Standing on the Shoulders of Giants
In my middle age I have come to realise that things have a way of re-entering your life. You know how it is; for a time you might be enamoured of a person, some music, or maybe a photographer. Then you move on because that is just what happens.
Then later, often much later, you stumble upon that person/thing again and get to see it from a different perspective. Often, of course, it is a mystery as to what the attraction was in the first instance. The music of the Doors is like that for me; the intervening years have not been kind. But it can go the other way too; you can re-experience the thrill of discovery all over again.
So it is for me with the work of Ernst Haas.
I vividly remember discovering it the first time. This was the famous bullfighting series. It was utterly revolutionary at that time; so much so his lab informed him that there was a technical issue and the images were unusable. I love this! The images, are of course, stunning. And they totally redefined what photography could be for me. Until then I thought of photos as documents faithfully recording the scene in front of the photographer. Haas didn’t subscribe to such limitations and showed photography to be as an appropriate medium for abstract impressionism as any else. As he himself put it; it was about "transforming an object from what it is to what you want it to be."
Ernst Haas: Bullfighting
Its not like I forgot any of this, but last week I saw his name and clicked on a link to remind myself of his genius. Yes, I was right to be impressed the first time around; especially when you consider that the bullfighting series was shot in the 1950s – more than 60 years ago. On film.
But here is the interesting thing; when I looked at his work again recently, I realised that a seed had been planted all those years ago. I absorbed this stuff and took it with me. And years later it has re-emerged, most evidently in my ballroom dancing work; Airs & Graces:
Chris Gillman Gable: Airs & Graces
Would I have made this work without seeing Ernst Haas’s?
I think not.