In the manner of an Impressionist painter, Ernst Haas photographs the turquoise reflections of the Greek sea and the blurred silhouette of a swimmer. We recognize these forms at first glance, of course, but upon a closer look, what are revealed to us are a thousand small dabs of light and movement. The non-linear outlines of its forms lend the image its pictorial quality: take the legs of the diver, for example: their whiteness disintegrates in the gray and blue of the water. Like a lens that difracts light, the water creates reflections of opacity and transparency, fragile images that it recomposes with each wave.
Ernst Haas was the first of the great colorists, even though William Eggleston stole the limelight from him. As early as the 1950s, Haas was experimenting with Kodachrome film at a time when black and white was de rigueur. Colored photos in those days were reserved for advertising, illustrations, or magazines—not art. Hass, a member of the prestigious Magnum agency, proved the opposite: a virtuoso with color, he contributed to its institutional recognition with reports for Life and an exhibition at the MoMA in New York in 1962.
In this photograph of the diver in Greece, color is the real subject. The marine palette is made up of infinite variability; azure, celadon, emerald, green water, indigo—there are not enough words to describe it but this image, in a single snapshot, can reveal all its nuances. The chromogenic print brings out thee maximum intensity of the colors without distorting them, so that the attentive observer, lulled by the wave of light and shadow, can almost hear the lapping of the water and feel the spray.
By Camille Balenieri
Ernest Haas, The Visionary Color
6 septembre – 9 novembre 2019
Les Douches la Galerie, 5 rue Legouvé 75010 Paris