The work of the Hungarian-Dutch photographer Eva Besnyö (1910-2003) is marked by cleanliness. Crystal-clear portraits, crisply fresh blouses, Neue Sachlichkeit interiors, neatly swept beach huts. These are photos that for once do not create the impression that our habitat is a country that is damp, diminutive and densely populated. Even her impressions of bomb-flattened Rotterdam in July 1940 are clean, sun-drenched compositions of rubble and steel.
Besnyö’s work is presented in this photographic anthology from Stichting Voetnoot in suitably neat-and-tidy fashion. The principle on which the designer has gone to work is one of effective simplicity: one image per page. There is scarcely any variation in image size; the centre-line of the page is the unwavering line of balance. Naturally it is all black and white, for colour photography, said Besnyö, is ‘just like the real thing, so it’s terrible’.
Everything is printed with incredible sharpness in a fine halftone on matt coated paper. It was above all this superb quality of reproduction that swayed the panel. This simplicity of form extends to the front cover, agreeably executed without lettering.
Photographic works, by definition, contain comparatively little text. Sadly the typographic part of the book caused a certain amount of muttering amongst the panel. Why, for example, are the lines in the preliminary matter so long that reading becomes almost painful? And why, on the same pages, are the illustrations pushed up so uncomfortably close to the type?