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Budapest Photo Festival Enters its Third Year With a CEE First

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From February 28 to April 20, the capital becomes the City of Photography, thanks to the Budapest Photo Festival. This year, the opening international show is David Lynch’s “Small Stories”, an exhibition of photos by the highly regarded film and television director of “The Elephant Man”, “Blue Velvet” and the “Twin Peaks” TV series.

David Lynch: Small Stories Interior #5

Obtaining “Small Stories” is somewhat of a coup for Budapest, as the photos have never been shown in Central Europe.

The fact that Budapest Photo Festival is now in its third year is also cause for celebration. There’s always something heartening about any festival of any kind surviving beyond its first year. But when it’s an event so thoroughly in the great Hungarian photographic spirit, it’s especially satisfying.

It’s important to remember that, apart from the great Hungarian Robert Capa, Hungary has also produced André Kertész, Lászlo Moholy-Nagy and Brassaï. (Like me, you may have believed Brassaï to be French, but he was born in Brassó – then in Hungary, now Romania – in 1889. He moved to Paris, the city with which he is most associated, in 1924.)

I’m not so up on contemporary Hungarian photographers, but I’m a great admirer of Transylvanian photographer Péter Korniss. His 2017 “Continuing Memories” exhibition at the Hungarian National Gallery was visited by well over 40,000 people. This is a Gallery record for an exhibition of work by a single living artist and suggests that Hungarians still appreciate great photography.

Szilvia Mucsy began her photographic career at Young Photographers Hungary, is a graduate of Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design’s photography department, and studied at the Athens School of Fine Arts. She’s also the chair of RANDOM – the Association of Contemporary Hungarian Photographers. Her work has been exhibited solo and in group shows in cities that include New York, Athens and Rome.

City-wide

I spoke to Mucsy about what the third Budapest Photo Festival promises.

“It’s a city-wide series of exhibitions drawn from the Hungarian and international art scene, designed to represent contemporary and classical photographic values,” she explained.

“The exhibition is framed by the opening international show and an overview of contemporary Hungarian photography. Supporting these showpiece exhibitions are others in some of the biggest galleries, museums and art schools of Budapest, as well as its international cultural institutes. We also have lectures, workshops, educational events and a photomarathon. A portfolio review and photobook show will take place at the Festivalcenter Budapest Project Gallery.”

Is there a particular theme to the festival, I wondered? “There’s no specific theme for the overall festival,” Mucsy explained. “But the Hungarian national open call exhibition, where we choose a genre to inspire contemporary Hungarian photographers, focuses on landscape.”

What are the highlights of the festival this year and how were they chosen? “The opening exhibition is the premiere of “David Lynch: Small Stories”, a collection of 40 black and white photographs originally exhibited at the prestigious Maison Européenne de la Photographie, Paris in 2014 and specifically created for the gallery. We’re proud that this is a Central European premiere.”

When “Small Stories” was first exhibited, contemporary arts magazine Studio International described the photos as very much in the Surrealistic tradition, “cinematic and dreamlike, otherworld and yet disquietingly familiar”. “Small Stories” is at the Műcsarnok/Kunsthalle.

As an admirer of Lynch’s movies, I’m very much looking forward to seeing his show. As he said in an interview with the BBC, “I think films should have a surface story but underneath there should be things that are abstract [….] things that resonate in areas where words can’t help you.”

Lynch’s photography uses recognizable images such as dolls and toys but, as Studio International puts it, their “great strength [….] comes from the intentionally mystifying nature of the imagery. He allows his stories to be created within the viewer’s imagination.”
Today, when we’re bombarded with images that so often offer themselves up as truth, the opportunity to appreciate photographs that are clearly not what they appear to be is highly appealing.

Hungarian Themes

Hungarian-themed exhibitions include “Perspectives”, contemporary Hungarian landscape at Kiscell Museum, and “Fresh Meat” at Hybridart Gallery, representing the younger generation. The Hungarian dimension to the festival has also been boosted by partnering with the Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center and Petőfi Literary Museum.

On the international front, Mucsy recommends “Giles Roudiere: En Silence and Changing Landscape” (modern Portuguese photography), at the Budapest Project Gallery at Festivalcenter. Alain Laboile’s “La Famille”, described as a “realistic depiction of their atypical lifestyle” by online photography magazine Lens Culture is also well worth checking out. This will be the first time Laboile’s work will be exhibited in Hungary.

You can also view “Inshallah” by Michele Borzoni at Istituto Italiano di Cultura di Budapest, a food design exhibition, revolutionary photography at the Austrian Cultural Forum and “Excessocenus”, a Greenpeace Photo award-winning project.

I was curious to know how Mucsy felt the festival had developed since its launch. “Every year, more and more partners are involved. Cultural institutes or galleries, and so on.” she said.

“This helps us create a greater number of professional events which, in turn, enables us to appeal to a larger audience eager to experience great photography.”

What did the festival organizers hope to achieve this year? “Our goal is to entertain more people and to really show how colorful, artistic, deep and meaningful photography can be.”

And looking to the future? “We would love it if Budapest became known as the City of Photography, reflecting Hungary’s unique photographic history but also the wealth of talent there is in the city and country today. Apart from entertaining the public, Hungarians and visitors to the city, we would like to offer more possibilities for professional photographers and offer a showcase for young, upcoming photographers to make their debut.”

Find out more about the Budapest Photographic Festival at budapestphotofestival.hu

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