Friday, August 24, 2007

"Think While You Shoot!"

We were recently fortunate in viewing the modern photography exhibit at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, which featured the work of Martin Munkacsi, a Budapest photographer born in 1896, who died in New York in 1963. He apparently died in a shrowd of contoversy and impoverished, despite the fact that he photographed famous models and actresses for decades for Harper's Bazaar, and at the height of his career in the 1940's, he earned $100,000 a year, unheard of in that time. His life was truly fascinating, and his photographs of models as well as athletes and everyday scenes, are noted for his ability to capture movement in a split second. Although timing was key for him, he did not take advantage of the lighter camera equipment available even at the turn of the century, but rather chose to carry around over 10 pounds of equipment to capture his subjects. He is also famous for his innovative photojournalism of pre-Nazi Berlin, and inspired some of the greatest names in photo history, including Richard Avedon and Henry Cartier-Bresson. I was most impressed with the range of his work, and his technical ability to capture subjects frequently in mid-air, as well as the expressiveness of his portraits. Unfortunately, the end of his life was troubled. According to a recent article in the Times of London, "Yet as he earned, he spent. He developed a taste for grandiose living, as did his women. A serial philanderer, he paid the price in the shape of two ruinously expensive divorces. The death of his daughter, Aki, from leukaemia also took its toll and he never recovered; by the 1950s his work had dried up and he was living in a cramped New York apartment. In 1963 he suffered a fatal heart attack." "Think While You Shoot" was apparently the photographer's credo.

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