Technology has changed photography technically, but it doesn’t change my way of ‘seeing’. Photojournalism is not dead”, says Tamás Révész, who has organized The World Press Photo exhibition in Budapest.
Révész feels at home in both New York and Budapest, spending three months at a time in each. ”I am a bit of an outsider in both, even though I am absolutely at home in both and have lots of friends in both. The only thing is that I am less attracted to the political conflicts wherever I am,” he says.
His exceptional body of work has also been recognized on both sides of the Atlantic, from the Pulitzer Memorial Award in 1997 (”internationally the most important for me”), to the Béla Balázs prize for photojournalism in 1984, and, among several others, the World Press Photo Award in 1991.
In the past 25 years since winning that award, Révész has organized The World Press Photo exhibition in Budapest (from Sept. 25 – Oct. 25, at the Museum of Ethnography, Kossuth Lajos tér, 12) which tours some 100 cities around the world. ”It’s a window to the world,” he says, ”where you can stop and face the events of the previous year for as long as you like, unlike on tv or newspapers, where it is always so fleeting. The captions are very detailed, so you really do get a sense of the world, through these photojournalists, all of them prize winners.”
Over 20,000 visitors attend the exhibition each year, and Révész hopes they all ”get to understand the world a bit better”.
Much of his work is in black and white, “because it’s pure visual expression, losing the distractions of colour … and more timeless. But I do a lot of color work, too,” he adds, “it depends on the subject.” When Japan’s leading newspaper, Asahi Shinbun, invited him to shoot a day in the life of Tokyo, he used color.
“Everything is about curiosity,” he says, meaning he is all about curiosity. Even though he has spent 20 years on and off in America, “I keep looking at the buildings … My wife has to keep telling me, ‘it’s green, you can go’,” he adds smiling.
His wife also recognizes that he can only digest and appreciate what he sees if its through the viewfinder. “It’s true,” he says ruefully, recalling how on holidays on Lake Balaton, his four year old grandson once said to him, ‘why are you always taking pictures, why don’t you play with your wife.’”
Originally wanting to be a journalist, Révész soon realised he needed to tell stories with pictures and became a photojournalist. “It’s telling something in a social context,” but not about political conflicts. In the foreword to his book about Rome, his late friend the celebrated writer György Kardos, wrote that he “walks around the city and sees the conflict between buildings and people.”
Révész made his first major photojournalism essay about the Roma people: ”I knew nothing about them. I couldn’t find a publisher for them for 10 years, even though I had all my other works published all the time.” It was eventually published in 1977.
He has published ten books and held dozens of exhibitions of his work. Currently, Révész lectures in photojournalism at Budapesti Kommunikaciós és Üzleti Fõiskola, the private 3,000 pupil university soon to be known as Budapest Metropolitan University (under new Belgian owners).
Over the years, technology has changed photography, and while Révész is comfortable with technology and the changes, he regrets that “it means you feel there is less need for your professional skills, there is less demand for photos of the highest quality. Technology has changed photography technically, but it doesn’t change my way of ‘seeing’.”
Some prominent American views of his work:
1. ”His vision is purely Hungarian and his photos show the liberating dynamic of diversity” – International Herald Tribune
2. ”An intriguing mix of fresh eyes and a Central European wit…” – International Center for Photography, New York
3. ”His mixture of sensitivity and infinite curiosity for the human condition makes him one of the most important photographers of ‘The Family of Man’ today.” – Peter Turnley, Award winning photographer, New York
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