Invitation: Nadja Massun's Exhibition At Hungarian House Of Photography

  • 21 Sep 2012 9:00 AM
Invitation: Nadja Massun's Exhibition At Hungarian House Of Photography
I’ve heard that people from afar can say or claim whatever they want about themselves. Putting a little twist on the original saying, people can say whatever they want about a person that comes from afar. In case of Nadja Massun, the proverb may be even truer since she does come from very far she lives in Mexico but was born in Africa to a Hungarian mother and a Belgian father.

The family, in fact, had a quite adventurous life as they had to flee their villa on the edge of the Congo rainforest when Patrice Lumumba was killed and the subsequent domestic fights rendered European lives – and maybe that of others as well - worthless.

By the age of two, Nadja had lived in Colombia and her family, living the typical life of diplomatic families, was continuously on the move from Peru to Costa Rica. In the meantime, she also had time to spend every summer at her grandma by Lake Balaton. In the meantime, she graduated from university. In the meantime, she worked at the UN’s Refugee Agency, moved to Mexico, got married to a local painter and gave birth to children. But why do I dwell on these biographical details for so long?

Nadja Massun's photographs speak about her life - some smaller or larger moments from her own life. For her, any shooting situation is a special circumstance, a fleeting encounter that aims at prolonging that tiny feeling, situation, mood or tone – just like musicians treadle the left pedal on the piano. We are witness to small events of our everyday lives in her photos through the images of her family, friends, and places she lives at. These life-moments do not turn into family photos that are rendered a secondary place in the bottom of a dresser’s drawer; to the contrary, these are autonomous works, abundant in interesting details. And of course, as she learned the craft of photography at the workshop of Manuel Alvarez Bravo in the Centro Fotográfico and had many individual and collective exhibitions; that is, she was not born yesterday.

Nadja’s Mexican, Moroccan, and Cuban images are pervaded with a sense of secrecy and a strange combination of mystical existence and the most private personality in a way that makes us fall in love with the photographs. I could say anything about these photos since this is her first exhibition in Hungary, and, you know, the person who comes from afar…. But I am quickly pulled back to reality. It’s enough to look at Nadja’s Hungarian photos, say the one at the Kerepesi cemetery, the National Cemetery, or Transylvania.

Not only do these images reveal that these subjects may very well be exposed with the red-white-green colored (patriotic) filter but that the photo is not only and not primarily about what it represents but rather about the person that takes it. Photos of the cemetery’s mostly cast stone statutes are not works of pathos but that of a very delicate, sensitive woman with a Latin temperament and who is also prone to a genuine Eastern European sorrow. When she visited Transylvania, she forgot about Mexico, Paris, and Havana, and all superimposed cultural or other influences she was affected by from Bogotá through Oaxaca and, being simply Hungarian, she recorded the dance house of Sic, Cluj, the church seeking young women of Lower Sic, the inhabitants.

Why is this important, you might ask? For to embrace, photograph, and show a region, one has to be from there: take Transylvania as a Hungarian, Mexico as a Mexican, Cuba as a Cuban, and Morocco as an Arab. This is Nadja Massun’s greatest virtue. Wherever she is, she will be at home; she will not act like a tourist but she will be shooting images like a mother playing with her children, a housewife carrying groceries home from the market, or a participant at dance parties. It is only seemingly complicated. Just look at her photos and it will all become clear, understandable, livable and natural.
--- Károly Kincses (curator)

The exhibition is realized through cooperation between the Mexican Embassy to Budapest, Hungary and the Hungarian House of Photography.

I am interested in portraiture and snapshots. I am especially intrigued by faces and their expressions, the gestures and the movements of the body that encompass a particular state of mind or mood while also telling a story. The landscape is nothing but a background that only serves to emphasize what I am trying to capture: a gaze, an anecdote, a moment of solemnity or gravity, or someone’s innermost being that speaks to me.

I believe that it is essential to show empathy towards those whom I wish to snatch a moment of their existence. This may explain why my daughters were been the first subjects and source of my photography and my inspiration when I started. In the end, however, it does not matter whether the subject is close to me or whether it is just a person I met on the street or during a trip.

My daughter´s intense gaze while she is leaning against her father, a gaze that seems to hold all of her pride, all her confidence in the world; or that of a man washing his face with soap in a dirty river - they move me the same way and make me want to point and shoot.

Black and white seems to be the most fitting to all that I intend to express in my photography. The endless tonalities from black to white offer a subtile palette that, as opposed to color, does not distract me from the subject. Black and white brings out the elusive light radiating from a face, a dance step, a scene. For me black and white has this power of capturing and projecting the intangible.

Pierre Soulages used to say about one of his entirely black paintings: “Black is present only to reflect the light.”

Open to the public:
September 21 – November 4 2012
on Weekdays: 14.00 - 19.00
at Weekends 11.00 - 19.00

Source: Hungarian House Of Photography
Address: 1065 Budapest-Terézváros, Nagymezõ utca 20.
Telephone: 473-2666

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