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Ernst Haas

Ernst Haas master of evocative color photography

Young Ernst Haas portrait in Munich

©Ernst Haas

An inspiring man

Photography has, since its beginning, informed and influenced the minds of many people.

We are starting to publish a small bunch of very concise pages about some of the most notable photographers, our intent being that of stimulating reflections on practicing photography.

This very page, the first of a series, is devoted to Ernst Haas, a man who has influenced the way we all shoot and look at photography today.

The post-war years

Ernst Haas (1921 - 1986) was an Austrian photographer born in Vienna, who later in his life moved to America.
We skip here most of his personal history (which can easily be read about in Wikipedia, although on a shamefully short and neglected page) and delve straight into the core issue of all his work.

Haas started photography as a skilled reporter, even if in a very broad and flexible sense of the term. His black-and-white pictures of a post-war Vienna, and particularly an essay on prisoners of war returning home, gained him an offer to join Magnum Photos.


Misty Heights - Ernst Haas

©Ernst Haas

Inspired by other photographers, among which Edward Weston, soon the real excellence of Haas vision emerged, as his work started to drift towards poetry.
It is distinctive that Haas photography was not dominated by the subject itself: instead, the most trivial views and objects were turned into wonderful abstract shots and most of the time in pure emotions.
His photographic works always went beyond the limits of the ‘optical image’ in front of the lens: he could make pictures of something else, evocative images which went straight to the root of the most inner human feeling.

Ernst Haas’ Misty Heights, shot in 1966, is a clear example of such a stunning sensibility for evocative imagery: as you first look at the image you see a Holy Cross. You don’t get just the shape of it, but you also feel a strong sense of something spiritual emanating from that picture. The photograph itself is that of New York skyscaper tops hidden by nighttime mist, viewed from below: nothing extraordinary, yet it has been transformed by the artist eyes into something else.

Holy Underwear, shot years after Misty Heights, is also an example of an almost mystical picture.

Evocative color photography

Holy Underwear - Ernst Haas

©Ernst Haas

Notwithstanding all the great pictures Haas was creating in black-and-white in his early career, as soon as Kodak launched its first color film, rated 12 Asa, Haas started experimenting with it and before long devoted himself to color photography with astonishing results. It is with color that Haas showed best his extraordinary sensibility: he was a great black-and-white photographer, but is responsiveness toward color was definitely unequalled. No other photographer has achieved such results, and Ernst Haas can definitely be defined as the color photographer par excellence.

Having the possibility to express a world in color through color, I was searching for a composition in which color became much more than just a colored black & white picture.” wrote Haas.

It is worth to note how much Haas’ work has been copied. We must stress this point, in order to properly understand Haas photography today. The enormous impact that Haas great pictures had when they were first published is now much lessened in consequence of huge heap of copies that every average photographer has created afterwards. His work has been often imitated but even more often simply and shamelessy copied.

Independent of the material objects he was actually looking at, Haas art went far deeper in human experience, showing a through knowledge and a unique understanding, along with true passion and joy for his work.

Some stunning color pictures of Ernst Haas

Billboard painter - Ernst Haas

©Ernst Haas

Nairobi, Kenya - Ernst Haas

©Ernst Haas

Tobago - Ernst Haas

©Ernst Haas

Bullfight, Spain - Ernst Haas

©Ernst Haas

Lake Huntington - Ernst Haas

©Ernst Haas

Wave - Ernst Haas

©Ernst Haas

Door reflections, New York - Ernst Haas

©Ernst Haas

Car scratch - Ernst Haas

©Ernst Haas

  • Books of and about Ernst Haas can be found at
  • Fine art dye transfer prints are available for purchase at the Ernst Haas Estate

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  1. By sandra, on January 05, 2011, at 07:30 AM
    Good luck on your endeavor and bravo for starting with Haas.


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