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The Camera: The Elixir of Youth

About the Author: Denes Devenyi’s solo photographic exhibition in the Vancouver Art Gallery in January 1961, “The Artist Observed”, was considered by many as one major starting point for the transformation of technology into art. Devenyi got full recognition on two continents as one of the leaders of this movement. In 2009, he was invited by the Hungarian Academy of Science to present his research on the biology of art. Devenyi has published over two hundred articles on photographic creativity.


It was known in ancient times that the rich lived longer than the poor. It was also known that artists live longer, as Michelangelo lived to be eighty-nine. This notion, that an individual can extend his or her life, is a uniquely human capacity.

Today, we have the first-ever study that compares two centuries and different artists (acoustic, literary, and visual), to non-artists, a study published in January, 2014 entitled “Arts and Ageing; Life Expectancy of Historical Artists in the Low Countries”. This study was conducted by many researchers, those researchers being Fereshta Mirzada, Anouk S. Schimberg, Frouke M. Engelaer, Govert E. Bijwaard, David van Bodegom, Rudi G. J. Westendorp, and Frans W. A. van Poppel. This incredibly powerful study of 12,159 artists who lived in Holland between 1700 and 1900, found that the artists lived 2.4 years longer than non-artists.

We are human only because we can make and share art, which thus enriches our life. In 2013, we were told by paleoanthropologist Rachel Caspari that this power to extend our individual life by art can be proven from fossil records as far back as thirty to forty thousand years ago.

As one of the many internationally recognized artists who helped to make the camera an “Elixir Machine” that is available to everyone, I always believed that making images is the highest destiny of humanity. As an independent scientist, I have done research on the biology of photography. I investigated the nineteenth and twentieth century photographers who used the camera creatively and found that these photographers lived 5 years longer than non-photographers.

Not everybody can become rich. Not everybody can be talented like Michelangelo. But everyone can become a photographer. I have personally met Henri Cartier-Bresson, the Michelangelo of photography, when he was ninety-two years old. He was brilliant photographer, and passed away two years after our meeting. The implications in health care, in quality of life and human happiness, or even in economic terms, are enormous. Art is our preventive medicine. Making and sharing images stimulates the “empathy centers” in our brain to balance our emotions. Photography is not just a hobby, it is the evolutionary force of nature. According to the latest science, creativity is the most important infrastructure of humanity.

I discovered this potential more than thirty years ago, and I welcome recent research where different scientists, coming from all walks of life, arrive at my conclusions.

The time has come to implement these discoveries.


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