From Banská Štiavnica
to the big world
He joined the American film company 20th Century Fox. After completing an internship in Paris, he received his first assignment ― to capture Mussolini's invasion of Ethiopia. From there, Dežo went to Spain, where he recorded the events of the civil war. He became a member of an inseparable trio with the famous writer Ernest Hemingway and Robert Capa, an American photographer of Hungarian origin, who was born in Kráľovský Chlmec in eastern Slovakia.
When Dežo's video camera became unusable, he exchanged it for one that took still shots while traveling throughout Spain. In Spain, Hoffmann was married, but many people never knew about it. His marriage was not something he chose to discuss because his wife was shot just a few weeks after the wedding while crossing the war front.
After this soul-wrenching blow, another followed ― a gunshot wound to the skull, after which Dežo entered an an internment camp on the French side of the Pyrenees. We do not know how he got to England from there, but we do know that he joined our troops first, then the Royal Air Force. He married for the second time in England, a girl of Jewish origin, Lilly. Together, they had a daughter, Dolores, and a son, David.
After the war, Dežo planned to return home to Prague. He already had a plane ticket and, as Marián Pauer writes in his biography: “A lady with a child came to Dežo. The lady insisted that he give her his seat so that he could go later, on another plane. Dežo agreed. Later, he read the newspaper and found out that the plane crashed, and no one survived."
And so, he stayed in London. He started taking photos for the music magazine Record Mirror, where Dežo and his colleague John Douglas started a completely new era of photography. For a fee, those interested could order photographs from them. Over the course of three decades, Dežo took more than a million shots in this area.
He was fifty when he met the Beatles. But he did not end his career; on the contrary, he was caught up by their zeal and their many musical innovations. He took more pictures of the Beatles than any other photographer. He was there when they recorded their first album. He was there when they performed and when anything significant happened to them. And he didn't just take pictures of them...
In addition, he managed to work in his native Slovakia. There, Karel Gott, or Olga Schoberová, who got to Hollywood, got in front of his lens. However, he didn't go here for photography, but rather to help with the international festival of popular songs - Bratislava Lyre.
His collaboration began in the mid-1960s with a meeting with Dr. Ján Siváček, head of the Lýra concert operation. Invitations to the festival were not easily obtained but Dežo knew everyone who was anyone. He not only knew who was on top, but also who was going to get there soon, and his word had weight for people. If he told someone that they shouldn't miss such and such festival, they took him seriously. When a British artist came to Bratislava, Dežo came with him. Years passed, Lyra continued, more photographs were taken but, in March 1986, one journey ended. … the life of Dezider Hoffmann, a man with a destiny who evoked the impression of a film script rather than a real-life story.
… životná dráha Dezidera Hoffmanna, človeka s osudom, ktorý vyvoláva skôr dojem filmového scenára a nie reálneho životného príbehu.
Dežo milestones in the years
He was born on May 24 in this house in Banská Štiavnica. After his father's death, he and his mother moved to Žilina, where he attended a folk school and began studying at a secondary school. While still a student, he enlisted in the military service in Piešťany.
He returned to Žilina, where he trained as a typographer, and later left for Prague. In "the city of a hundred spires", he worked as a presenter (ticketer) in the Voskovec and Werich theatre and began to study journalism at the Academy of Arts.
He became a member of the staff of cameraman Otto Heller in the film production of AB Studio in Barrandov.
He completed an internship in Paris at the 20th Century Fox Society.
He was sent to Ethiopia, where he filmed the invasion of Mussolini's troops as a front-line cameraman.
After the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, he became a member of the interbrigadist journalist movement, collaborating with Ernest Hemingway and Robert Capa. We do not have to introduce the former and, like Dežo, Robert Capa was also a world-renowned photographer.
Dežo married a Spanish woman whose name is unknown and who died at the front shortly after the wedding. He himself was wounded three times during the war.
The third injury was serious, causing him short-term memory loss. He got into an internment camp on the French side of the Pyrenees in St. Cyprien.
He fled to England and joined units of the Czechoslovak Army, followed by his enlistment in the British Armed Forces Royal Air Force.
After the war, he settled down in England. Before the war ended, he had married an Englishwoman, Lilly, with whom he had two children: a daughter Dolores and a son David. He opened a recording and photography studio in Leicester. At the request of Josip Broz Tito, he made the first post-war documentary about Yugoslavia.
He moved to London. From the early 1950s, he occasionally took photos for newspapers and magazines.
He became a reporter for the music weekly, Record Mirror. He also began collaborating with international periodicals such as Cash Box and Billboard, the Daily Mirror and the News Chronicle. He first set up a photo studio on Gerrard Street, then moved it to Wardour Street in London.
He first met the Beatles in Liverpool and became their court photographer.
In the second half of the 1960s, he began working with the Bratislava Lyre. Dežo Homan attracted a number of Western progressive music stars to the Bratislava Lyre at the peak of their fame. The Bratislava festival hosted the Australian group, The Easybeats, the unforgettable Julie Driscoll with the Trinity group Brian Auger, Massiel ― the winner of the Eurovision Song Contest, the legendary Tremeloes, the Shadows, the American group, the Beach Boys, the superstar Cliff Richard and the unique Sandie Shaw. All of this occurred during the period when Czechoslovakia was behind the Iron Curtain. It was as if someone had taken us to a concert in London.
He published picture publications about the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Clio Richard and the Shadows.
He retired in the first half of the 1980s at which point he had produced more than a million shots.
He died on March 26 in London and is buried in the Jewish cemetery in London's Golders Green. His funeral was paid for by Sir Paul McCartney