On Haas

For me Ernst was sensitivity itself. He had an irresistible charm and wit, a knowledge of the world, its color, its stratis ficatious since its origin, various cultures he expressed so vividly in his photographs.

He disappeared swiftly like a comet leaving behind a long trail of human understanding and with such finesse.

I can hear him bursting out laughing and making fun of me if he read this.

–Henri Cartier-Bresson, Photographer

In my estimation we have experienced an epoch in photography. Here is a free spirit, untrammeled by tradition and theory, who has gone out and found beauty unparalleled in photography. Some say it is an imitation of painting. Tommyrot! Show me a painter who can bring forth the power of this boy. Let us all stand and pay him tribute.

–Edward Steichen
The Museum of Modern Art, New York

The color in color photography has often seemed an irrelevant decorative screen between the viewer and the fact of the picture. Ernst Haas has resolved this conflict by making the color sensation itelf the subject matter of his world. No photographer has worked more successfully to express the sheer physical joy of seeing.

–John Szarkowski
The Museum of Modern Art, New York

He made us see his color. when some photographers take pictures, it doesn't matter whether they are working in black-and-white or color. But when Ernst shoots color, it makes all the difference in the world.

–Cornell Capa
International Center for Photography, New York

From letter dated October 5, 1961:

Dear Ernst Haas:

I wish I could tell you how much I appreciated your color photographs which you projected at the Asilomar Conference. I have seen thousands of color pictures, most I dislike for various reasons—sheer dullness to sheer decadence! The particular quality of your work was refreshment. I hope you know what I mean. The pseudo-abstract stuff which clutters so much of the contemporary art world contributes little to the spirit. Your work—although your sources were both simple natural situations and simple "junk"—possesses a direct quality of beauty which thoroughly transcends "subject." My congratulations! ( . . . )

I am very happy you exist. Photography is a better art because you exist. Can I say more? No! Please come out here and stay awhile with us. Again, thanks.

–Ansel Adams, Photographer

He's been incredibly copied since the very beginning. The trouble is that most of Ernst's imitators over the years have been photographically vulgar and obvious, and in a way that's reduced his work retroactively, which is a shame. But his own eye and sense of observation are undiminished. He just does it better than all of them.

–Elliot Erwitt, Photographer

A writer should build sentences that are full of color and shadows. This is where painters and photographers can teach us so much. A writer can replicate the sounds of great composers or the feel of songs that move them, moving words around so that sentences bear a certain weight. So should writers look at photographs and seek to emulate the uses of light and color. Craft a sentence in the style of a photographer and see how the shapes change.

Ernst Haas taught me a great deal. His use of color is extraordinary, and he once took the camera of a child—a simple Kodak model—and created a typical, brilliant photograph. It is, he said, in the eye—the creative eye—and the means by which you capture it is quite beside the point. So whatever you write—and for whomever you write it—endow it with the most truth and artistry you can.

Haas is really remarkable. If you look at his work, you start to see elements of Richard Estes and George Tooker, two other artists you should be studying.

— Tennessee Williams
Interviewed by James Grissom, New Orleans, 1982

Ernst Haas by Henri Cartier Bresson