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By Colin Harding on

K is for… Andor Kraszna-Krausz: The influential founder of Focal Press

One of the most important figures in photographic publishing—we even named a research room after him in recognition of his contribution to photography and cinematography.

Hot on the heels of the last instalment of my alphabetical journey through our collection, I’m taking a look at the life and work of Andor Kraszna-Krausz—one of the most important and influential figures in photographic publishing, who produced a vast range of titles that have graced the bookshelves of generations of photographers.

Portrait of Andor Kraszna-Krausz with a Contax camera, c.1939, National Media Museum Collection / SSPL
Portrait of Andor Kraszna-Krausz with a Contax camera, c.1939, Science Museum Group collection

Andor Kraszna-Krausz (KK to his friends) was born in Szombathely, Hungary in 1904. As a young man he studied photography and cinematography in Munich where he met the publisher Wilhelm Knapp.

Andor Kraszna-Krausz's press card from Berlin, Germany, c.1925, National Media Museum Collection / SSPL
Andor Kraszna-Krausz’s press card from Berlin, Germany, c.1925, Science Museum Group collection

In 1926, impressed by the film reviews Kraszna-Krausz had contributed to the avant-garde magazine Close Up, Knapp invited him to edit a new magazine, Die Filmtechnik. Kraszna-Krausz edited the magazine until 1936, during which time it became one of the leading moving picture trade journals.

In 1937 Kraszna-Krausz fled Germany and came to Britain as a refugee.

The following year he founded Focal Press, a specialist publishing house which is still one of the world’s leading publishers of books about photography and the moving image.

Cover of the Focal Press 'New Focal Books' pamphlet, Focal Press, National Media Museum Collection / SSPL
Cover of the Focal Press ‘New Focal Books’ pamphlet, Focal Press, Science Museum Group collection

As a logo, Focal Press adopted a lower case letter ‘f’, derived from the symbol for a lens aperture.

Focal Press publications were an immediate success, gaining a reputation for clear yet authoritative text and illustrations. A good example of this is one of their earliest books, The All-in-One Camera Book, by W.D. Emanuel and F.L. Cash.

Focal Press book cover for "The All In One Camera Book", 16th ed. 1948, Focal Press, National Media Museum Collection / SSPL
Focal Press book cover for “The All In One Camera Book”, 16th ed. 1948, Focal Press, Science Museum Group collection

First published in 1939, this beginner’s introduction to photography sold over one million copies and went into 81 editions, remaining in print until the early 1990s.

During Kraszna-Krausz’s lifetime Focal Press published over 1,200 book titles all over the world, selling an incredible 50 million copies. Until he retired in 1978, Kraszna-Krausz personally oversaw every aspect of book production at the Focal Press.

The Focal Press Robot I and II camera guide, c.1945, Focal Press, National Media Museum Collection / SSPL
The Focal Press Robot I and II camera guide, c.1945, Focal Press, Science Museum Group collection

In 1985 he set up the Kraszna-Krausz Foundation. Each year, through the prestigious And/Or Book Awards, the Foundation awards prizes for the best books on photography and the moving image published during the previous twelve months. In addition, the Foundation offers small grants to assist in the development and completion of new or unfinished research projects.

Following his death in 1989, Kraszna-Krausz’s personal archive and extensive library, comprising several thousand volumes, was bequeathed to us; these are now freely available for study.

Portrait of Andor Kraszna-Krausz smoking a pipe, c.1970, National Media Museum Collection / SSPL
Portrait of Andor Kraszna-Krausz smoking a pipe, c.1970, Science Museum Group collection

A room in Insight, our Collections and Research Centre, has been named after him in recognition of his enormous contribution to photography and the moving image.


Further reading and interesting links

One comment on “K is for… Andor Kraszna-Krausz: The influential founder of Focal Press

  1. This is a really interesting and well presented story and it it helps to counter the charge that the NMeM has been underestimating the intelligence of its public.

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