Hy Hirsh's (1911-1961) filmmaking grew out of the unique combination of his generous aesthetic bon vivant personality, his still photography which took him far and wide, and his extraordinary technical facility which allowed him to build his own optical printer, recording studio, etc. By the time he composed his first personal film, he had participated in making a dozen experimental films by other people.
Hirsh worked at Columbia Studios as editor, cameraman and still photographer 1930-1936 to support himself while developing a reputation as art photographer. WPA photographer 1936-37, played rôle in experimental film Even as You and I. Official photographer for DeYoung Museum in San Francisco 1937-1954. Numerous one-man shows of photographs 1935-1955. Collaborated with Sidney Peterson on The Cage, Horror Dream, Clinic of Stumble, and Lead Shoes (1947-1949), and Harry Smith on Film No. 4 (1948), as well as technical help for Frank Stauffacher, Jordan Belson, Patricia Marx and Larry Jordan. Gourmet cook, and avid music fan, with recording equipment for documenting jazz performances. Began making abstract animation films in 1951 with Divertissement Rococo, followed by a stereoscopic film Come Closer and Eneri (1952-3). Also produced some 15 documentaries for American television.
Moved to Europe in 1955, worked in Spain, Holland (at the puppet animation studio Dollywood), and France on advertising films and fine art photography for Elle, Réalités, Vanity Fair and other glossy magazines. His films Autumn Spectrum and Gyromorphosis received awards at the 1958 Brussels Exposition. In addition to his formal films, he also prepared multiple-projection shows with live jazz performances.
His Paris apartment neighbored such artists as Walerian Borowczyk, Tajiri Shinkichi, Baird Bryant and Johanna Demetrakis. When he died sudenly of a heart attack, police found hashish in his possession and commandeered his estate. When his belongings were finally released three years later, a number of his films were missing, or only preserved as single used projection copies. The presence of his films at the Creative Film Society in Los Angeles after 1965 proved a seminal influence on emerging filmmakers Pat O'Neill, William Moritz and Chick Strand.
Divertissement Rococo, 1951
Come Closer, 1952
Autumn Spectrum, 1957
Défense d'afficher, 1958
Double Jam, 1958
Chasse des Touches, 1959
Scratch Pad, 1960
Décollages recollés, 1960
La Couleur de la forme, 1961
Etude Anatomique du Photographe, 1961
Performances from the mid-1950s include:
Round About Midnight, Djinn, and Change of Key which probably contained footage used in later films.