Eva Besnyo
Women in Judaism ~ Women in Judaism - Photographer

Eva Besnyo

In the beginning, the form was more important than the content. Slowly but surely that tendency switched, up until the arrival of feminism. Suddenly, the subject took over. Form is essential to me. Composition is important, and I would have disavowed myself had I not taken that into consideration, which was the case for a time. I hope to have found a balance between form and content.

Eva Besnyö was a Hungarian-born photographer who was an important figure in the New Objectivity movement in European photography in the early 20th century. Born into a well-off Jewish household and one of three sisters, Besnyö eschewed the obvious route through university for a photographic apprenticeship with József Pécsi – a well-known photographer in Budapest. Here she studied all the photographic techniques she would need to make her art and her career. She left Hungary behind and in 1930 moved to Berlin – then the cultural capital of Europe and home to a burgeoning Avant-Garde movement in the arts. It was however, in the Netherlands, not Berlin, that she made her name, having moved there after accurately assessing the political changes in Germany in the early-thirties. She became famous almost overnight as a result of an exhibition of her work at the lauded Van Lier Art Gallery in 1933.

Her work pushed further artistic boundaries when she brought the functionalist and documentary style of her photography to bear on architecture, helping to inspire a new way to look at buildings and how photography records and interprets them as an art form. As a Jew, she was forced into hiding in occupied Holland post-1940 and emerged as a strong voice in the Dutch woman’s movement Dolle Mina.

A major retrospective of her work entitled The Sensuous Image, took place in Paris in 2012 and there are several books documenting her extraordinary photography. One of the most complete is Eva Besnyö, Photographien 1930–1989. Das Verborgene Museum. Berlin: 1992.

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