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Ernst Haas

Ernst Haas was born to a middle-class family in Vienna, Austria on March 2, 1921. His parents both had creative inclinations with his father, a government employee, a keen amateur photographer, and his mother encouraging her son's artistic tendencies. The young man found it difficult to continue his education due to Adolf Hitler's oppressive treatment of Jews. He decided to learn photography by working part-time at a local studio and was soon knowledgeable enough to teach a photography course at an American Red Cross facility. Here, he discovered the work of American photographer Edward Weston, which became one of his most enduring influences. Heute magazine editor Warren Trabant was impressed enough with Mr. Haas's work to issue him frequent photographic assignments. His photo essay of Austrian prisoners of war received international praise and employment offers from Life Magazine and the new Magnum photographic cooperative headquartered in Paris. He rejected the Life offer in a letter to photographic editor Wilson Hicks, stating in part, "There are two kinds of photographers, the ones who take pictures for a magazine, and the ones who gain something by taking pictures they are interested in. I am the second kind." With that, he accepted Robert Capa's invitation to join the Magnum agency, and never looked back.

While at Magnum, Mr. Haas's style continued to evolve as he learned composition and capturing a "decisive moment" on film from Henri Cartier-Bresson, and his friend Werner Bischof encouraged the humanistic approach that characterized his images. He experimented with color photography while working in Paris, Venice, and New York, and became fascinated by the potential of motion photography while working as a contributing photojournalist for Life, Vogue, and Paris-Match. Obviously holding no grudge, Life published Mr. Haas's color photographic perspectives of New York City, "Images of a Magic City" in 1953. During the 1950s, pioneered the technique of shooting his subjects at a slow shutter speed, which allowed him to capture not only the images but also their motion. He once explained: "To express dynamic motion through a static moment became for me limited and unsatisfactory. The basic idea was to liberate myself from this old concept and arrive at an image in which the spectator could feel the beauty of a fourth dimension, which lies much more between moments than within a moment."


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