Our exhibition highlights André Kertész's life long interest with people caught in a deeply personal, yet universal, moment: the act of reading.
Perhaps in memory of his late father, who was a bookseller, or more likely because of his deep understanding of the transformative nature of the printed word, Kertész began taking pictures of people absorbed in reading when he first started photographing in his native Hungary. Featuring a selection of photographs taken between 1915 and 1980, Kertész captured readers from all walks of life in such distant locales as Tokyo, Paris, Hungary and New York, and almost every conceivable place – on rooftops, in public parks, on crowded streets, waiting in the wings of a school play or huddled in doorways. Both playful and poetic, Kertész's photographs celebrate the absorptive power and pleasure of this solitary activity.
Kertész's brilliant innovate career began in 1912 and spanned seventy-three years. His early work revealed a finely developed vision present from the moment he first picked up a camera. His ability to construct lyrical images infused with wit and insight would remain a constant throughout his long career. In 1925, Kertész moved to Paris, where his approach to the medium helped define the look and role of photojournalism and contemporary art in Europe. Kertész left Paris in 1936 for New York but failed to secure a position as a photojournalist and slipped into relative obscurity. He continued to build on his extraordinary body of work, but it was not until the mid-1970s that Kertész was fully recognized as a seminal figure in the history of photography. By the end of his career, Kertész was acknowledged as one of the most inventive, influential, and prolific photographers of the twentieth century. Revered for his images in which everyday events are transformed into poetic visions, his photographs are in the collections of museums and institutions throughout the world.
These photographs were originally featured in a book titled On Reading, published in 1971, which helped to reestablish Kertész's identity at a critical juncture in his career. The second edition of this book, published by W.W. Norton & Company with a preface by curator Robert Gurbo, was released in the fall of 2008; arriving at a time when the continued existence of the printed word is under siege by numerous technological advances.