Laszlo Willinger

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LjwJo Willinger, IW2. w»ih prints of some of the »Q/i he photographed over the count of an mcred»b*y packed and cvw

Born in Budapest, 4 Hungarian as one might guess from his name, Laszlo Willinger (1909-95) was a nun of formidable energy and talent; the sort of person whose cumadum titee is so crowded that you wonder how he managed to fit it all in or whether you are reading two separate accounts of two separate photographers that were by some mischance run on the same page.

His mother was a photographer, and his father was the owner of a news agency, so it is small wonder that he became interested in photography in his teens. It is a little more surprising to learn that in 1927, when he was still only 18, his books London and Berlin were published, or that by 1929 he had set up his own studio, first in Paris when he was 20, and later in Berlin.

In the early 1930s, while in his early twentiei, he also worked as a freelance photographer for Berliner Whs-tritrU• Hamburg** llluttnerte, and Munehencr lllustnerte, though in the mid-1930s his photogiaphs in German publications were credited to his mother, Margaret Willinger, bccause he was persona nun grata with the Hitler regime. Me left Berlin when Hitler became Chancellor in 1933, but at his studio in Vienna (1933-37) he photographed numerous celebrities from all walks of life, including Marlene Dietrich and Hedy l.amarr, Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung. By the late 1930s the Daily Express in London had published his pictures from Africa, Italy, India, and Russia - and the Spanish Civil War. He was still not yet 30.

In 1937, five years after his first visit to the United States, he emigrated and started to work for MGM after being 'discovered* by E. R. Richee. a well-known Hollywood photographer whose work appears in this book. From 1946 to 1954 he was running his own studio again, one of the earliest to specialise in color

V>v*n Ufjh. 1940 A pbin doutfe exposure. giv*<g odt ffcure the same 'w*^|ht., wo\M no« have had the »r-vpKt ot this on®, whtre the inUtr secondary fftxe is ur»dcr-e* posed to <r*ate m almost ghost-Sfce form WilU>ger »as one of the ftw Motywood photographert wnh txXh the iirufmaon and the techcvcaJ expertise to owe such an 'mjj*

photography, concentrating on Hollywood subjects; but after 1954 he characteristically broadened his fields oi interest once more> working in an enormous range of advrnising, portraiture, maga/Jne Work, and publicity.

His work shows clear influences of the arustic ferment in which he grew up in turope in the 1920s and of the highly intellcctuahxed and formalized Berlin (and Soviet) school, but there is also a strong reportage strain. He was one of the first Hollywood photographers to use hand-held cameras extensively, which is perhaps why his pictures arc not as well-known as those of some others: they lack the repose that 8 x 10 in. customarily forced on its subjects. Although he was a man of his time, Willinger was also, to a considerable extent, a man who lived, in the first half of the twentieth century« a life that was much better fitted to the second half: international, multi skilled, ever willing to change and learn. Others may have made their name in Hollywood: he made his name in a dozen different places, often at the same time.

fc^fnd Be/(man. c !*4t The we of shades on the background » a Hollywood cfcdie, « some caacs ts much became of technical wcornpctence as because of the photographer s vnion Bat such an MXuiaooo coUd nevrr be leveled atW-'Mgt* the almost cufcnt use of light and shadow htre »s tfe* wcri of a master

V>v*n Ufjh. 1940 A pbin doutfe exposure. giv*<g odt ffcure the same 'w*^|ht., wo\M no« have had the »r-vpKt ot this on®, whtre the inUtr secondary fftxe is ur»dcr-e* posed to <r*ate m almost ghost-Sfce form WilU>ger »as one of the ftw Motywood photographert wnh txXh the iirufmaon and the techcvcaJ expertise to owe such an 'mjj*

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