Geza Vandor was born on May 12, 1898 in Budapest, Hungary. He registered at technical school (Magyar Iparmüvészeti Föiskola) in 1914.
By 1920 Vandor had begun working in the film industry, initially as a set decorator with Star Filmgyàr of Budapest. In 1921 he became a member of the artists' trade union of Budapest, within the Film Artists section. He also received a promotion to chief decorator, but he was anxious to move on to bigger things and so left for Paris later that year. He found work first at Garbagny Films (1921-22) and then Gallia Film Co. and Ets. Cinématographic Levinski (1922). He then went to work at Pathé Cinéma, first as a photographer of artwork for animation and then later as an animator artist himself.
In 1926 Vandor began to frequent Montparnasse, and it is here that he built close friendships with fellow Hungarian photographers Ergy Landau, André Kertész and Sigismond Kolos-Vary.
Beginning in 1928 he worked at Gorsky Frères as a still photographer. Not long after, his byline showed up on photographs in a number of magazines, including La Revue Ces Temps-ci and Nord Magazine. Perhaps his most important collaboration was with les Chemins de Fer du Nord (the North Railroads). These highly stylized images were published several times in the 1930s in Nord Magazine. They share the same sensibilities as Russian constructionist photographs of the same period. Sharp angles, motion, heavy shadow, smoke and distorted viewpoints were all earmarks of this approach, which in Paris was virtually unique to Vandor's imagery. But Vandor's work also combined the best of the Parisian influences of the time. The mystery of the images and bizarre slices of life that he photographed took much from the Surrealist movement, which found its center in Paris.
In 1930, probably at the urging of his fellow Hungarians, Vandor became a member of Groupe Annuel des Photographes, where he showed his fine art photography work alongside that of Man Ray, Roger Parry, Florence Henri, Ergy Landau, Boiffard, Brassaï, Cartier-Bresson, Germaine Krull, Eli Lotar, Albin-Guillot, Ilse Bing, André Kertész, Wols and other top photographers working in Paris at the time. Vandor's name is included on many of the Gallerie de la Pleiade exhibition notices of the group during the 1930s.
Apparently Vandor and the German artist Wols also became friends about this time and actually appear to have shot nearly identical images at the same time from slightly different perspectives. It is interesting to compare the work and it is difficult to say who exactly influenced whom.
Also in 1930 Vandor became employed at the influential studio Deberny-Peignot, where he became a photo operator with Maurice Cloche and Maurice Tabard. Later that same year, he became director of the Jarach and P. Chambry Studios, where he continued to work until 1933. But he also apparently had his own studio (Photo Vandor) off and on throughout the 1930s and 1940s at 74 rue de Verdun, Bagneux-Seine.
In 1932, Emile Sougez writing for Monde et Voyage (in an article entitled, "Vision of the Universe, Renewed by Modern Photography") said: "And one should not forget, in the very first rank also Kertesz, Vandor, Eli Lotar, Parry, Albin, Florence Henri..."
In 1936 Vandor worked on an important project with Horizons de France entitled "Le Visage de l'Enfance", which was then published as a book--Vandor's first. At Horizons de France, he also probably began his life-long friendship with Maximilien Vox, famed typographer, art director and critic. Vox was an art director there at that time.
Vandor's second book was published by Les Editions Sudel in 1938 and was entitled "Les Textes Vivants".
During WWII (1939), Vandor was drafted into the army. Immediately after the war, Vandor was hired by the French Communist Party to become their envoy to Hungary. He was supposed to make a report on postwar conditions in Budapest, but very little of this material has survived.
After he returned from Budapest, he worked for Draeger Frères, La Revue de l'Emballage, La Revue du Plastique and Caractère Noël. He also renewed his friendship with Maximilien Vox.
Vandor died in Paris in 1956 at the age of 58.
Geza Vandor's work is quite rare and is held in several important private collections. He is in Auer & Auer's database, but with little detail. Two exhibition notices that list him are included in Lazlo Glozer's Wols Photograph (1988) and Christian Bouqueret: La Novelle Photographie en France 1919-1939 (1986). He had at least two different studio stamps and a blindstamp, and only occasionally actually signed his work. Even his commercial photographs have an edginess to them. Mystery, surrealism and power all contribute effect in Vandor's images, which somehow gives them a contemporary feel--perhaps because of their uniqueness.
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