If I were miraculously granted access to a time machine, my first stop would be Budapest in the 1930s. I would never even have indulged in such a flight of fancy had it not been for the new photography exhibition at the Royal Academy. From the very first picture, it’s so obviously a dream ticket that it makes you wonder how it has taken so long for a show like this to appear. While many photographers in the show have had their fair share of attention, not least Robert Capa, its genius lies in the bringing together of these great artistic and journalistic talents, with context.

André Kertész
Satiric Dancer, Paris, 1926
Silver gelatin print, 252 x 203 mm
Hungarian Museum of Photography
© Estate of André Kertész/Higher Pictures

This is the Royal Academy’s first ever show dedicated to photography and it is a confident and fascinating journey through a rich and tumultuous period in Hungary’s history through the eyes of Brassai, Capa, Kertesz, Moholy-Nagy and the slightly less well known – though no less interesting – Munkacsi. The five photographers have more in common than their profession and country of birth; they were all Jewish, all from a tiny quarter of Budapest, and all adopted a different name at some point in their lives.

Martin Munkácsi
Four Boys at Lake Tanganyika, c.1930
Silver gelatin print, 355 x 275 mm
Hungarian Museum of Photography
© Estate of Martin Munkácsi, Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, NYC

It would not be overstating the case to say that these five men invented, defined and shaped photojournalism. The most eloquent description of their collective ambition was expressed by Cornell Capa: “Isolated images are not the most representative of my work. What I do best are probably interrelated pictures which tell a story. My pictures are the ‘words’, which make sentences, which in turn make up the story.”

I have not heard a better description of the practice of photojournalism. Foto8 will bring you a more indepth review of the show over the summer, but for now, go and see it for yourselves, and please post any thoughts about it here. It’s exciting to see one of the most beautiful gallery spaces in London putting photography main stage and, along with major summer shows at Tate Modern and the Whitechapel, seems to reflect a growing acceptance of our favourite medium as the dominant art form of the 21st century.

Eyewitness: Hungarian Photography in the 20th Century is on at the Royal Academy until 2 October 2011.

Károly Escher
Bank Manager at the Baths, Budapest, 1938
Silver gelatin print, 392 x 290 mm
Hungarian Museum of Photography