Ernst Haas is recognised as one of the first great colour photographers. He trained as a painter but took up black-and-white photography during the last years of the Second World War. In 1949 he was invited to join the new European photo-agency Magnum. Haas moved from Austria to New York in 1951, and after visiting Mexico was inspired by the rich forms and colours of the landscape and culture there to work with colour film.
Haas’s pre-eminence in this then still pioneering era of colour photography was established in 1953 when Life magazine published his moody, abstract photo-essay, New York: images of a magic city, comprising over twenty-four colour pages. Reflections – Third Avenue comes from the New York essay and shows Haas’s skill in orchestrating lines and colour harmonies to energise and animate an image. This skill was made necessary by the limitations
of early colour film, which did not allow for capturing much action. The image is quite mysterious, as the mirror image of the coloured, canvas street awning in the shop window seems transformed into a pair of butterfly wings.
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
From: Ron Radford (ed), Collection highlights: National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2008