamouadden murder: The inside story of a crime that horrified Britain
- 3 UK weather: Britain braced for snow as arctic air mass moves in
- 4 Aaron and Melissa Klein: Oregon anti-gay bakers ordered to pay $135,000 after refusing to make cake for same-sex wedding
- 5 'Isis' schoolgirls: Missing British teenager tweets picture of her Syrian takeaway
Poldark, series 1 finale, review: How a costume drama became a Sunday night swoon-fest
Al Pacino admits he was nearly fired from The Godfather and it's still his most 'difficult role'
Warner Music owner Len Blavatnik tops Sunday Times Rich List
Game of Thrones season 5 episode 3, review: Sansa and manhood-lopping torturer Ramsay Bolton - really?
The day I starred in Only Fools and Horses
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Migrant boat disaster: Ukip candidate mocks victims in sickening Twitter post
Nigel Farage wants the BBC to stop making programmes like Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing, and Top Gear
Global warming: Scientists say temperatures could rise by 6C by 2100 and call for action ahead of UN meeting in Paris
General Election 2015: Britain would become a 'communist dictatorship' under Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon, claims wife of Michael Gove