National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of Ernő Weisz, 23-Year-Old Factory Worker, Budapest Kata Kálmán (artist)
Hungarian, 1909 - 1978
Ernő Weisz, 23-Year-Old Factory Worker, Budapest, 1932
gelatin silver print
Overall: 24.2 x 17.6 cm (9 1/2 x 6 15/16 in.) framed: 46.4 x 36.5 x 3.8 cm (18 1/4 x 14 3/8 x 1 1/2 in.)
Patrons' Permanent Fund
Not on View
From the Tour: Modern Portraits in Photography
Object 6 of 13

One of the foremost representatives of Hungarian documentary photography, Kata Kálmán (1909-1978) turned to portraits of laborers and disadvantaged children in 1931, as soon as she began working with a camera. Several Hungarian photographers specialized in similar subjects in the 1930s, creating a community of politically committed photojournalists who wished to emphasize dignity in working-class people and pathos in their surroundings. In 1937 Kálmán published an album of twenty-four portraits titled Tiborc, the name of a character who personifies the Hungarian peasantry in the nationally celebrated novel Bánk Bán (1821). Widely reviewed, Kálmán's book cemented her reputation as an artist capable of putting a face, quite literally, on the suffering and inequity in modern industrial society.

Factory worker Ernő Weisz, whose portrait appeared in Tiborc, provided Kálmán with one of her earliest subjects. His apparent proximity to the camera lens, and by extension to the viewer, carries a deeply humanistic charge. Weisz's steady eyes promise us his sympathy, and the very slight downward tilt of his head, together with the almost parted lips, suggest he has just heard his name spoken and is preparing to be introduced. Kálmán's approach casts an ironic light on what was historically perhaps the most widespread type of portrait photograph, the carte-de-visite (visiting card), which, as its name suggests, also functioned as a form of social introduction. Sitters for a carte-de-visite, however, typically considered themselves to "have a name," whereas Kálmán is precisely inviting viewers to get to know better her otherwise anonymous subject.

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