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  • Martin Munkácsi. Esős éjszaka a Körúton (Rainy night on the boulevard). Cover of Pesti Napló Képes Műmelléklet. March, 18, 1928. Courtesy Hungarian Museum of Photography. © Estate of Joan Munkacsi, courtesy International Center of Photography

    At the turn of the century, Budapest was the bustling capital of the recently formed Austro-Hungarian Empire. Photography clubs such as the National Association of Hungarian Amateur Photographers (Magyar amatőrfényképezők országos szövetsége, or MAOSZ), modeled on those in Vienna, offered opportunities for publishing, exhibiting, and sharing technical advice. Club members were largely upper middle class, and many belonged to Jewish immigrant families who were also major proponents of industry and commerce in the city. After the fall of the empire at the close of World War I and the loss of nearly three-quarters of Hungary’s lands, the country became increasingly nationalistic and hostile to Jews and non-ethnic Hungarians. The oppressive conditions drove artists including László Moholy-Nagy, André Kertész, and Martin Munkácsi to Vienna, Berlin, and Paris. Although they adapted their names and established international reputations in their adopted cities, many participated in tight-knit émigré communities and continued contributing, from abroad, to Hungarian art journals and illustrated press. Throughout the 1920s and ’30s, photographers who remained in Hungary organized and met in popular studio-schools such as that of József Pécsi. Amateur photography clubs, once dominated by the Pictorialist, traditional Magyar style, were fractured by the growth of modernist and avant-garde photography circles, such as Imre Kinszki’s Association of Modern Hungarian Photographers (Modern magyar fényképezők egyesületét) and Lajos Kassák’s Work Circle (Munka-kör).

    The illustrated press emerged in this period as one of the most innovative and sustained forums for Hungarian photographers. Newspapers such as Az Est and Pesti napló képes műmelléklet solicited and published advertising, war, and sports photographs by freelance photojournalists, launching Munkácsi’s career and printing work by Kertész, who was in Paris, as well as locals such as Kinszki and Pécsi. Émigré contributors were in part responsible for introducing their Hungarian readership to modern ideas and dialogue from abroad, connecting the linguistically and politically isolated country to the international avant-garde.

    —Kelly Cannon

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