André Kertész: The Nebulous Visions of a Solitary Man

Melancholic Tulip, 1939

Satiric Dancer, 1926

Place de la Concorde, Paris, 1928

Distortion No. 41 (With Self-Portrait), 1933

André Kertész: The Nebulous Visions of a Solitary Man

Twenty-five years after his death, André Kertész (1894–1985) is today a world-famous photographer who produced images that will be familiar to everyone. However, he has yet to receive full recognition for his personal contribution to the language of photography in the 20th century. His career spanning more than seventy years was chaotic, and his longevity was matched by an unwavering creative acuity that made an immediate or retrospective understanding of his work difficult.

For the first time, an exhibition at Jeu de Paume in Paris has assembled a sizable collection of prints and original documents covering the different periods of Kertész’s life and artistic career. It brings together a large number of prints and original documents that highlight the exceptional creative acuity of this photographer, from his beginnings in Hungary, his homeland, to Paris, where between 1925 and 1936 he was one of the leading figures in avant-garde photography, to New York, where he lived for nearly fifty years without encountering the success that he expected and so rightly deserved.

It pays tribute to a photographer whom Cartier-Bresson regarded as one of his masters, and reveals, despite an apparent diversity of periods, situations, themes and styles, the coherence of Kertész’s approach. The exhibition reveals how Kertész developed a genuine poetics of photography, what he called “a real photographic language.” The display highlights the autonomy of each photograph, while at the same time indicating the presence of series or recurring themes (for example, the distortions, the buildings of New York, the chimneys, and solitude).

Kertész remained true to his intuitive, allusive personal style, and used his work to give voice to the sadness that undoubtedly permeated his entire life in New York, rendered most explicitly in The Lost Cloud (1937). Right up until the end of his life, he sought images of solitude, and on January 1, 1972, during a trip to Martinique, he caught the fleeting, pensive profile of a man behind a pane of frosted glass: this nebulous vision of a solitary man before the immensity of the sea was the last image in his retrospective collection, Sixty Years of Photography, 1912–1972.

André Kertész at Jeu de Paume, Paris

Slide Show: André Kertész/The Nebulous Visions of a Solitary Man

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Sandor Teszler: The Story of a Passionate Life

Wofford College: Old Main Building

The Sandor Teszler Library

Sandor Teszler: Biographic Notes

Sandor Teszler had been born in the old Austro-Hungarian empire, ostracized from childhood not so much because he was a Jew as because he was afflicted with club feet, requiring many painful operations. From an early age he loved music, especially opera, and later in life he would befriend his fellow exile, the composer Bela Bartok.

Extremely successful in the textile business, Teszler thought that his contributions to society would protect him from the Nazis. He was wrong, almost fatally so, for he and his wife and two sons were taken to a death house on the Danube, where victims were systematically beaten to death. Midway through their beatings, one of his sons pointed to the poison capsule each of them bore in a locket about his neck. “Is it time to take the pill now, Papa?” he asked. Inexplicably, one of their tormentors leaned down to whisper in Teszler’s ear, “Don’t take the capsule. Help is on the way.” Shortly afterwards, the family was rescued by an official from the Swiss embassy and taken to safety.

After coming to this country and making another fortune, he set about improving the lives of everyone he met. In the aftermath of the Brown versus Board of Education desegregation ruling, Teszler noted the escalating rhetoric around him. “I have heard this talk before,” he said. And with a combination of shrewdness and saintliness worthy of Gandhi, he decided be the first in the Southern textile region to integrate the work force in his mills.

Setting up heavy equipment in an unused high school gym, he took a group of workers for a prospective mill in King’s Mountain, N.C., to live there on the premises while learning the new operation. Half of the workers were white and half were black. After an initial tour of this temporary facility, he asked if there were any questions. Following an uneasy silence, one of the white workers raised his hand and said he was puzzled to find there was only one dormitory and one shower room. “That is correct,” Mr. Teszler answered. “You are being paid considerably more than other textile workers in this region, and this is how we do things. Are there any other questions?” “I guess not,” the worker said.

Some weeks later, when the new mill opened, workers of both races were greeted by a group of black and white foremen standing shoulder to shoulder. “Are there any questions?” a black foreman asked. After some shuffling about, one of the white workers raised his hand. “Let me get this straight,” he queried. “Is this plant integrated?” One of the white foremen stepped forward, the same man who’d asked a similar question some weeks earlier. “That is correct,” he said. “You’re being paid a lot more than other textile workers in this region and this is how we do things. Any other questions?” There were none.

Sandor Teszler at Wofford College

For Teszler, such episodes served to confirm his faith that people are fundamentally good. And, in the company of this man with such persuasive cause for thinking otherwise, people did tend to discover their better selves. Through the last decade of his life, well into his 90s, Sandor Teszler graced the campus of Wofford College in South Carolina, attending so many classes that the faculty, acknowledging a wisdom and experience far greater than their own, honored themselves by making him an honorary professor.

To hundreds of Wofford students he was simply “Opi,” Hungarian for grandfather. Today, the Wofford College library bears his name. In addition, Wofford has established the Sandor Teszler Award, which is given annually to a person who has made outstanding humanitarian contributions. Benjamin B. Dunlap, President of Wofford College, told the dramatic life story of Sandor Teszler at the prestigious TED conference last year in Monterey, California. The video of Dr. Dunlap’s talk is presented for you below.

Sandor Teszler at Wofford

Sandor Teszler: The Story of a Passionate Life

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