What Ernst Haas Taught Me About Photography
Austrian born photographer Ernst Haas (1921-1986) is my recent discovery. I discovered him a few weeks ago and since then couldn’t stop thinking about his work.
Once Adam Ansel wrote to Haas, ” I am very happy that you exist. Can I say more? No.”
I am happy also that I discovered this talented photographer and that I was able to buy the book Color Correction which showed his work.
I would like to share with you what I have learned from this unique photographer:
Ordinary can be turned into something unique and astonishing.
It’s very hard to take photos of ordinary simple subjects and turn them into something very interesting. It’s hard to transform prose into poetry.
Ernst Haas found his personal version of beauty. Bored with reality he began to concentrate on seeing rather than looking. And his subjects began to speak for themselves, they became less obvious and more suggestive.
There is always present a poetic moment.
Ernst Haas believed there is a poetic moment. He wrote,”In every artist there is poetry. In every human being there is the poetic moment. We know, we feel, we believe.”
For a long time I believed that I didn’t have this poetic moment. I also didn’t believe that art can be learned. By nature, I am not artistic. I was following some photographers and thought that they have something that I am missing. But later I began to think that art is simply a skill and it can be learned. It just requires a lot of practice. And with this practice you will rediscover your inner artistic nature and your poetic moment.
Forget about art.
Ernst Haas said, that one cannot photograph art.
I like this idea. It gives you freedom. Total freedom is to be yourself, create what excites and moves you, and maybe some day you can call your creations art; if you wish but never try to be an artist.
My favorite quote is from the photographer Duane Michaels, “My advice to somebody starting out: do not try to be an artist, forget about art, don’t even use the word art in you vocabulary. What you have to find out is if you have anything to say – you have to find that bug up your bum. You have to find that thing that moves you that part of you psyche that needs to be scratched, like an itch. Then one day it might become that thing called art, but do not try to be an artist, and do not want to become rich and famous.”
Perfect is often imperfect.
What fascinates me about the work of Ernst Haas is that his photographs are not perfect in the sense of sharpness. Some of them are intentionally blurry and quiet grainy sometimes. But there are colors, light, shapes, shadows, lines that are so intriguing and captivating.
Haas taught me to seek simplicity which can be powerful and compelling. I don’t strive anymore for perfection, I decided not to care about how imperfect my photos are. That isn’t important for me anymore. I would rather experiment, explore and try to focus on what excites me. And never worry is it good or not so good.
Never arrive in your photography.
“Don’t park. Highways will get you there, but I tell you, don’t ever try to arrive. Arrival the death of inspiration.” Ernst Haas