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Tuesday, 30 August 2011


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I've commented in other posts about Kertesz, one of my favorite photographers. I have most of his books, some signed. He was indeed true to himself, but perhaps unlike Elliott, much of his commercial work was clearly distinct from his personal work.

That's one of the reasons that he struggled so much in the US, where he was not as accepted as he had hoped and had to rely on more commercial endeavors than he preferred. He never wavered from who he was, but he had to settle for the cards he was sometimes given.

I may have linked to this video before...http://www.photoeye.com/bookstore/citation.cfm?catalog=CT002&i=&i2= It's interesting to see and hear Kertesz (with thick accent) talk about his work.

Yes, I have bought the book. It is probably my 4th or 5th Kertesz book, and I must say, it is a very good rounding up of his story, the development of his creative vein, and displays most of the essential photos in a well presented form. Probably the best synthetic Kertesz compendium so far. As far as the modern art is concerned, I apply to it the same test as to any art, old or new, photographic or not: does it defend itself in its own right? Does it create an aesthetic emotion? If not, then I don't care for it, no matter if it is Rubens, Picasso, Hirst or Avedon.

Sounds like you're looking for someone to nudge you over the edge to buy it Mike. I ordered this book back in July when you pointed it out. Didn't know much about Kertesz but suspected he would be in my strike zone of favorite photographers.

I leafed through the book when it came and quickly realized it was deserving of some serious time - thus the reason I haven't gotten back to it yet. Something about the day job keeps getting in the way of my idle pursuits.

Mike-Got the book right after you posted. Been out photographing and I am saving the book for a bad weather/photographing day-or week! Don' wish to be in a hurry to spend time with my all time favorite photographer.

Yes, I bought the Kertesz book a few weeks after you mentioned it. I had just bought another one and wanted more. As a photographer, not a photojournalist, who worked at a newspaper until being laid off two years ago, what I've read so far has spoken volumes to me. It was enlightening and inspirational to read of his difficulties in New York. I'm an old school photographer having started to learn my craft in high school in the early 1970's. I've always had a soft spot for Kertesz and now even more so. The photos are unassailable.

Another component of the equation which comprises the "Art world" is contained in
Tom Wolfe's The Painted Word -- a truly fascinating and revealing read about Modern Art and Art critics. I know you loathe (your word, not mine) this book Mike,
but I don't think that makes it any less pertinent to what is presented in The $12 Million Stuffed Shark. It lifts the lid the same.....
Best wishes


I bought it and quickly scanned it before heading off on holiday. Now I'm back I'll read it and let you know what I think at the end.

So far it's big, heavy and looks nice. There again, I like Kertesz and still like black and white film in a rangefinder... also a most un-american Christian:) who gets your jibe


I did buy the book. Unfortunately my time has extremely limited lately so I'm making may way through it slowly. Kertesz is a favorite of mine. Reading the text of the book provides at least some context for the photographs.

I have to remind myself how different the world was in the early twentieth century from what we know today. Artists faced great opportunities and immense social changes in the first half of the last century. It is amazing how much great art resulted from processing those challenges.

Oh, and another thing. I also have a strong view that lifting up the better known (i.e. richer) jobbing pros as models of photographic excellence is a real negative influence on the quaity of most amateur's (lover's!) work. It is really the exaltation of wealth at the expense of (photographic) integrity - do we need yet more advertising composites masquerading as photographs and claiming the picture is all that matters.

OK, rant mode off, I'm off to mix up a new batch of xtol


I found, after you revealed it as your probable favorite, that the University of California was happy to sell me an excellent hard copy, with dustcover, of Andre Kertesz of Paris and New York for very little, including shipping. After receiving it, and finding that it was in such great condition and held such a treasure of photographs, I wondered why the UC system would be willing to sell it, and for so little. Then I remembered the state's financial woes. It must be having a fire sale of its artistic treasures . . .
My wife has bought me the Jeu de Palme book for my birthday (but I don't know that).

I think I've browsed that book 3 times in 3 different stores. I hadn't heard of him before your first post on this book -- in fact, I don't know many photographers outside of the Magnum clan, and I've only started branching out and this year started a collection.

The first encounter of Kertesz was in Foam, Amsterdam on holidays. I remember browsing it after a Capa retrospective book, and being really taken by how beautiful those photos were. It was like reading Yeats and then reading that famous Owen poem from the First World War -- the visceral impact of Capa couldn't have been a bigger contrast. There wasn't another wrapped book, and I was on bike, so I thought that if I did buy it, it would be wrecked by the time I got home, so I thought: check this back in Paris.

The second and third, in chain bookstores in Paris. Each time: I've picked it up, I admire it, and then put it back and bought something else. The first time it was the same Capa book in Foam, the second, Robert Frank. I don't know why I haven't bought it yet, but I have a couple of hypotheses.

One is, the "I think I can do that ... (but obviously can't)" delusion; leading to the Capa in place of the Kertesz, because there's no way I'm going to be taking Capa's kind of photos. And the second is the "Wow... I don't know what I'm feeling" response, which was to the Frank; who evokes a response but of what, I'm not sure. It screamed to me to be looked at and thought about.

Maybe this Kertesz book is like a dictionary; you hold out for the reference and you buy it once, and then use it forever. But you only buy it when you think you need it. I guess I'm not there yet.


I didn't buy the book only because I already have too many Kertesz books. Too bad, this looks like a good one.

I bit. Glad I did. But I'm still trying to decide where Kertesz fits, if at all, within my personal pantheon of Great Photographers.

I love his Polaroids perhaps best of all. I love the story of his struggles and persistence and vindication in the end. To me, he seems like a hard photographer to love, but worth the effort.


Calvin Amari = the Squid.

I love it!!

I bought it through Amazon (and hope you got a cut of that). Looks wonderful. But there is a lot more text than I expected so like many others here I'm holding off on really reading it until I have some uninterrupted free time.

For all the reasons I noted the first time you asked this question, yes, the Kertesz book is worth buying and spending hours with ... if you like Kertesz's work.

Kertesz is among my favorites, too.


yes, I bought it. Here's some wisdom to help you with your dilemma (buy or not). My wife hates me bringing all these photo books into the house (with limited storage and shelf space), and I know I have a problem. But you know what, there are worse addictions to have. Go for it!

"But you know what, there are worse addictions to have."

Yup, and I've had 'em.


Mike, I knew very little about Kertesz before your post, and i finally could buy the book and goti it from amazon 10 days ago. Well, what to say, two things struck me: 1, the absolute coeherence visible through the whole selection of pictures, from first to last - Kertesz sure had vision and a very unique one at that; 2, his photogrpahs are nearly unwordly in their visual perfection. I have no vocabulary to express this better in terms of photographic critique, but suffice it to say that were i choose a book as a main text book for a photography class, this would be it.

I haven't bought the book, but saw a great retrospective of Kertesz in Berlin a couple of weeks ago. Really wonderful show.


Unfortunately, it ends on the 11th of September. Not sure if it's going to move anywhere else.

It was on my wishlist until a moment ago, thanks for nagging me.

My love for Kertész was immediate, visceral, and permanent. I didn't buy the book, because I already have so many Kertész books. His modesty and melancholy are a major inspiration for me.

Mike, I bought the book as well, but like others I haven't had the time to properly go through it yet. On first glance it seems excellent, but my impression is that the blander presentation of "Sixty Years..." somehow suited Kertesz more. Of course, the latter was also my first Kertesz book, which probably biases me.

I do know that I'm really regretting not buying the reissue of the polaroids.

If we are speaking about novels, I would like to add Robertson Davies's What's Bred in the Bone as an excellent example of a good novel that speaks about art.

Judging by the comments so far, it seems to be a book that is up there with "A Brief History of Time" in the owned-but-not-read stakes.

"Judging by the comments so far, it seems to be a book that is up there with 'A Brief History of Time' in the owned-but-not-read stakes."

It does, you're right. In fairness, though, you can get an awful lot out of it without reading any of the text. The illustrations are a veritable cornucopia.

I wonder if it isn't a little like "Henri Cartier-Bresson and the Artless Art," which I love looking at while "dipping into" the text here and there...but which I did not love reading per se.


Regarding what Cal(the Squid) said about the vast majority of art sucking in any era, I have to agree. What's more, the majority of art from the best artists in any era even sucks. I started to realize this after my English major days, when I had time to read complete works collections of poets I admired. There is a reason for anthologies and selected works. But it's also comforting to realize that we all get to fight the general tendency to suckiness, accomplished or not.

First let me say that I don't read your blog enough----I'm sorry to say I tend to forget it, which has more to do with me than you. This fall I hope to rectify this situation, as I continue to wean myself away from DPR and its pernicious effects.

Yours is a terrific blog, and I would normally not comment but only read. But I think I may have some expertise in the area of contemporary art that most don't, so let me correct a misconception that has cropped up here: that the majority of art from every age has sucked. That's really not true, unless you subscribe to Larry Rivers' dictum that "there's great art, and then there's sh*t". Actually, and more precisely, the majority of art from past periods (prior to the 20th century at least, but I really believe more like 1970 or so)is mediocre. Taht is still true, but now with the addition of some stuff that may indeed be truly wretched.

The other thing that is largely misunderstood about 20th-21st century art is that much of it is experimental or provisional by intent, a big shift from previous periods. Finally, one must remember that there have also been shifts in the very purposes of art (some of these brought about by the advent of film, both still and motion, and now electronic forms), the markets for art (and everything else), art education, egalitarianism generally, money itself, and the very existence of galleries and museums. There are quite a few variables at work here, and you don't have to be a math whiz to know that the more variables present, the complex the problem.

Don't read this as an apologia, complete or partial, for contemporary art. Take it instead as a warning about judgement.

FYI, there's a short review of the Kertész book by Adam Koplan on dpreview.com, see http://www.dpreview.com/news/1109/11090805kerteszbookreview.asp . "A highly recommended addition to any photographic library"

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