Big Hope presents László Hudák’s photographs
László Hudák was one of the most motivated participants of the project called Inside Out – Photographs of Budapest’s Homeless, initiated by Scottish artist Dominic Hislop, then conceptualised and organised in collaboration with Hungarian artist Miklós Erhardt, in Budapest.
First in the series of further collaboration based projects the two artists signed as Big Hope, Inside Out began in July 1997. Between then and February 1998, around 40 homeless people living in Budapest were given simple colour disposable cameras and invited to take photographs of their everyday experience, in the knowledge that their pictures would later be viewed publicly as part of an exhibition and web site. The participants were approached on a fairly random basis in the city's metro stations and homeless shelters. When the prints were ready we recorded an interview with each photographer about their pictures.
The work was presented in two concurrent exhibitions, one in the the established art context of the Budapest Galéria, the other in the main hall of the largest homeless shelter in Budapest, as well as in many side events, talks, discussions and media appearances. In the following years, mostly due to the related website at www.bighope.hu, a narrower selection of images were invited to a number of international exhibitions*.
With the only brief being to record 'whatever is interesting or important to you in your everyday life' (in the knowledge that it will be publicly exhibited), the participants made their own choices about how to appoach the project and what to include in their pictures. Further, in presenting those pictures alongside a corresponding piece of text taken from the recorded interview about their work (rather than their lives) when the photographs had been processed, participants were free to determine the context (who are the people, where is the place, why is it important) for each picture and so complete the circle of representation. In this way ambiguous or emotional interpretations on the part of the viewer could be avoided and ultimately a connection that located the homeless experience within the broader condition of poverty being experienced by much of Budapest's inhabitants as a result of the political and economic changes could be made.
The lively and colourful results of the project contrasted with photodocumentary's gritty black and white tradition of 'no comment' aestheticizations of poverty. Such emotive images deprive the 'fallen' subject of any context to their life and identity beyond stereotypical notions of the shameful condition of homelessness and evoke a sense of helpless sympathy in the viewer. The Inside Out project challenges the viewers' liberal instincts to feel this self satisfied sympathy. Instead of being a collection of stereotypical homeless images of old men sad and begging they often capture people using the camera as most 'ordinary' people do, proudly showing off, having fun with their friends and children, and documenting unusual or amusing sights. There were many different approaches. Some people chose to take it upon themselves to document homelessness as a journalist might, going round, sneaking up to people sleeping on benches and taking their photo. Others doing something similar were more aware of the ethics of taking a stranger's photograph and mentioned in their comments that they asked permission, gave some money or a sandwich before taking their picture. Some took the opportunity to take pictures of their children, friends, girlfriends, boyfriends, fooling around. Some used the camera more seriously, taking pictures only of objects that had some poetic, metaphorical meaning for them.
László Hudák is a prominent example of this kind of poetic-documentary
attitude even though in his series of photos we can find illustrations
for all the variety of the above mentioned approaches: reality snapshots
are mixed with intimate quasi-traditional sociographic photographs, in
cases going as far as ‘staging’ the characters to communicate the message
more effectively. The comments he gave to his photos could stand alone
with their heroic narrative on homeless life. This narrative and his genuine
fight with his material to go as close to reality as possible, makes his
work one of the most symbolic individual contributions to the Inside Out
* In 1999, it was part of the ‘Kunst der neunziger Jahre in Ungarn’
(Hungarian Art from the Nineties) exhibition at the Akademie der Künstler
in Berlin and was shown in Aarhus, Denmark at IMAGE photographic gallery.
It was part of the 'After the Wall: Art and Culture in post-Communist Europe'
exhibition which opened at the Moderna Museet in Stockholm in 1999 and
later toured to Budapest and Berlin in 2000. It was included in 'Cooperativ',
in Ulm, Germany at Stadthaus Ulm in July 2000.