Brassai & Tony Ray Jones

Thanks to American Suburb X for posting an interview with Brassai by Tony Ray-Jones that I first read around 40 years ago in Creative Camera magazine where it was published in the April 1970 issue.

Although I’d long had an interest in photography, at least since the start of my teens, money in those days was more than tight and in my family every halfpenny had to be accounted for. A twelve exposure black and white film developed and contact printed cost around half a day of my family income and was made to stretch over two years of our annual weeks at a seaside boarding house or with relatives in the country.

Then came the sixties and I was busy with other things – being a revolting student, getting degrees, getting married – and there was still no money and even less time for photography. It was only in my final year as a student, taking a training course for teaching that I could begin to indulge my interests, managing to spend most of that year playing in the university’s TV studio, taking courses in media studies (from the guy who had more or less just invented it), photography and film alongside my required teaching studies.  AlsoI met a couple of real photographers, and, in the library, came across a rather strange magazine, Creative Camera.

The next year I was out in the world and earning money (if not huge amounts) as a teacher rather than scraping along on a student grant, and I bought a cheap USSR made camera and enlarger,  and set up a temporary darkroom in the kitchen of our flat. And took out a subscription to Creative Camera, ordering too all the back issues that were available. Although the Zenith B and suitcase enlarger are long gone, I still have those magazines on the shelves behind me, along with most of the other issues until its sad end around the end of the century.

In the main the interview concentrates on the history of Brassai’s career and his view of the history of photography, interesting because of his part in it.  I’m not sure how much of it was new information, but certainly most of it has been repeated by many others, including myself, in writing about Brassai.

Perhaps my favourite sections are those in which he talks about his attitudes to photography and to art, and in particular one section in which this remark appears:

I think that there are photographers who compose very well but who have no understanding of life or human things. There are others who have much human understanding but no feeling for form. I feel that it is important to have both because one must convey a living thing with strong composition.

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