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MAGYAROK

MAGYAROK | Exhibition
Hungarian Consulate General | 227 East 52nd Street, New York
Opening Ceremony | Thursday, September 22, 6 pm
On view until December

Admission is FREE, reservation required | please make a reservation at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

MAGYAROK - HUNGARIANS

In 1994 it was a different world: simpler and more obvious than today, or at least this is how we like to remember those years. In our commercial TV-, internet- and smartphone-free reality we were exposed to an information flow which was much easier to handle and absorb. Thus, it was also easier to stand out, if you put something authentic on the market, which, too, was more receptive to "quality" back then. Today if two 24-year-olds have a shot at something new, they must use the terms ‘startup’ and ‘innovation’ as a minimum requirement, and in market research sensation is more highly valued than excellence. Twenty years ago János Krasznai Korcz and Gábor Zsigmond were just two brashly young men who seized an opportunity presenting itself: in 1994 Hungary was on the verge of organizing a world fair, and the book called Magyarok ’94 was made as a protocol gift. Eventually, hosting the world fair was declined, but the album was sold out in no time (to reappear, if at all, in antique bookstores).

It shows the authors disposition, favoring irony and drama; and their desire to select from an extremely wide range of people to represent true diversity: various social positions, different ages, sexes, birth and death, interesting “strangers” as well as the famous personalities of a renascent Hungary are portrayed side by side on the pages. 

In 2014 the two photographers decided to create a sequel to their original book and show what Hungary was like - 20 years later.


The new pictures are filled with light, they have become more lyrical and “accepting”, and they have exceeded, both in size and meaning, the much narrower frames offered in the former book. Besides the brain and the intellect, the heart seems to have gained more space here. The characters of the first book appeared in small windows which opened from a big white space, so that each person had a strictly delineated world of his/her own: the photographs, the separate lifeworlds were lined up in a somewhat clacking juxtaposition, and they never endeavored to yield a single organic fabric. Of course, back then Hungary was setting off on a new path, full of illusions, thus the whiteness surrounding the portraits might even seem symbolic. The characters were embraced by a plastic, apparently freely malleable future, a not yet inhabited country, a void into which personal stories could be inscribed.

The fact that in the new volume the photographs have become bigger, more colorful and sentimental, and that their lighting suggests a more affectionate attitude is only partly due to the enormous technological changes that have taken place in photography. The white environment which surrounded the former pictures held many promises, even of changes equaling the scope of a historical lottery jackpot. Instead, we then proceeded to tread along the years of reality, bidding farewell to our illusions; but in turn Hungarians learnt to accept and comfortably inhabit the real world as it had been tailored for us – moreover, they have even learnt and are continuously learning to feel at home in it. The pictures also help this process in that it offers an accepting and loving attitude toward its “heroes”, the Hungarians and our common reality. They look beautiful and intriguing in the pictures, as if they were a bit closer to having arrived and being at home.

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