Photographer Ata Kandó came from a family of intellectuals. She trained at the Bortnyik School, a private art school in Budapest where she met her first husband, the painter Gyula Kandó. After completing her training, she became an apprentice with the photographers Klara Wachter and Haar Ferenc. She took her final exam under Professor Joszef Pecsi.
During the 1930’s, she spent two short periods in Paris and Barcelona with her husband Gyula Kandó. Until the outbreak of World War Two Ata Kandó worked as a children’s photographer, but hardly anything of this prewar work has survived. During World War Two, they were both active in the Resistance, among other things by creating various false official documents. Their first child Tom was born in 1941 followed by twin daughters in 1943.
In 1947 the family departed for Paris again. However, Gyula decided to return to Hungary, and Ata stayed behind, alone with three children. Through her compatriot Robert Capa she found work in the lab of the recently founded Magnum photo agency where, in 1950, she met 25-year old Ed van der Elsken. Ata Kandó and Ed van der Elsken got married in 1953 in Paris. A year later they moved to Amsterdam together, but there the marriage fell apart. After that, Ata continued to travel to Paris several times a year to photograph fashion shows.
In 1954, after her divorce from Ed, Ata Kandó took her children to Switzerland and Austria. This is where she took the photos which later became the book “Dream in the Forest”.
After the Russian invasion of Hungary in 1956, Ata Kandó wanted to offer help to the stream of Hungarian refugees. Together with Violette Cornelius, she traveled to the Austrian-Hungarian border. This resulted in a moving and magnificent Untitled Book layed out by Jurriaan Schrofer, for the benefit of Hungarian children. A new edition of this book came out in 2006 to con-memorate the 50th year after the revolution.
With her children, Ata completed the photo book “Dream in the Forest,” with text by her then 14 year old son Tom Kandó. The book was published in 1957. “Calypso and Nausicaa”, a book after Homer’s Odyssey, was also made with her children, but had to wait until 2004 for publication.
From 1961, Ata Kandó was a photography instructor at the School of Graphic Arts in Utrecht and the AKI in Enschede. Koen Wessing and Ad van Denderen are some of her noteworthy students.
In 1961 Ata Kandó went on a trip through the Amazon region at the invitation of a Parisian mannequin married to an Indian assistant of Le Corbusier. She became so concerned about the Amazonian Indians that she returned to the area in 1965 for a lengthier stay. On her return she co-founded the workgroup “South American Indians” and published her book “Slave Or Dead”. Through exhibitions and accompanying publications, she hoped to help prevent the extermination of these isolated surviving tribes. The 1970 Budapest publication of “Children of the Moon” is an extensive account of Ata Kandó’s trips through South America.
From 1979 to 1999, Ata lived overseas, receiving her wel-deserved photographic recognition only after her return to the Netherlands in 2001.
In 2004 publication in the Netherlands of “Calypso and Nausicaa”. From as recently as 2008 Ata Kando, now almost a centenarian, gets two more books published:
“The Living Other” about today’s relationship between humans and animals, in collaboration with Diana Blok and Sacha de Boer,
In 2010 “Ata Kandó Photographer” is published, a retrospective of Ata Kandó’s oeuvre including many previously unpublished photographs.