10 Favorite Photographs of Viola Fatyol

Bird In Flight asked Viola Fatyol, a Hungarian photographer, to choose 10 photos from her archive that have the most meaning to her, and tell us about each of them.
Viola Fatyol Age 32

Graduated from the University of Art and Design in Budapest, with MA in Photography and PhD in Multimedia Art. Participated in exhibitions in Hungary and Germany. Received several European awards, including a grant from Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris.

From “Orando et Laborando” project

I started to work in the Calvinist College of Debrecen — my old high school on the eastern border of Hungary — in 2010. As a former student, I experienced the closed and severe world of this reputable church grammar school. This is a countryside institution in the middle of cultural marginality, where teenagers from very different socioeconomic backgrounds comprise the student community. The school has almost five hundred years of history, and a reputation rooted in this traditional existence, however the school itself has been struggling with all these traditions to stay actual in the present. And above all, religion and church have a very strong influence over everyday life in the school. Between the boundaries of this special world the students try to live through their adolescence, explore all the joys and torments of teens.

Praying girl
In more than a year I created a long series about the life of the school and its students . One of my first photos was about a girl praying in a classroom. It was a set-up scene, I asked her to say the usual morning prayer, which students need to say together every morning before their first lesson. We were in a cheerful mood, it was a pretty girly afternoon. So she started to say the prayer, and the scene suddenly changed. I witnessed, how her face changed, while she remained the same teenage girl I had laughed with before. It was actually one of my most religious experiences ever.

She started to say the prayer, and the scene suddenly changed. I witnessed, how her face changed.

I wanted to shed light on the importance of being part of the student community, as it was described by the students as a strong and empathetic one. I asked these four guys, with whom at that time we had already made friends, to take a group shot. I had some preliminary ideas what to set — gestures, poses, lights — but my plans didn’t really work out. So the boys were chatting, fidgeting in the space, and asking me what to do. While I was trying to come up with some new directions to continue the scene, they accidentally formed this classic boy band pose, with all the looks and gazes of male teen-stars. I immediately took a photo, it was spontaneous and I really liked the juxtaposition between their teen-star attitude and their traditional school uniforms in the classical architectural scenery.


From “In between” project

In 2013, reaching my 30th birthday, suddenly prompted me to take account of my life so far: which stage of life I am in, what is already behind me and what the future will possibly bring. I made some self-portraits so as to catch this short, hardly recognizable transition between certain phases of life. The passing of my grandmother led me to fall into this pretty vulnerable state of transition that pulled me into another stage of life. Due to the these events the formerly evident status quo of my life traversed and transformed, thus the series was an attempt to process these changes and to keep up with them.

One of the last portraits of Grandmother
We were having breakfast at home, and I remember, I just wanted to test the focus on my camera. I recognized how beautiful the light was on my grandma’s face, so I turned there and shot. The picture was overexposed, I put it into some folder, and forgot about it, until a couple months later I tried to find the last images I had taken of her alive. This was one of them.


Last clothes
These were her last clothes, which we had to bring to the hospital to dress her to the funeral.


Fake mirage
That is not a real mirage, but a piece of plastic wrap.


From “If you have a heart, what you did to me, hurts you too” project

I came in contact with the Folk-song Choir of Vámospécs in 2013 and I soon became a part of the group. While I was following the events of the life of the group I naturally started to emotionally identify with them, so from the beginning my representation of the community was tinted by the forming of friendly and emotional bonds. Thus the direction of the research soon turned to the individuals making up the community: I was interested in why the community was important for the women, what role it had in their lives, how they used their belonging to the group to process their life events.

Spontaneous singing
The choir usually performs in every kind of event organized by the town council. Here we can see them singing spontaneously after an exhibition opening, while waiting for the vernissage to start. At this time I had known them only for a week or so, so I always consider this picture as a starting point of our long-term relationship.


Embroidered wall hanging of Aunt Margit’s house
Of course I soon became emotionally involved. We made close friends with Aunt Margit, who invited me to her house very soon. I noticed this embroidery on her wall, which says: What you did to me, hurts you too. I found this sentence and the sweet and blue-eyed couple sitting on the bench amazing. It is such a cliché, yet it accurately describes the major hope of a broken heart. I loved the creative way how Aunt Margit arranged the different elements, the family photos, gravy and sauce ladles and the wall hangings into a perfect composition.


They are Erzsike and Marika. Marika is a mail carrier, Erzsike’s good friend. Erzsike is retired, but she farms her own small piece of land. Her husband committed suicide a couple of years ago, after that she fell into a deep depression. She said, if it hadn’t been for the choir, she would have surely lost her mind. I took this photo when we visited Erzsike last summer for dinner. We stayed for a long time and talked through our love lives. Erzsike talked about her late husband. She said: “I had no bad dreams about him, not a single time, only that I love him.”


A singing portrait
I just want to share some of the thoughts, text fragments and advice of these great women I collected from our several conversations. These fragments are mostly very poetic and can express complex things in a short and metaphorical way: “The husband needs praising all the time, like telling him that your skin is as nice as the icing on a cake, no matter you’ve spent the whole day out in the sun”; “We lived together for thirty-seven years, and I became indifferent. I didn’t trust men, I don’t trust them now either”; “One just runs out of her soul”; “Love is dark.”


My blue dress
For a happy ending I choose a snapshot, taken by Aunt Manyi. I sing and perform with the choir, when I am in Vámospércs. We took this picture, when I first got my own blue uniform. I was really happy with it, I still am.


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