Kurt Hutton

"From Strasbourg to London – From Hübschmann to Hutton"

Kurt Hutton Press Release

Leica Gallery Istanbul is proud to host the first show of Kurt Hutton in Turkey between December 20, 2016 – March 11, 2017.

Titled “From Strasbourg to London – From Hübschmann to Hutton“ Kurt Hutton’s exhibition will bring to light unknown images from the pioneering days of photojournalism and his influence on the artists of this period. The exhibition will coincide with the Leica Hall of Fame Award Ceremony for Ara Güler (the winner of Hall of Fame in 2016) who is the pioneer of photojournalism in Turkey. In January 2017, Ernst Schlogelhofer will give a lecture at Leica Akademie Istanbul on his discovery and study of Hutton’s archive at Getty Images, London. Leica Gallery Istanbul would like to thank Matthew Butson (Vice President, Hulton Archive and Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society of Great Britain) for the exhibition catalogue text..

“People in themselves have got to mean something to the photographer before he will be able to produce a speaking likeness of them.”

A precise chronicler and sensitive portraitist, Kurt Hutton (1893–1960) is one of the most important pioneers of English photojournalism. After a short time as an assistant to Germaine Krull, he first opened a portrait studio in Berlin in 1921, but then began to work increasingly as a reportage photographer.

A Leica provided him with the necessary flexibility and mobility for his photography. He

began his career as a photo journalist in 1930 at the Berlin Dephot photo agency set up by Simon Guttmann. After emigrating to England in 1934, he changed his surname from Hübschmann to Hutton in 1937. He worked for Weekly Illustrated and as of October 1930 belonged to the first staff of Picture Post, founded by the legendary photo editor, Stefan Lorant, who had also emigrated from Germany. Until 1950 over 900 of his pictures series had appeared in Picture Post. Hutton moved to Aldeburgh in 1951, where he became the composer Benjamin Britten’s photographic biographer.

Kurt Hutton was born Kurt Hübschmann in Strasbourg on 11 August, 1893. 1911–1913 he studied Law at Queen’s College in Oxford. He served in the war up until 1918, after which he convalesced in St. Moritz, Switzerland. 1921 he married Margereta ‘Gretl’ Ratschitzky. After working as an assistant to Germaine Krull, he set up a portrait studio in Berlin. In 1934 he emigrated to London where he was a successful photo journalist. Hutton died in Aldeburgh, Suffolk, in 1960.

A special thanks goes to the Hulton Archive (Getty Images, London), whose support made this exhibition possible. The book Kurt Hutton: Pioneer of Photojournalism. The Making of a Master-Photojournalist will be published this autumn by Bluecoat Press.

Courtesy Picture Post/Hulton Archive/Getty Images


Kurt Hutton – Catalogue Text

“Kurt Hutton – A Pioneering Spirit” by Matthew Butson

When I originally put this piece together for the Golden Oldie feature and sent it off to the Editor of Black and White Photography for review I was telephoned the next day and told that it was not going to be used. I was somewhat dismayed and was wracking my brains as to the reasons why this should be the case – was the piece itself poorly written, was the subject matter of no interest? The Editor then informed me that to choose a few pictures for the Golden Oldie feature from those I had submitted was an impossible task – there were simply too many great images. It was therefore decided to turn the piece into a six page article - I was delighted, to say the least as the photographer featured here is perhaps one of the true giants of photojournalism and, like many in the Golden Oldie series, tragically overlooked these days. To say thi s photographer is a personal favourite of mine is rather an understatement but, like many things in life, sometimes beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Therefore, to discover that the Editor of this magazine also has a passion for the work of this man was music to my ears!

More often than not, when discussion turns to the pioneering days of modern photojournalism, a number of names instantly spring to mind. Henri Cartier-Bresson, Martin Munkasci and Andre Kertesz are just a handful who tend to be synonymous with the genre. However, arguably one of the ‘founding fathers of reportage’ is usually missing from this list. A man who was at the very forefront of this photographic revolution and who, like those mentioned above, did much to change the world of photography. His name is Kurt Hutton - arguably every bit as influential and ground-breaking as his counterparts but, like others in this series, sadly overlooked today.

Kurt Hubschmann was born in Strasbourg, Alsace, in 1893, then part of Germany, now France. He originally studied law at Oxford between 1911 and 1913 but his efforts were somewhat half-hearted. The outbreak of World War I in 1914 provided the young German with an excuse to abandon his academic studies and he was soon was promoted to the rank of Officer in the German Cavalry. Following the cessation of hostilities in 1918 he decided to remain in Germany and started seriously thinking about his future career. Though attracted to photography as a youth he initially didn’t regard it as a serious occupation – more a hobby. Entirely self-taught, he eventually took the plunge in the early 1920s and in 1923 setup his own portrait studio in Berlin. Though potentially lucrative, portraiture soon bored him - he much preferred the realism of reportage and as a result, in 1929 he embarked on a freelance career. Working on behalf of Simon Guttmann’s Dephot agency he submitted a wide variety photo-essays to several of the newly established German photo-magazines such as the Munich Illustrated Press and the Berliner Illustrated. The switch to photojournalism under the genius tutelage of Picture Editor Stefan Lorant who worked for several of these picture magazines, together with the astute guidance of photographer Felix Mann (Hans Baumann), proved to be major turning point in Hutton’s career. Mann and Lorant introduced him to the newly invented small format camera which, up to that point, had been dismissed as a mere toy by a number of the more established names in professional photographic circles. However, Hutton persevered with this new technology, which would rapidly revolutionize the world of reportage photography.

Hubschmann finally settled in London in 1934, adopting the name Hutton in 1937, primarily due to the increasing anti-German feeling in Britain. Once again working with Lorant, Hutton spent four years as staff photographer at the Weekly Illustrated magazine, working alongside former colleague Felix Man and also James Jarche, before joining legendary Picture Post magazine when it was founded in 1938. One of only a handful of staffers, Hutton – together with Mann and a British photographer by the name of Haywood Magee, were perhaps as responsible as Lorant for the immediate and enormous success of the magazine. Using his trademark Leica, the ability to effortlessly capture the essence of both the British working classes as well as the more affluent at work and at play can be considered to be the genius of Hutton. Hutton was prolific in the early days of Picture Post and it was not uncommon for several of his photo essays to appear in each issue. Due to his German background, Hutton was interred as an enemy alien between 1940 and 1941 but after much string-pulling by the Hulton Press management he was released and eventually became a British citizen in 1949. He remained with the magazine until his effective retirement in 1950 though he continued to contribute the occasional photo-story on a freelance basis until the demise of the magazine in 1957 – the only photographer to contribute material from the first to last issue. Perhaps Hutton’s only real failure throughout his career – and a charge that could also be leveled at his employers who didn’t even credit photographer until 1941 - was his inability to publicise his name or his work. It is perhaps for this reason why the name of Kurt Hutton is not mentioned in the same breath at Cartier-Bresson and the like.

Hutton generally used the same equipment throughout his career, trusting in his Leica and Contax with a relatively limited array of Sonnar and Elmar lenses – he generally liked to travel as light as possible. Hutton preferred to work with natural light wherever possible and therefore rarely resorted to the use of flash. He would rarely go out on a job with a premeditated shot in mind – the sum of the whole photo-essay was what really interested him – and tended to shoot intuitively, occasionally checking aperture and exposure only after he had taken the shot. What is remarkable is the consistently high technical quality of his work, which he saw as a mere detail and relatively unimportant. Compassion for his fellow man and the naturalness of composition was what mattered most to Hutton and he abhorred what he called “artificial pictures”. His job, as he saw it, was to simply produce “an objective picture of life” – capturing both the ordinary and the extraordinary - which was Picture Post’s forte.

During his period with the magazine he shot over 900 photo-essays and is regarded as one of the pioneering 35mm photographers of his day in Britain. A rather shy and retiring man, Hutton was, ironically, the epitome of the English gentleman in his characteristic tweed jacket and monocle – he certainly did not look like a hardened photojournalist in the same vein as his fellow staff photographers. Yet his self-taught style of photojournalism was revered by many of his peers including Bill Brandt, his former tutor Felix Man and Bert Hardy amongst many others. In his twilight years, he moved to Aldeburgh in Suffolk and became the photographic biographer to Benjamin Britten, who, like many others, deeply respected the warm humanity and sympathetic technique that had marked Hutton’s work throughout his career. Hutton died at his Suffolk home in 1960, aged 67.

The photography of Kurt Hutton between 1938 and 1957 is a part of the Picture Post collection, contained within Hulton|Archive, a division of Getty Images.

About Matthew Butson

(FRPS, Vice President, Hulton Archive)

Matthew Butson has overseen the world-renowned photographic collections at the Getty Images Hulton Archive for the past 15 years and has been with the archive for three decades.  As Vice President, Matthew has global responsibility for direction and strategy of Getty Images’ Archival offering, including sales strategy, marketing, positioning and product/content development - both on the stills and video side of the business.  He is also involved in web strategy and the development of the Getty Images Gallery in London. The archive itself is the world largest in private ownership and is based in West London, containing over 80 million images.

In 2009, Matthew was awarded the J Dudley Johnston Award by the Royal Photographic Society, for his outstanding contribution to photography and was awarded a fellowship in 2013.

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