The Photographic Alphabet: E is for Ernst Haas
by Liana DeMasi
As John Szarkowski said, “no photographer has worked more successfully to express the sheer physical joy of seeing.” Accurately, Haas’ images emulate everything color photography is about, and produce nothing short of physical joy. Ocean views in California, cobblestone streets in Paris, and maple leaves in Japan are just some of the aesthetically beautiful scenes that Haas artfully captured.
A self taught photographer from Vienna, he was the first to challenge the rule of black and white photography in the art world, and thereby became known as a pioneer and master of color photography in the 1950’s. He moved to the United States in 1951, and by 1953, LIFE gave him a 24-page spread—an unprecedented length—displaying his color photo essay of New York.
Tourists in Hawaiian shirts, professional photographers with their Leicas, your local hipster—New York City is packed with photo-worthy scenes. But as often as the city is photographed, it is arguable that no photographer has captured the city in color as strikingly as Haas. In fact, it is arguable that no photographer captures anything in color as well as Ernst Haas.
His series is reminiscent of old color films, dripping in sentimentality and beauty. What Instagram’s Nashville filter may be able to artificially produce, Haas created all on his own. Each image reflects his eye and undeniable craft.
Professional photographers and laymen alike argue whether or not black and white or color photography is superior. Some say black and white harbors nostalgia and a deeper, more dramatic appearance. Others argue that color highlights more detail and grabs your attention. What is most definitely true, however, is that no matter where you stand in the debate, Ernst Haas’s images will either make you fall in love with color, or more deeply in love.
As a native New Yorker, I always appreciate photography of the city, but seldom do I find a color photograph that affects me the same way a black and white photo does. Haas’ color photography exceeds expectations and sits amongst my favorite images of New York City, color and black and white alike.
Article © Liana DeMasi
Images © Ernst Haas/Getty Images