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.

A little girl in a red cardigan passes a man on a street in New York City, August 1962. (Photo by Ernst Haas/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

A little girl in a red cardigan passes a man on a street in New York City, August 1962. (Photo by Ernst Haas/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

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.

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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.

1952: Reflections in a shop window on Forty-Second street. Colour photography book (Photo by Ernst Haas/Ernst Haas/Getty Images)

1952: Reflections in a shop window on Forty-Second street. Colour photography book (Photo by Ernst Haas/Ernst Haas/Getty Images)

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.”

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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

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6 thoughts on “What Ernst Haas Taught Me About Photography

  1. Buenas reflexiones sobre la fotografía. Personalmente no me martirizo y me limito a seguir mi instinto en la mayor parte de las ocasiones. Cuando algo llama mi atención desde el punto de vista estético, social o desde cualquier otro ángulo me limito a fotografiarlo del modo en que me parece más apropiado,. En el momento en que oprimo el obturador la escena, para mi, ya encierra un mensaje y no me preocupa en absoluto si ese mensaje es visto o no del mismo modo por los demás; al fin y al cabo fotografiamos para nosotros mismos.

    A Ernst Hass siempre le estaré agradecido por el maravilloso modo en que fotografió la belleza de Marilyn Monroe.

    Un abrazo,

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    • Miguel, también fotografío todo lo que me excita e interesante. Me gusta pasear por las calles, caminar en el parque y entrar en las montañas. A veces vuelvo a casa sin fotografías.

      Me inspiré en el trabajo de Erns Haas. Es un aire fresco. Y las ideas también.

      Sí, una fotografía de Marilyn Monroe es maravillosa. Tuve la suerte de que esta foto estuviera incluida en el libro que compré.

      Muchas gracias por su comentario.

      ¡Les deseo un viaje seguro y feliz en Perú!

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  2. How interesting, Kaya! Thank you for sharing! It reminded me the words of Georgian painter Shalva Kikodze – I do not know greater philosophy then arts.
    I love this new stage, new perception of photography, not “perfect” like modern people understand it. Nowadays photography has no shadows, are very bright and everything is so clear. This shows the life just as it is, painful most of the time.
    By the way, I cannot comment in Russian due to some reasons, all my comments in Russian are never published.

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    • Анечка, милая моя, как жаль, что не проходят комменты на русском. Но ничего с этим не поделаешь и придется смириться. А мне всегда хочется тебе писать на моем родном. Зато я каждый раз, когда читаю тебя на английском, поражаюсь тому, как прекрасно ты им владеешь и как свободно.

      Интересно было прочитать мысль грузинского философа Shalva Kikodze. Мне эта мысль очень понравилась. Анечка, для меня Ernst Haas стал свежим воздухом и большим облегчением.

      Спасибо тебе большое, что ты заглянула ко мне и написала этот комментарий.

      Обнимаю тебя.

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