Hungary’s best press photographs of the year have been recognised again at the annual exhibition that is their most important professional platform. HUF 4 million in prizes was distributed in 13 categories and six special awards, and the works can be seen in the Robert Capa Centre for Contemporary Photography.
Taking a walk through the exhibition is like taking a walk through 2014. The rooms of the Robert Capa Centre uncover the most important events of the year in the form of pictures and at a comfortable pace. We see many familiar violent images from Kiev at the beginning of the year through to impressive photos from the demonstration against the internet tax in October. It was a year that offered a diverse choice of unforgettable moments for Hungary’s photographers.
The jury of five included national and international experts who had to choose from 7164 works handed in by 243 photographers. Even though the number of applications was about 30% less than last year, it was still not an easy task. However, with Adrian Evans heading the jury the Hungarian Press Photo Exhibition managed to secure a renowned and experienced representative of the international photo industry.
Evans is not only the director of British photo agency Panos Pictures, which is primarily dedicated to social issues, he has also participated in picking the winners at the prestigious World Press Photo Exhibition. Fellow jury members were Eric Baradat, the winner of last year’s competition and AFP chief photo editor, Krisztián Bócsi, photographer for Bloomberg Finance, Marián Pauer, photo historian and curator, and Zsolt Reviczky, photo reporter for daily newspaper Népszabadság.
Using national topics
This year’s exhibition makes it more obvious than ever that Hungary is in a phase of inner consolidation. Global events occupy far fewer pictures than in 2013. One of the few prize winners to hand in photos from global crisis spots was Sándor Csudai, photographer for Magyar Hírlap. His photo series “War on the streets” documents the chaos and escalation of violence on the Maidan in Kiev, at the beginning of the Ukrainian crisis.
Apart from these pictures the majority of the exhibited works deal with national events. Tamás Szigeti, the curator of the exhibition, summarised the 2014 trend: “It’s not about documenting great catastrophes in far points of the world, much more about capturing those moments that are part of our daily life.” The topics engaging the Hungarian photojournalists the most were poverty and homelessness, plus the question of refugees.
Reflecting major social challenges
The two photo series awarded the top prizes, the MÚOSZ and the André Kertész awards, each reflect social issues.
The annual prize of the Alliance of Hungarian Journalists, MÚOSZ, went to Balázs Béli for his “On the road to Europe” (Úton Európába). Béli, who works for the right-radical weekly magazine Barikád, paints a dark picture of the refugee stream arriving from the south: hungry eyes staring out of closed faces sitting on shabby bodies. In 2014 an estimated 30,000 refugees crossed the Serbian-Hungarian border looking for asylum, most from Syria, Afghanistan and Kosovo.
As an EU member Hungary is obliged to accommodate refugees until their right to asylum is confirmed. However, after a short time many of the refugees move on towards the West. Béli shows the calluses on their feet and the few belongings to which they cling despite their long journey.
The André Kertész Prize went to Attila Balázs from the Hungarian media services MTVA/MTI for his “Christmas of a homeless” (Egy hajléktalan karácsonya). Balázs and his camera accompanied Barnabás József, who had been living on the street for 18 months, on his “Holy Night” in 2014 in Nyíregyháza, where the 62-year-old put on his best clothes for the midnight service at the cathedral, receiving the sacrament along with other members of the community. Balázs, who is from Nyíregyháza himself, was also awarded as the best county photographer of the year.
The exhibition has some less serious moments. A photo by Szilárd Koszticsák shows a nun among her sisters quickly taking a photo with her cell phone before engaging in prayer. Minister in charge of the Prime Minister’s Office János Lázár may not see the funny side of 444.hu photographer Tamás Botos’ picture of him giving a speech at a civil forum in Makó: Lázár’s pulpit is a converted park bench and two pensioners sit indifferently at his feet.
Sport and art photos can also lift the spirits. The reason is that they depict people who are in their element. For example there is the sparkling passion and power of British musician Steven Isserlis playing his cello, captured by freelance photojournalist László Mudra and which seems to pass directly from the photo to its spectator.
Is photo journalism a male profession?
Photojournalism seems to be an overwhelmingly male profession in Hungary. Women are completely marginal. Only two of the 45 awards were received by women and they were not represented on the jury. Hopefully in coming years such a renowned institution as the Hungarian Press Photo Exhibition will be able to encourage young female talent.
Robert Capa Centre
for Contemporary Photography
Nagymező utca 8, District VI
Until May 18