ONE OF THE GREATEST LEICA PHOTOGRAPHERS EVER – ERNST HAAS
Ernst Haas (1921–1986) is
considered one of the best, most celebrated and influential photographers of
the 20th century and considered one of the pioneers of color photography. Haas
was born in Vienna in 1921. He did not
become a photographer until after the war. His early work showed Austrian
prisoners of war returning home. This brought him to the attention of LIFE
magazine. Initially he declined a job offer as staff photographer in order to
keep his independence. But an invitation from Robert Capa changed his
mind. Soon after, Haas joined Magnum in 1949. There he developed a close associations with
Capa, Henri Cartier-Bresson, and Werner Bishof.
In 1951 Haas moved to the
United States where he began experimenting with Kodachrome color film. He soon he became the premier color
photographer of the 1950s. In 1953 LIFE magazine published his groundbreaking
24-page color photo essay on New York City. This was the first time such a
large color photo feature was published by LIFE. In 1962 a retrospective of his
work was the first color photography exhibition held at New York’s Museum of
Throughout his career, Haas
traveled extensively, photographing for LIFE, Vogue, and Look, to name a few of
the many influential publications that featured his work He created four books during his lifetime:
The Creation (1971), In America (1975), In Germany (1976), and Himalayan
Ernst Haas continued to work
until 1986, the year of his death. He has been the subject of numerous museum
exhibitions and publications such as Ernst Haas, Color Photography (1989),
Ernst Haas in Black and White (1992), and Color Correction (2011). The Ernst
Haas Studio, located in New York, continues to manage Haas's legacy, aiding
researchers and overseeing all projects related to his work.
Ernst Haas with
LeicaflexErnst Haas with Leica R4
It would be wrong to claim
that Ernst Haas used only Leica equipment, but Leicas have definitely been an
integral part of his professional life, and many of his famous photographs have
been taken with Leica cameras.
When Ernst Haas began
photographing in color, he soon created an entirely new approach to color
photography by purposely using rather slow shutter speeds to blur the
image. However, as he explained, this
was not left to chance. He used the
colors of the scene, and by deliberately blurring the image, he was actually
able to create additional colors through the blurred overlap of the various
subjects in the scene.. This approach
was made especially famous by his photographs of bullfights in Spain.
Obviously, Haas applied his
blurring technique to other subjects as well
Photograph from his book
The above photograph was
later used by Kodak for the Kodak Colorama at Grand Central Station in New York
City in 1977. The original picture was
taken with a Leicaflex SL and a 50mm Summicron-R lens on Kodachrome 25. The finished Colorama consisted of 20
vertical panels of 3 feet width and 18 feet height for a total size of 18 x 60
feet This was the first time a 35mm picture had been used for this
project. It presents a 508 times
enlargement to achieve the width of the image.
It was a definite testament of the quality of the film and that of the Leica
camera and lens.
From the book "In
Ernst Hass quite often tried
to take photographs of ordinary subjects and to present them as an apparently
abstract photograph, although, as he explained, that is a contradiction of
terms. A photograph cannot possibly be
abstract because a camera can only record actual subject matter.
Ernst Haas had an uncanny
ability to find ordinary subjects and by seeing beyond the obvious, was able to
create extraordinary photographs.
The first time I met Ernst
Haas was at a meeting of the Leica Historical Society of America. He had been invited as the main speaker for
the event. One thing that struck me
immediately was that here was a person who gained international fame with his
wonderful color photography and his masterful use of colors, yet he was clothed
all in black, black pants, black shirt, black jacket, black tie. I saw him talking in German to Walter Heun,
the former director of the Leica School.
That in itself was quite an interesting conversation. I knew Walter Heun and, upon noticing me, he
introduced me to Ernst Haas. I was
fortunate to meet him again on a couple of other occasions.
There have been many
excellent and important photographers, past and present. Ernst Haas was without question one of the
greatest of them all.
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