#PhotoCollection: André Kertész, Distortion #82
By contributing to deforming this nude in 1933, the mirror is here André Kertész’s first assistant. The Hungarian photographer-reporter obtains a distorting mirror at the flea market, similar to those he saw at the Acclimatization Garden and makes about two hundred Distortions in a few weeks. The curves of his models are confronted with those of the mirror and generate an abyss in which our gaze tries to find its way.
“I BOUGHT TWO DISTORTING MIRRORS AT THE FLEA MARKET – THE KIND OF THING YOU FIND IN AMUSEMENT PARKS. WITH THE EXISTING LIGHT AND AN OLD LENS INVENTED BY HUGO MEYER, I MADE FUNNY IMPRESSIONS. SOME IMAGES LOOKED LIKE SCULPTURES WHILE OTHERS WERE GROTESQUE AND FRIGHTENING.”
André Kertész moved to Paris at the age of 31 and worked as a press photographer. Art history will retain a pillar of surrealism and a great master of photography. Contacted in 1932 by Aimé-Paul Barancy to illustrate Le Sourire magazine with a series of nudes, Kertész was inspired by child’s play to imagine what remains as one of the most surrealist works ever produced in his career. The initial title “distortion” gives way to the one we know today, “distortion”, for this series published for the first time across the Atlantic by the magazine Photography (n°46) in 1936. This name, which is understandable in both France and the United States, will remain.
The Distortion Mirror #82 does not reflect the information in the center and splits the body of the model while reversing it. This unexpected, unidentified, sinuous body reveals a fan-shaped radiator that is supposed to warm women throughout their session.
Like a cubist painting, the twisting of the image cuts the subject, splits it up and glues it back into a flat surface. Usually complicit in the figuration and reproduction of reality, photography is in fact the first to stand up to the unusual. Each surface reflecting another reality becomes a doorway to a strange world that André Kertész is trying to show us.
All of Kertész’s work has been shaped according to nature. In August 1917, he spotted the magic of the world around him with his underwater swimmer. Since then, the distorted perception of the human body has had an important place in the artist’s work. A series made in 1927, of which only one portrait remains and one of Carlo Rim in 1930, indicate that this vision continues to inhabit the photographer. It was really when Le Sourire was published on March 2, 1933, that we were able to measure the originality of his gaze and the universe in which he projected us. Aberrations, exaggerations, shortcuts and enlargements invite us to think when a part of the body is highlighted or erased. Humorous for its sponsor, this approach to the nude is highly aesthetic for surrealists. The artist goes beyond the object of the simple commission and produces a work literally of another dimension, in line with his time and close to nudes without a form of Pablo Picasso or Salvador Dali’s melted clocks.
Aesthetically, the Distortions are unique in Kertész’s work and make us forget the photographer’s melancholic character. Known for his accurate lines and significant framing, André Kertész has created a work that challenges his work but above all will leave its mark on inter-war photography for life. The treatment of the nude as he proposes it to us is an avant-garde within the avant-garde. Under the influence of photography, which pushed them in this direction, painting and sculpture have long since freed themselves from figurative representation. Here, in this abyss, photography frees itself by representing the non-existent.
André Kertész is now a pillar of the art market. Despite significant production and subsequent drawdowns, its value remains high. Here, the print is very rare, by its age and uniqueness comes from its inscription on the back of André Breton’s hand, the cornerstone of Surrealism.
Distortion #82, 1933
early silver print, printed between 1936 and 1942
24 x 18 cm (9 ½ x 7 in)
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