Born on March 2 in Vienna, Austria, second son of Frederika and Ernst Haas, a high official in the Austrian government. His mother, inspired by the arts, encourages him from early childhood to pursue creative endeavors. She maintains a lifelong correspondence with him, mainly about the artistic and aesthetic aspects of life. His older brother and best friend Fritz is supportive and sympathetic.
Attends high school at the LEH Grinzing in Vienna from 1935 to 1938, when it is closed due to invasion of Austria by Germany. Receives diploma from the Rainier Gymnasium, Vienna, 1939.
Father dies. Begins printing from old family negatives. Studies medicine but is prohibited from continuing due to Jewish ancestry.
Enters the Graphische Lehr und Versuchsanstalt (Graphic Arts Institute) in Vienna to study photography but leaves after one semester. Shoots still photographs for the Reinhardt film seminar in Berlin.
Works on and off in a photographic studio in Vienna. Makes his first abstract photographs. Teaches photography at the American Red Cross. In their library he discovers The Post’s Camera, edited by Bryan Holme, which influences him on poetry in photography. In this book he sees photographs by Edward Weston, whose ability to transform an object from the real to the surreal profoundly affects him.
Acquires his first camera, a Rolleiflex, on the black market with 10 kilograms of margarine received for his 25th birthday. Travels to Switzerland to meet Alfred Kubler, editor of DU magazine, where he is exposed to the photography of Werner Bischof. Bischof later becomes a close friend and associate at Magnum.
Shows photographs of Vienna during the war in a group exhibition at the American Red Cross headquarters in Vienna. They are seen be Warren Trabant, editor of Heute.
Begins working for Heute with correspondent Inge Morath. First feature article on Viennese homecoming prisoners is published in Heute and later picked up by LIFE. On the basis of this story, Wilson Hicks, picture editor of LIFE, offers him a job as staff photographer, which he declines. At the invitation of Robert Capa he joins Magnum, which he believes will offer him independence as a photographer. Also becomes a shareholder in Magnum. During this time he develops close associations with Capa, Bischof, and Henri Cartier-Bresson. Capa encourages him to pursue his own vision. Begins shooting with a Leica, experimenting with the first color films.
Marries the Countess Antoinette Wenckheim. Visits the United States for the first time on assignment from Robert Capa. Appointed vice-president of Magnum’s American operations.
Hitchhikes throughout New Mexico working on "Land of Enchantment" for LIFE, inspired by his childhood fascination with the Southwest and American Indians.
LIFE publishes its first major color essay “Images of a Magic City” (New York). Travels to Asia to cover the Vietnam war. Free-lance stories included in LIFE, LOOK, Vogue, and Holiday.
In his personal letters begins to question photojournalism assignments, the conflict between editors and photographers, and what he hopes to achieve in life.