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HomeContents > People > Photographers > Andrew Davidhazy

Dates:  1941, 27 December -
Born:  Hungary, Budapest
Active:  US
Website:  www.rit.edu/~andpph
 
  
Scientific photography.

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Andrew Davidhazy

Born in Budapest, Hungary on December 27, 1941. My father, Andras Davidhazy, was born in Nemesocsa, Hungary on April 1, 1911 and was a captian for the Hungarian Merchant Marine. He died in Budapest on April 7, 2003 and is buried in Kenderes, Hungary. My mother was Gabriella Petracsek Davidhazy, born January 14, 1921 and died in Seatlle, Washington, USA in 1985. I have a brother, Janos Davidhazy born in Budapest in 1943 and a sister, Minka (Davidhazy) Judson who was born in Boston, Massachusetts, USA in 1957. I married Lucille Root in Brockport, NY in 1965 and we had two children. Jennifer and Andrew. In 1987 I married Susan Homan in Rochester, NY and we had a son, Cameron.
 
Going back to the beginnings I can't say we were the typical family of WWII but we did live through it. I do not remember or know the details very well.
 
I grew up in a small town on the Atlantic coast of Argentina during the period after WWII. It was there that just upon entering high school I was introduced to photography by a biology teacher who emphasized its application as a recording device for use along with a microscope.
 
Soon enough I simple 127 size reflex camera and made a darkroom in a closet at home, developed orthochromatic film by a red safelight and started to combine negatives to create, to the consternation of friends and relatives, unlikely scenes of flying saucers over the town square by combining a negative of a flashlight beam reflected off a wall with a real scene of the square and contact printing the combination.
 
Later that year, while looking for a summer job an opportunity presented itself to be a delivery boy for a local beach photographer and I took it. With the savings from this job I bought a camera that I though was more suitable to someone with "advanced" knowledge (it was an 828 Coronet Cub that looked like a Leica!) camera and began to frequent a local tourist stop where no photographers went, and offered to take pictures for tourists with their cameras and if they did not have one I'd offer to do it with mine and negotiated to deliver the prints to them in a few days (since I could not do enlargements and high quality finishing yet so relied on the local pharmacist to make my prints).
 
Early on I realized the opportunities that photography opened up as both an entertainment and a commercial medium. These early lessons have stayed with me over the years and even today I approach photography from many angles and I enjoy each and every one of them.
 
In 1957 my family moved to the States and we ended up in Boston. By this time I had "graduated" to an Agfa Silette 35mm camera and I was given an old folding camera by a family friend. I was quite happy with my Silette so decided to make an enlarger out of the camera. I had made improvised enlarger earlier using shoeboxes and similar nesting boxes but they all suffered from light leaks and were very unwieldy to use. I fitted a juice can over the back of the camera, a lamp inside it and the camera was mounted on a support whose position could be adjusted on a square wooden vertical post.
 
Something fortuitous happened at this time and that is that a sister was born and I photographer her in all kinds of situations and activities. I blew these negatives up with my improvised enlarger and entered the Boston Globe Newspaper Photo Contest. My sister was the subject of many winning photographs. At school, the Boston High School, I became the "official" school photographer and in my last year there even managed to get a "universal" pass that allowed me to leave _any_ class if there was an official school function that needed to be photographed. It was great.
 
I photographed sports, of course, but also all kinds of school activities and even got to travel with the band to places such as Washington for the inauguration of President Kennedy. I learned that photography opened up travel opportunities! Anyway, later on, in 1961, when having to make a decision about college, it was a toss up between Princeton and RIT. The former offered a sports scholarship (I played soccer of course). The latter offered a Photographic Science program. I had by that time heard of Dr. Harold Edgerton of MIT and electronic flash fame. I visited his "Strobe Alley" and was impressed by the photographs and the man although I only spoke with him briefly about some concern I had with making pictures of fast moving subjects. I saw the connection between science and photography and it interested me.
 
Ultimately my brief encounter with "Doc" was probably responsible for me choosing photography. I have been with the Rochester Institute of Technology in one capacity or another ever since. And I was very fortunate that over the years I eventually managed to be recognized by "Doc" who once called me on the phone, introduced himself, and upon hearing the name of the person who answered, namely mine, said: "Oh, I have the wrong number!" and hung up!
 
The undergraduate years passed by uneventfully enough although I repeatedly failed to pass General Chemistry which eventually put me further and further behind in terms of finishing my intended degree program. Another fortunate "accident" happened at that time. I happened to answer an ad posted by a chemical engineer at the Institute who was looking for a technician, or better yet, a _photographic_ technician, to help out with photographic and illustration services around the lab. When I went to inquire about it I was hardly dressed for an interview having just finished a soccer match. The head of the lab, Dr. Kenneth C.D. Hickman, insisted on seeing who it was that was inquiring and asked that I come in to the lab from the secretarial area where I was speaking with the secretary. We had a nice chat and I thought I really blew it and put the possibility of a job there out of my mind. Two weeks later there appeared a note in my mail asking if I would be returning to the lab!
 
Dr. Hickman was a wonderful man. He was full of energy, enthusiasm, curiosity and generosity. He made it possible for me to finish first the BFA in Professional Photographic Illustration and next an MFA in Graphic Design. The arrangement we had was that as long as the required work was done I could go to school. Being employed full-time also meant the Institute waived my tuition. What a stroke of luck!
 
At this point my photographic interests began to clearly expand and start to cover two separate but equally interesting "tracks". The scientific/technical one and the creative/art oriented one.
 
Dr. Hickman encouraged me to publish about techniques I developed to deal with processes we were investigating in his lab. These all had to do with high speed events associated with making drinking water out of salt and brackish water. Well, high speed flash and motion picture photography, schlieren photography, and stroboscopic photography were all useful for conducting these studies. I studied, experimented and refined ways to visualize and measure some of the events I was charged with understanding.
 
Dr. Hickman gave me an opportunity and a gentle shove. I started to publish and have not stopped since. The byproduct of this was that the School of Photographic Arts and Sciences at RIT took notice of these publications (at one time in one year they numbered more than the total of all the faculty in the school! ) and ultimately this resulted in me being hired as an instructor there in the late 709s ... after a fun but useless "career" in administration.
 
My specialty in terms of teaching at the School of Photographic Arts and Sciences at RIT was technical, industrial and scientific applications of photography. My major areas of interest and professional activity were related to high speed photography including ballistics phenomena, schlieren photography, infrared and ultraviolet photography, photogrammetry, aerial photography, synchroballistic and photofinish photography, underwater photography, the various sub-specialties related to streak and strip cameras, etc. I have given numerous lectures, demonstrations and exhibitions at professional meetings worldwide. I was a visiting lecturer at photographic institutions in Sao Paulo, Brazil; Gothenberg, Sweden; Paris, France; Buenos Aires and Tucuman, Argentina and Melbourne, Australia and others. My writings have generally been oriented towards a lay audience and published in popular magazines and journals such as Popular Photography, Modern Photography, Camera, Creative Darkroom Techniques, Photomethods, Fotomundo, and many more.
 
In any case, as part of the "art" track, (which I will emphasize here) during the last year of the BFA program at RIT, while doing a senior thesis, I ran across an instructor (Eugene Tulchin of Cooper Union who was visiting RIT that year) who was not much impressed with my interest in sports photography and threatened to expel me from the program unless I demonstrated some "creativity". I happened to catch sight of some photographs by George Silk that appeared in Life magazine. Olympic sports done with a "modified camera where the film moves past a slit, like in a photofinish camera". It did not take long for me to roughly figure out what was going on and in a couple of days I was starting to experiment with a Minolta camera I had modified and was able to almost duplicate Silk's images. Fortunately that instructor of mine was so impressed by my "newly found creativity" he enthusiastically supported my work afterwards although to this day I don't think he realized at the time that the origin of my creativity was George Silk!
 
Later on, I built an improvised camera based on the same concept and applied it in my technical work in the chemistry laboratory. Eventually that work earned a 1st prize in a photo contest organized by Industrial Photography magazine. The first prize was a brand new 1967 Cougar and 10,000 picture per second high speed Wollensak Fastax camera. The car has long since rusted away but I still use the camera in a course on high speed photography that I have taught now for almost 20 years!
 
I've had a long standing interest in a fairly specialized application of photography known generically as "strip" photography. There are several variations on the basic theme. What all of these have in common is that they move the film past a narrow slit located just in front of the film plane. Racetrack photofinish cameras use this method of photography to generate images that indisputable depict the order of finish of race participants, panoramic cameras capable of 360 degree horizontal coverage also accomplish this feat by "scanning the scene" through a narrow slit. Certain types of aerial mapping cameras, military ballistic cameras, and other cameras associated with unique applications, all use the same principle.
 
In the mid 1960's, I made a personal discovery (it turns out that what I "discovered" had already been extensively applied by archeological photography specialists since the late 1890's!) and this was that one could apply "strip" cameras for _peripheral_ photography. This implies that the process is one associated with images that depict the full outside surface of an object. Early applications of the technique included the reproduction of designs drawn on ancient Greek vases and Mayan pottery to records of wear patterns of pistons in the automotive industry.
 
I don't exactly remember how I became involved with peripheral photography but it seems to me it was a natural extension of the early "linear" strip work that concentrated on sports themes. I have been on a personal quest ever since to popularize not only this application but several other derivatives of the initial process.
 
As part of my MFA thesis I produced a small body of work based primarily on peripheral portraits. While all my early work was done with 35 mm materials, later on I developed a camera capable of using Polaroid "pack" type film and used it to conduct workshops and demonstrations at lectures and conferences nationwide. I also used it as a tool to draw attention to our School's booth at major trade shows by making instant, on the spot, peripheral portraits of anyone who requested a slightly distorted but always unique image of themselves. After being spun around on a small turntable and, hopefully, learning what peripheral photography was all about (in less than 5 minutes!) they would get their portrait, usually laugh or smile at the unusual photograph and disappear with it. After having taken thousands of these photographs I was left with nothing to show for it.
 
I decided to do something about this and finally refined a procedure that allowed me to "rescue" the paper negatives that one normally would discard in the trash. These paper negatives are opaque and thus normally are not useable to make further prints or enlargements from them. In a light hearted mood I dubbed it the "Phoenix" process. I have made these Phoenix photographs now for over 10 years and have amassed quite a collection of "alternative" portraits of a large number of individuals.
 
I became involved with a very interesting application of strip photography as a result of a "challenge" issued to me by a company that wanted to make decals to be applied to a tapered, conical, teapot. Normal peripheral strip cameras could not accommodate the difference in diameter of the top of the top and that of the bottom. Blur would be invariably introduced at one or the other edge of the photograph. These cameras could deal with cylindrical subjects but not conical ones. I developed a fairly unique solution to the problem by designing and constructing a strip camera in which the film moves in circular rather than linear fashion. It is suitable for recording of surface detail of conical subjects and also as a panoramic camera where the camera is tilted with respect to the axis of rotation.
 
If you ask me why I make photographs my answer would be that it is a fantastic way to make a living, travel, meet a lot of people, make unusual photographs of willing models and provide food for thought and conversation wherever I make them. I have particularly enjoyed the time spent with my students and colleagues at the Rochester Institute of Technology.
 
© Andrew Davidhazy (November 2006)  
  
 

Internet biographies

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Getty Research, Los Angeles, USA has an ULAN (Union List of Artists Names Online) entry for this photographer. This is useful for checking names and they frequently provide a brief biography. Go to website
 

Internet resources

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Andrew Davidhazy - Professor - Imaging and Photographic Technology, Rochester Institute of Technology 
http://www.rit.edu ... 
Has an amazing range of different studies in high speed and scientific photography. If you like the work of Harold Edgerton you will certainly like these. 
  
 

Printed biographies

The following books are useful starting points to obtain brief biographies but they are not substitutes for the monographs on individual photographers.

 
• Auer, Michele & Michel 1985 Encyclopedie Internationale Des Photographes de 1839 a Nos Jours / Photographers Encylopaedia International 1839 to the present (Hermance, Editions Camera Obscura) 2 volumes [A classic reference work for biographical information on photographers.] 
  
 
  
 
  
 
  
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