ERNST HAAS (2)

I’ve just finished looking through ‘Ernst Haas - Colour Correction’ a collection of the photographer’s work first published in 2011 and which I mentioned in an earlier piece below.  There are apparently 200,000 slides in the Haas archive so we can expect perhaps further volumes if this one is a success (and it was reprinted in 2016).

I found leafing through the book to be a sensuous experience.  Colour has that effect on me rather more than black and white.  Several of the images sent me into reverie.  The others were mostly interesting in a technical sense: speculating about how he achieved the effects that he did and thinking about why some had more impact than others.

The text going with the images took a familiar route through historical context – who knew whom and who influenced whom and who ignored whom.  The suggestion is that after his first MoMA show (proposed and curated by Edward Steichen) he was dropped by John Szarkowski.   Woven into this account is an aesthetic assessment, technical detail, wider context and quotations: you get a pinball effect as the subject skitters from one of these to the next. Finding the language in which to talk about a series of photos is a constant challenge even to those who do it professionally.

ERNST HAAS (1)

I've just been looking at 'Color Correction' - a volume of the non-commercial colour photography of Ernst Haas.  He says somewhere: "For me, photography became a language with which I have learnt to write both prose and poetry."

That is a very interesting idea - that photography can be divided into the equivalent of verse and prose.  Perhaps he meant that his commercial work was the prose side, some kind of linear process which marched relentlessly to a predictable conclusion. The poetry would then be something more abstract and affective:  images which made their way by association or allusion.  It is these latter which make up the volume I have been looking at.

Maybe there is something in the distinction.  On the other hand, prose can be just as allusive as poetry and rum-ti-tum poetry can be just as predictable as some prose.  All photographs both depict and allude and that is less true of words which tend to direct one's thoughts rather more firmly.    In the end EH's distinction can go only so far.  The potency of the photograph will always set it apart from words.