Eva Besnyö (1910 – 2003)
Born on April 29th, 1910 in Budapest, Hungary, Eva Besnyö’s career in photography began with the Kodak Brownie gifted to her by her father and progressed further under the apprenticeship of photographer Josef Pecsi. Her career enabled her to find independence; she set up her own studio in 1931, and staged her own solo exhibition in the Netherlands after rising in popularity. The continuously shifting style of her photography was likely a reflection of her own life; Eva’s work ranged from photojournalism of street life to portraits, architecture, and participation in the Dutch feminist movement, Dolle Mina. Such a varied range of projects mirrors her experience journeying from Budapest to Berlin, where she photographed the lives of the underprivileged and unemployed. Increasing political tensions also drove her migration; her Jewish roots endangered her safety in the midst of rising Nazi occupation.
Always in motion, Eva was a difficult photographer to pin down. Lacking a signature style, the only constant pattern observed was the shifting of viewpoints she presented; she always varied the distance between object and camera to convey the multi-dimensionality and ever-changing nature of the world she pictured. Becoming references for the artist’s own works, her portraits of her mother-in-law, Dutch painter and lithographer Charley Toorop, are a great example of this; each photograph switches focus from paintbrush to painter, capturing both the creator and their motions. Eva’s most famous work today is her photo of a Romani boy carrying a cello on his back, the instrument too large for his small frame. It contains a diagonal that characterises Eva as a participant of the New Photography movement; the composition reveals her particular eye for graphic aspects and departure from the pictorialism that valued iconic, emotionally appealing images for mass media.
Eva Besnyó’s images can be found at the Maria Austria Institute (MAI)
By Katrina Calsado