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Eyewitness: Hungarian Photography in the 20th Century

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by Kat Parr Mackintosh (subscribe)
Young and coffee in varying degrees, Kat also says stuff @ThoroughlyMode
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The name might not entice you into this exhibition to be totally frank it sounds a bit too obscure and arty if you know what I mean? - but the images just may. At least that's the way it happened with me. I don't know a lot about the various photographic movements – I'm very interested but I just haven't had time to dig deep into it – but it turns out that the Hungarians were at the forefront of interesting photography in the 20th Century, and were influential in photojournalism, abstract and art photography and fashion photography.

At least this is what I've just learned.

László Fejes, 'Wedding', Budapest, 1965. Silver gelatin print. 155 x 238mm. Hungarian Museum of Photography © Hungarian Museum of Photography.
László Fejes, 'Wedding', Budapest, 1965. Silver gelatin print. 155 x 238mm. Hungarian Museum of Photography © Hungarian Museum of Photography.
The earlier photos that I saw in this exhibition, some taken as early as 1914, were fascinating for the sophisticated composition and interesting lighting – it wasn't all posing against a painted background I now see. And some of the later work was far more humanist than I thought would have been popular at the time. So I learned a lot about how wrong my preconceived notions of this art form really are. Which is always good.

It's not all art shots though, there are also photographs from several wars and tragedies, and images of people going about their daily business. Seeing moments from the lives of people long gone is always a fascinating way to spend an afternoon.

For what it's worth to you the work of Brassaď, Robert Capa, André Kertész, László Moholy-Nagy and Martin Munkácsi is featured in the exhibition – all of whom left their native Hungary and brought their innovative ideas to the US and the rest of Europe. But the exhibition also includes Károly Escher, Rudolf Balogh and Jószef Pécsi who remained at home in Hungary. Just because you're not familiar with these names now doesn't mean that you won't want to be more familiar with them afterwards.

There are supposedly around 200 images to see here, and from my standpoint there were very few that didn't deserve a couple of minutes of my attention at least – as you might imagine I didn't get through them all.
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Why? I learned A LOT
When: 10am-6pm Saturday-Thursday (last admission to galleries 5.30pm) 10am-10pm Friday (last admission to galleries 9.30pm)
Where: Royal Academy of Arts Burlington House Piccadilly London W1J 0BD, nearest station Piccadilly Circus
Cost: Ł11.50, price includes Ł2.50 guide
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