Saturday, 18 December 2010

Bite 17: André Kertész - A Red Hussar Leaving, June 1919, Budapest

A Red Hussar Leaving, June 1919, Budapest
"A mother with her child is staring intently at a soldier. Perhaps they are speaking. We cannot hear their words. Perhaps they are saying nothing and everything is being said by the way they are looking at each other. Certainly a drama is being enacted between them.
 The woman has just walked out of their home and will shortly go back alone with the child. The drama of the moment is expressed in the difference between the clothes they are wearing. His for travelling, for sleeping out, for fighting; hers for staying at home.
Everything in [this image] is historical: the uniforms, the rifles, the corner by the Budapest railway station, the identity and biographies of all the people who are (or were) recognisable - even the size of the trees on the other side of the fence. And yet it also concerns a resistence to history: an opposition.
This opposition is not the consequence of the photographer having said Stop! It is not that the resultant static image is like a fixed post in a flowing river. We know that in a moment the soldier will turn his back and leave; we presume that he is the father of the child in the woman's arms. The significance of the instant photographed is already claiming minutes, weeks, years.
The opposition exists in the parting look between the man and woman. This look is not directed towards the viewer. We witness it as the older soldier with the mustache and the woman with the shawl (perhaps a sister) do. The exclusivity of this look is further emphasised by the boy in the mother's arms; he is watching his father, and yet he is excluded from their look.
This look, which crosses before our eyes, is holding in place what is, not specifically what is there around them outside the station, but what is their life, what are their lives. The woman and the soldier are looking at each other so that the image of what is now shall remain for them. In this look their being is opposed to their history, even as we assume that this history is one they accept or have chosen."
                                                                                 -  John Berger
John Berger, Another Way of Telling, Vintage, 1982, p.p. 102-103.