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Andre Kertesz

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Submitted By andrea29
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Distortion Master
A Hungarian born photographer, Andre Kertesz, is known for his innovative collection of photojournalism that first began to fully develop in Paris. His collection named Distortion came to be discovered and developed when Kertesz photographed a man swimming underwater. This photo named Underwater Swimmer taken in 1917, more than slightly distinguishes what his distortion collection consists of. As seen in the photo the water morphs the body; some parts are enlarged, for example the swimmers shoulders and others are not as seen from the waist down. This un-proportional effect caused by the water developed his ideas of what and how he came to create his series of distorted photographs.

In 1933, Kertesz began to work for a magazine called Le Sourire. Le Sourire was a “magazine known for its piquant illustrations of undressed girls” (Andre 18). That today would be considered a playboy type of magazine. Kertesz approached this task by photographing nude women but transformed the photos into distorted photos. He did this by using fun house mirrors to provide him the effect he wanted to convey though his photos. The fun house mirrors shifted the body, stretched, squeezed, and of course distorted it. The photograph that best exemplifies his distortion collection is Distortion #70.
As mentioned before these photos were taken for a nude magazine. So, here all you see is a woman’s breast and much of her torso when you first look at it. The model’s face is morphed out making it seem as if there were three women in the photo when there is just one. She seems to just have one item of clothing on, therefore allowing her to show herself to the public eye. Originally, this model could have been casually posing looking to her left with one hand on her left hip, but because of the distortion we cannot really tell what exactly her pose was to begin with. By the way her hand is placed and fingers bent onto her hip, it shows a sign of comfort within her. In this case the distortion is more focused on her breast and torso than any other area. The breast becomes enlarged and placed more onto the center of the photo. Her torso is stretched downward giving it a smooth and elegant effect.

The transformation he made to the photos also changed the photo’s meaning and style as a whole. What could have been considered a regular nude photo of an attractive woman posing to please the viewers became a photo with dignity and class. The distortion created from the fun house mirrors, to some was considered to be comical. But according to Hilton Kramer, Kertesz was able to caress the naked female bodies with their swellings, elongations, and sudden foreshortenings (2). Sometimes a picture looks strangely odd that it becomes funny to the viewer, but Kertesz never meant it to be taken in that form. “Kertesz’s transformations of the female anatomy are at once erotic and esthetic-the love songs of a photographer who has made his medium the instrument of his emotions” (Kramer 2). This quote touches on the subject that Kertesz had no perverted connection to the photos, but had an emotional connection and humor of love to them.
As described previously, Hilton Kramer came to the conclusion that Kertesz distorted photos were taken in that form out of love and his own emotional connections. But Oivind Bjerke, a professor from the University of Ohio has his own conclusion on what these photos can mean. “One of them is to read them as comments on the nude photograph’s traditional functions, which to a considerable extent highlighted the female body as the incarnation of harmonic and beautiful form”. By this Professor Kramer is saying that Kertesz’s collection of distorted photos was to point out and embrace the female body. This makes sense to a certain extent because it was one of the aspects that stand out in a magazine like Le Sourire. Another possibility of why these nude photos were taken, according to Bjerke, was because the female body depicted as a sexual object, which has been the primary motif for photographers throughout history (8). Throughout history, especially in the earlier decades, women have been seen either as just housewives or sexual objects. In photographs history we have seen repeatedly different forms of how sexuality is represented, but the major representation of it is the figure of the woman.
Another way in which these photos can be seen as is a change in reality though a mirror. By this I mean that for that moment that the model stands in front of the fun house mirror, everything that surrounds disperses. As if reality was contained in only the framed fun house mirror. “Every reference to reality is impeded, as in a hallucination. The edges of the mirrors are deliberately kept outside the frame of the photograph, so that the amorphous bodies come to stand by themselves, and only indirectly refer to the living model in front if the mirror” (The Distortions 3). This quote proves to say that reality can undergo in the real world, but in a fun house mirror it cannot. That sometimes what we want to see cannot be possible and what we see is not what we desired to begin with.
The distortion of Kertesz’s photographs has many possible meanings, but the one that truly connects and makes sense to me is the twisted reality that is seen through a fun house mirror. Every distorted photo that Kertesz took is purposely cropped out to focus on what the mirror contained and not what was going on around it. This meaning that reality was gone for those few minutes, or even hours from the model and photographer. I believe that Kertez message is that what we see in the mirror can and could be reality. The morphing of the female body exemplifies how some women view themselves when they see themselves in the mirror. As in the photos, it is possible to single out what is seen as normal and abnormal. As a woman, the majority of our comments to us fall into the abnormal category; picking out what is seen as attractive or not. These photos in fact say the opposite.
Every photo Kertesz took embraces the female body, in which is his own reality. The reality of respecting the female body and taking the time to make each body part stand out on its own. Each body part that Kertesz focused on results as a way to distinguish each of them in a loving manner. Therefore saying that even if women have been seen as sexual objects for a long time, our bodies will always be embraced by men. Even if it’s in a distorted manner like photographer Andre Kertesz presented us in his collection Distortions.

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