Fotograf Magazine

The american dream of Alexander Hammid

“If we consider the cinema as a means of mass communication we must realize also the contradiction between the anonymous masses and the personal intimacy that occurs between the screen and every individual in the audience.”

/Alexander Hammid/

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On Monday July 26, the Czech-American Alexander Hammid died peacefully in his flat at Central Park West. Here, among furniture of his own making, he brought up a daughter and a son with his second wife, the photographer Hella Heyman. The fairly sprightly nonagenarian succumbed to a stroke, surrounded by his offspring – his children and granddaughter. The international art scene thus lost a genius of visual culture, a witness to both the Austro-Hungarian monarchy and the birth of the Euro-American avant-garde. Born on December 17, 1907, in Linz, he remains better known in Bohemia, Moravia and Slovakia by his original name, Alexandr Hackenschmied. It was under this name that he signed the photographs, films and articles he published during the first Czechoslovak Republic. In 1947, when he was granted US citizenship, he changed his name. The following essay had not been intended as an obituary. It was occasioned by the retrospective Alexandr Hackenschmied Praha – Paris – New York, organized by curators Pavel Dias, Pavel Vančát and Petra Kosková for the Fotograf v zahradě Society and for the French Institute in Prague. The 65th anniversary of the artist’s emigration, or rather his escape from the murderous expansion of the Third Reich, was also marked by the Czech publication of Hackenschmied’s selected texts Od fotografie k filmu.

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