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."
This motion process enabled Mr. Haas to present both the pageantry and the gore of a Spanish bullfight, which he believed was the poetic representation of "the perfection of motion." Not surprisingly, his interest in motion photography led to his involvement in the Hollywood film productions of The Misfits (1961) and West Side Story (1962). He permanently relocated to New York in 1965, and became a successful corporate photographer, with his "Marlboro Man" becoming one of the most recognizable advertising campaign of the 1970s. He ran several successful photographic workshops, which included the innovative use of projecting dissolving images supplemented by background music. Creation, his photographic consideration of the world's creation sold more than a quarter of a million copies. Ernst Haas continued working until his death from a cerebral hemorrhage at age 65 on September 12, 1986. After his death, the American Society of Magazine Photographers introduced the prestigious Ernst Haas Award for Creative Photography in his memory. Fellow Magnum photographer Elliott Erwitt observed of his colleague's legacy: "He has been incredibly copied since the beginning... It was certainly new – nobody had done it before and nobody has stopped doing it since."
1983 American Photographer, Vol. XI (New York: Diamandis Communications), p. 188.
2012 The Art of an Improbable Life (URL: http://animprobablelife.com/tag/ernst-haas).
2006 Encyclopedia of 20th Century Photography, Vol. I (New York: Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group), pp. 649-651.
1957 Life Magazine, Vol. XLIII (Chicago: Time, Inc.), pp. 57-65.
external link: Ernst Haas Estate
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