Martin Munkácsi was a Hungarian photographer who is widely known for his innovative fashion photography. Born as ‘Lipot Mermelstein’ Munkáski changed his name in order to avoid anti-semeticdiscrimination. Martin was a self-taught artist who started working in 1912 in Budapest as a sports reporter and started to publish photos in the early 1920’s. Hungary was not a welcoming place for Jews after World War I. After the Communist Regime was surpressed outbursts of Anti-Semetic riots and violence were extremely common. After the political system was stabilized,”the acts of violence abated, but the declared policy of the government remained antisemitic. In 1920, a numerus clausus bill was passed, restricting the number of Jews in the higher institutions of learning to 5%.” (http://www.porges.net/JewishHistoryOfHungary.html).
His career excelled in Germany, where he worked from 1928-1933, and then moved to the United States and worked primarily in New York. Munkácsi worked in Hungary as a newspaper writer and photographer specializing in sports action photography. His experience campturing athletic action shots came in handy later in his career when he began photographing fashion.
Munkácsi was first widely recognized after photographing a deathly brawl between two men. His photographs ended up being used as evidence during the trial. This rare circumstance of notoriety helped Munkácsi get a job in Berlin in 1928 for “The Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung.” After The Day of Postdam on March 21, 1933 when Adolf Hitler came to power in Germany, “the Nazi’s made the Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung a national publication, fired its Jewish editor Kurt Korff, and replaced all of its photography with propaganda pictures of German troops.” (http://dougkerr.wordpress.com/2009/04/21/martin-munkacsi-written-biography/). Munkácsi moved to New York in 1933 and was immidiately offered a job with Harper’s Bazaar, atop fashion magazine, for $100,000, which was an extremely high paying job for a photographer at the time.
His first photo shoot with Harpers Bazaar was a gloomy November day, extremely unfitting for a resort editorial but Mukásci made it work due to his unique style like no other photographer. “As Lucile stood trembling in the gauzy cape and suit, Snow began to despair: ‘The photographer didn’t speak a word of English; his friend seemed to take forever to interpret.’ The photographer began making ‘wild gestures’ with his arms. ‘What does he want?’ Snow asked, but Lucile understood, and began running towards him.” (http://fashion.telegraph.co.uk/news-features/TMG8597512/Martin-Munkacsi-father-of-fashion-photography.html). Together Munkácsi and Lucile, his model, created a photo that would make his career and photographic history.
At this time period fashion was always staged, mannequin-like and mainly captured in a studio. Munkásci brought the models and the clothing to life by taking them into the real world. “… He was the first in fashion photography to move models out of the studio and to depict them swimming, running, diving, striding, dancing, floating, and leaping,” (Aperture). His pictures represented the rising generation of youthful, open-minded, American girls. “Munkásci coming to America was the most important thing that has happened to American photography in the past 10 years,” (Dr Mehemed Fehmy Agha, Aperture). Munkásci was highly regarded and is still greatly appreciated for his contribution to the fashion industry though playful, lively editorials.
Mukáski’s spur of the moment “snapshot aesthetic” continues to serve as inspiration to photographers all over the world. Countless fashion spreads wouldn’t be as whimsical as they are today if it weren’t for the inspiration of Martin Munkáski.
Other Munkáski photographs:
Aperture: Martin Munkácsi
Jewish History of Hungary http://www.porges.net/JewishHistoryOfHungary.html
Martin Munkácsi: father of fashion photography
Martin Munkacsi – Written Biography