Noel Bourcier, who has written the biography and commentary for this beautifully designed little volume, says that having gone off to war, Kertesz recognised himself as a ‘peace-loving, romantic young man’. This is exactly the appeal of Kertesz! Not that particular young man, not romance or Romance per se, but self recognition. That is what moves him to photograph, and what moves the viewer; somehow a compassionate, appreciative, conflicted, amused, clever, curious self is endlessly reflected in his work, sometimes divided, faceted, intellectualised and formal, but still laughingly personal, and other times whole, warm, ineffable, reaching beyond what can be described.
Kertesz had a gift like Renoir of making each of his human subjects transcendent, of recognising and engaging our sympathy with the person in front of us and the character or sign they inhabit as the subject. When he photographs ballet dancers, the double illusion doubles empathy, because it expands the scope of the intimately human. We see what Barthes calls ‘the filmic’, the arbitrariness and chosen-ness, deliberateness of illusion, and we are interested in the people behind and behind, the selves. There are so many people in this photograph, and the hubbub of dialogue between them makes glorious music.
Fans of Cartier-Bresson will enjoy Kertesz’s ‘state of grace with chance’ or more accurately his sensitivity to visual coalescence and serendipitous juxtapositions, and his ever-creative use of the foreground. I can’t think of a photographer I love more. Generous eye, kind seer, thank you for your poetry.