Ernst Haas
A mother shows a picture of her son to a returning prisoner of war; Le retour des prisonniers

Ernst Haas

About the artist

1921 — 1986

Ernst Haas, the Austrian-American photojournalist and pioneer in colour photography, found a fine balance between the art form as social documentary and an outlet for creative expression. Having studied art and literature in Vienna, Haas was twenty-five before he had first camera, a Rolleiflex. He considered a career in photography to be a natural way to travel the world, but found much of his influence in other art forms. In 1947, Haas photographed returning prisoners of war disembarking a train. The images, titled Homecoming Prisoners, were published in Life magazine.

Robert Capa, the Hungarian-American war photographer and co-founder of Magnum Photos, saw Homecoming and invited Haas to Paris. Capa turned down a job offer from Life, instead becoming Magnum's vice-president in the US. At the same time he began to work with colour photography, and in 1953 published in Life a 24-page, two-part series, Images of a Magic City, shot in New York. He would continue to experiment with technique, sometimes deploying blurring or shallow depth of field to add abstraction to his work, while travelling Africa, Asia and Europe. From the late forties onward, Haas shot exclusively on a Leica 35mm.

In 1962, New York's MoMA exhibited a ten-year retrospective of Haas' colour photography. He taught workshops and experimented with audiovisual slideshows, influenced by his passion for music. In 1986, he won the prestigious Hasselblad Award. Haas would die the same year, while preparing to write his autobiography. He has published globally many times over, exhibited from Los Angeles to Zürich and Sweden to Brazil, and is routinely considered a true photographic giant of the twentieth century.

Technical information

Image 1: A mother shows a picture of her son to a returning prisoner of war; Le retour des prisonniers. 1947
Size: 34 x 25,9 en 50 x 40 cm 
Extra: stamp on reverse