Photographers You Should Study

Ernst Haas: Pioneer of Color Photography

Austrian-American Photographer

Ernst Haas

Quotes | Videos | Books

View images by: Ernst Haas

Ernst Haas – Wikipedia

Ernst Haas [1921-1986] was an Austrian-American photographer renowned for his pioneering work in color photography.

Born in Vienna, Austria, Haas initially studied medicine but turned to photography after World War II.

His early black-and-white photo essays gained international acclaim, leading to his membership in Magnum Photos in 1949.

Haas was among the first photographers to explore the artistic potential of color film, and his vibrant, dynamic images broke new ground in the field.

His groundbreaking book “The Creation” and his work for major publications like Life magazine showcased his innovative use of color and motion.

Haas’s work spans a wide range of subjects, from landscapes and cityscapes to portraits, and his influence on the development of color photography remains profound and enduring.

Read the full Biography below.

Photography Quotes From Ernst Haas

"A picture is the expression of an impression. If the beautiful were not in us, how would we ever recognize it?" - Ernst Haas
"There is only you and your camera. The limitations in your photography are in yourself, for what we see is what we are." - Ernst Haas
"I am not interested in shooting new things - I am interested to see things new." - Ernst Haas
"The best pictures differentiate themselves by nuances...a tiny relationship - either a harmony or a disharmony - that creates a picture." - Ernst Haas
"You should never judge a photographer by the type of film used, but only how he uses it." - Ernst Haas
"My theory of composition? Simple: do not release the shutter until everything in the viewfinder feels just right." = Ernst Haas
"The most important lens you have is your legs." - Ernst Haas
"You don’t take pictures; the good ones happen to you." Ernst Haas
"Photography is a transformation, not a reproduction." - Ernst Haas
📸 Did you know?
Ernst Haas was initially a medical student before he became a photographer, a career change inspired by the aftermath of World War II. His early work focused on documenting the war’s impact on Austria, which gained him recognition and a job with Magnum Photos.

Videos about Ernst Haas

📸 Did you know?
Despite his groundbreaking work in color, Haas was also highly skilled in black-and-white photography. His series “Homecoming” in 1947, which depicted the return of Austrian prisoners of war, was one of his first major successes and led to his membership in Magnum Photos.

Photography Books: Ernst Haas

Ernst Haas: New York in Color, 1952-1962 Hardcover – October 6, 2020
by Phillip Prodger (Foreword), Alex Haas (Foreword
Ernst Haas: The American West Hardcover – November 8, 2022
by Paul Lowe (Author), Ernst Haas (Photographer)
Ernst Haas: Abstract Hardcover – September 10, 2024
by Alex Haas (Editor), David Campany (Contributor)
Ernst Haas (Photofile) Paperback – October 1, 2010
by Ernst Haas (Photographer), Virginie Chardin (Introduction)
The Creation Paperback – November 18, 1976
by Ernst Haas (Author)
Ernst Haas Color Photography Hardcover – January 1, 1989
by Ruth A. Peltason (Editor), Ernst Haas (Photographer), Inge Bondi (Introduction)
Ernst Haas: On Set Hardcover – May 26, 2015
by Ernst Haas (Photographer)
Ernst Haas: Color Correction: 1952 - 1986 Hardcover – November 22, 2016
by William Ewing (Editor, Contributor), Ernst Haas (Photographer), Phillip Prodger (Contributor)
📸 Did you know?
Haas was a pioneer in color photography at a time when black-and-white was the dominant medium. His 1953 photo essay for Life magazine, “New York,” was one of the first major publications to showcase color photography, influencing the acceptance of color in photojournalism.

Biography of Ernst Haas

Early Life and Introduction to Photography

Ernst Haas was born on March 2, 1921, in Vienna, Austria. Raised in a culturally rich environment, Haas was exposed to the arts from a young age.

His father, an avid amateur photographer, and his mother, a talented pianist, influenced his early appreciation for visual and performing arts.

Haas originally pursued medical studies, but his education was interrupted by the outbreak of World War II.

After the war, he shifted his focus to photography, seeking a medium through which he could express his artistic vision and document the world around him.

Early Career and Magnum Photos

In the late 1940s, Haas’s career began to take shape. His initial work in Vienna gained attention when he photographed the return of Austrian prisoners of war for the magazine Heute.

These poignant images captured the emotional reunions of soldiers with their families and showcased Haas’s ability to convey deep human emotion through his lens.

The series garnered significant acclaim and brought him to the attention of the international photographic community.

In 1949, Haas moved to Paris and joined Magnum Photos, the prestigious cooperative agency founded by Robert Capa, Henri Cartier-Bresson, George Rodger, and David Seymour.

His affiliation with Magnum provided Haas with the opportunity to work alongside some of the most influential photographers of the time.

His early assignments included documenting post-war Europe, which allowed him to refine his documentary style and develop a keen eye for storytelling.

Transition to Color Photography

Ernst Haas is perhaps best known for his pioneering work in color photography. At a time when black-and-white photography was the dominant form, Haas’s innovative use of color set him apart.

His approach to color was not merely technical but deeply artistic; he saw color as a powerful tool for conveying mood, atmosphere, and emotion.

In 1953, Haas’s groundbreaking color essay “New York” was published in Life magazine.

This marked one of the first major uses of color photography in a leading publication and was a turning point in Haas’s career.

His ability to capture the vibrancy and dynamism of urban life in color earned him widespread recognition and established him as a leading figure in the field.

Notable Projects and Publications

Throughout his career, Haas undertook numerous significant projects that showcased his mastery of color and composition.

One of his most celebrated works is the book The Creation (1971), a collection of color photographs that explores the natural world with a poetic and almost abstract sensibility.

The images in The Creation highlight Haas’s unique ability to find beauty in the mundane and transform everyday scenes into works of art.

Another major project was his series on bullfighting, which combined his documentary skills with his artistic vision.

Haas’s photographs of bullfights captured the drama, tension, and elegance of the spectacle, using color to enhance the emotional impact of the images.

Haas also made significant contributions to commercial photography, working on advertising campaigns and film stills.

His work for Hollywood included promotional images for iconic films such as West Side Story and The Misfits.

These assignments allowed Haas to apply his artistic approach to a commercial context, blending creativity with commercial appeal.

Exhibitions and Recognition

Ernst Haas’s work has been exhibited in major museums and galleries worldwide, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the George Eastman Museum, and the International Center of Photography.

His exhibitions have been lauded for their innovative use of color and their ability to capture the essence of diverse subjects.

Haas received numerous awards and accolades throughout his career, reflecting his contributions to the field of photography.

In 1986, he was honored with the Hasselblad Foundation International Award in Photography, one of the most prestigious awards in the field.

Teaching and Influence

In addition to his photographic work, Haas was a dedicated teacher and mentor. He conducted workshops and lectures, sharing his knowledge and inspiring a new generation of photographers.

Haas’s emphasis on creativity, experimentation, and personal vision influenced many contemporary photographers who sought to push the boundaries of the medium.

Personal Life and Legacy

Haas’s personal life was marked by a deep connection to his work and a relentless pursuit of artistic excellence.

He lived in New York City for much of his career, drawing inspiration from the city’s energy and diversity.

His work is characterized by a sense of curiosity and wonder, reflecting his belief in the power of photography to reveal the beauty and complexity of the world.

Ernst Haas passed away on September 12, 1986, leaving behind a rich legacy that continues to inspire and influence photographers.

His pioneering use of color and his ability to blend documentary and artistic approaches have cemented his place as one of the most influential photographers of the 20th century.


Ernst Haas’s career is a testament to the transformative power of photography.

Through his innovative use of color, his masterful compositions, and his ability to capture the essence of his subjects, Haas redefined the possibilities of the medium.

His contributions to both fine art and commercial photography have left an indelible mark, inspiring generations of photographers to see the world through a more vibrant and expressive lens.

Haas’s work remains a vital part of the photographic canon, celebrated for its beauty, creativity, and emotional depth.

Joe Edelman

Joe Edelman is an award winning Photographer, Author, and "No Bull" Photo Educator.  Follow this link to learn more about Joe or view his portfolio. Please be sure to connect on the social media platforms below.
Back to top button