In October 2010 almost one million cubic metres of poisonous red mud escaped from a ruptured collecting basin owned by the MAL AG aluminium factory near the communities Kolontár and Devecser, killing and injuring people and permanently damaging the area in a very short time. Five years later Hungary’s worst environmental disaster is seen again in Péter Kollányi’s photo exhibition “Memento”.
His photographs have a melancholic-poetic, almost dream-like, character. They manifest colour contrasts that you may see on expressionist paintings but usually not in the real world.
One work presents an apple tree at harvest time with branches bent to the ground under the weight of the fruit. In front of the tree is floating debris – old tyres, a flipped-over bathtub. The colours are dramatic: the blue sky forms a sharp contrast to the blue-grey branches of the tree and the blood-red toxic sludge that covers almost 2,000 hectares.
Other Kollányi photos present the devastation in houses. It is reminiscent of a crime scene because the deep-red splashes on the wall look like blood. Two villages were immediately evacuated and hardly anyone was able to move back.
Many of the buildings – once the centres of families’ worlds – had to be demolished after the catastrophe. Fortunately Kollányi was able to get there first and document the ghost towns left behind. The documentary photographer worked for over a year in this surreal world of chaos and silence with no more life left in it.
In some way Kollányi still managed to find beauty in this post-apocalyptic world. He portrays the remains of a community that was a traditional rural area, with dried paprika chains hung on doors and hay bales in front of houses made uninhabitable in the space of a day.
Kollányi selected the best of his many pictures and gathered them in a photo book titled “Memento” for the fifth anniversary of the disaster. The book has an introduction by Hungarian writer Péter Nádas and was published by the Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Centre, where many of the shots can be seen in the exhibition with the same title.
Robert Capa Contemporary
Nagymező utca 8, District VI
Until October 21
Open daily 11am-7pm
except Fridays until 9pm
Entry is free