Martin Munkacsi

Something Different. 'Just you wait till you see what I can do' 1931
© Martin Munkacsi

Martin Munkacsi

Vintage Silver Gelatin Print

25x30cm

He was the first. He did it first, and today the world of what is called fashion is peopled with Munkacsi’s babies, his heirs. It was my first lesson in photography, and there were many lessons after, all learned from Munkacsi, though I never met him. He brought a taste for happiness and honesty and a love of women to what was, before him, a joyless, lying art.” Richard Avedon, August, 1963

“I saw a photograph of three black children running into the sea, and I must say that it is that very photograph which was for me the spark that set fire to the fireworks. It is only that one photograph which influenced me. There is in that image such intensity, spontaneity, such a joy of life, such a prodigy, that I am still dazzled by it even today.” Henri Cartier-Bresson, May, 1977

Style in Motion at the Michael Hoppen Gallery is a tribute to the breadth of Munkacsi’s vision, in fashion and reportage photography. Beginning in the 1930s, the naturally innovative Munkacsi introduced the snapshot aesthetic which was to revolutionise photography forever. His ability to capture spontaneity with such an acute understanding of style, pattern, form and framing demonstrates his uniquely sophisticated visual sense and understanding of image making, which was to become so influential to so many subsequent photographers.

Beauty gained a new level in Munkacsi’s images. This can be clearly seen in his seminal fashion shoot for Harper’s Bazaar in 1933 with Lucile Brokow running down the beach with her cape billowing behind her; the first image of the all-American beauty in action. It was a complete break from the staid and static images that emerged from studio shoots, and his approach was enhanced by his collaboration with the editor-in-chief Carmel Snow, and her other famous discovery, the graphic designer Alexey Brodovitch, who knew how to harness Munkacsi’s ground-breaking images. Munkacsi knew not only the power of the image, but also the power of the commercial image: “A picture is not worth a thousand words, it’s worth a thousand bucks”.

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