Tag Archives: Hungary

Sylvia Plachy’s photography memoir: Self Portrait with Cows Going Home

Sylvia Plachy’s photography memoir: Self Portrait with Cows Going Home

@ Sylvia Plachy

Sylvia Plachy – Nightmare

Part of my desire to visit Budapest was to see where a photographer who is particularly dear to my heart was born. Sylvia Plachy lived in Hungary with her family until they were forced to leave because of the revolution in Europe when she was thirteen years old. Her story resonated with me because of her Eastern European childhood, which reminded me of my father’s childhood, growing up in Poland. She crossed the border with her parents from Hungary to Austria with a small suitcase and teddy bear in 1956. And, I loved imagining her arrival to the United States in 1958 – after two years as refugees in Vienna, carrying only her teddy bear and a larger suitcase.

I found a copy of Sylvia Plachy’s: Self-Portrait with Cows Going Home, during one of my late night Internet searches on photographers. Once I started reading it, I couldn’t put the memoir down. I stayed up all night reading it, and was reminded of my own youth – staying up late to read stories about relatable people in faraway lands from my rollaway bed. I was drawn to it with intensity: the depth, humor and sadness. I stayed up nights for weeks, reading her memoir and studying her photographs. Her black and white images stirred my emotions making me both laugh and cry. I’m always drawn to old school photographers who come from a film background like Melvin Sokolsky, Diane Arbus and Douglas Kirkland. Sylvia’s photography deeply resonates with me – taking me on a journey of quiet, space, solitude and companionship.

Sylvia Plachy - Self Portrait with Cows Coming Home

Sylvia Plachy – Self Portrait with Cows Coming Home

The first photo in Self Portrait with Cows is one that her father made of her when she was 13 years old in Vienna. She’s in the snow and there is a building and a tree in the background. It’s a simple photo that begs so many questions. To me, a photo that asks questions, but doesn’t always give the answers is beautiful. This photo does exactly that.

Sylvia Plachy in Vienna

Sylvia Plachy in Vienna

In her memoir, Sylvia reflects on pre and post Communism and I adore how she captures the somber mood of that period with not only her writing but also with her photography of landscapes and people. Eight years after leaving Hungary, she returned with her camera to continue her passion for her homeland and its’ people.

The first two page spread in her book is called Translvanian woods, 2001. I felt the silence of solitude. I wondered about the fog that seemed to create a translucent space all around.

Part of the reason I feel connected to Sylvia Plachy is because, in some ways, she reminds me of my father. He had to start all over again as an immigrant in America, after losing his entire family in Poland to the Holocaust. He survived 8 Nazi forced labor camps and he was the only survivor of his 8 siblings, parents and grandparents. I am drawn to her art because she followed her heart and dream of being a photographer and showcases such humanity in her photography.

I made my way in the pouring rain to Mai Mano House at Nagymezo utca 20 on the Pest side. I was tired and I still haven’t found a cure for jet lag but I didn’t want to wait another moment to see her art. The building has wooden hand rails and stained glass. What a perfect treat for me to see a Sylvia Plachy exhibition for my first time. It is an exceptional building. I was impressed with how the show was organized with the pamphlet so one can walk around, self-guided and particularly, I could gather all the details I craved: the names and the years she made the pictures. It was well thought out and I love the title: When Will It Be Tomorrow? This was a question she used to ask when she was a child.

© hannah kozak

Mai Manó Ház
Budapest, Hungary

Here are some of my favorite photos from her show:

@ Sylvia Plachy

Groundhog, 1986
Silver gelatin print
37.5 x 37.5

@ Sylvia Plachy

Sylvia Plachy,
Lake Washington, Mississippi, 2009
Archival pigment print
26.5 x 72 cm

© hannah kozak

Sylvia Plachy
My Mother at My Father’s Grave, 1980
I find this one quieting, eerie, reflective, realistic and haunting.

@ Sylvia Plachy

Sylvia Plachy –
Flea Market Vendor’s Daughter, 1984
Silver gelatin print,
39 x 39 cm

@ Sylvia Plachy

Sylvia Plachy –
La Puta Vida, a play, Zselatinos ezust,
Silver gelatin print,
37.5 x 27.5 cm

@ Sylvia Plachy

Sylvia Plachy,
Dog on a Thin String, Moscow, 2000
Archival pigment print,
58 x 21.5 cm

I was drawn to the showcases with the photos of her son, actor Adrian Brody. My G-d, what a beautiful child he was and is. My favorite photo is a black and white image from when he is a child wearing a scarf in the snow. She captures so much emotion in the photo and he looks endearingly precious.

I also loved the black and white photograph of her son with a cigarette, and cat and the one with a puppy in his pocket! Oh my goodness it was darling and fun and made me wonder if it was a family pet.

It was a treat to watch the video showing her with her Leica M-6, her Rolleiflex 2.8F, and Hasselblad. I do feel that all great pictures have ghosts in them as she says. We also agree that the type of camera you are drawn to matters because each camera does something different. Self Portrait with Cows has even more meaning to me now that I have been in Budapest.

Plachy has succeeded in finding the meaning, the essence of life, that she sees with her photography. I am grateful to have discovered her. She is a true artist.

Goethe wrote that the hardest thing is to see what is in front of our eyes. Why I love Sylvia Plachy’s art so much is she does this so beautifully. She sees what is in front of her eyes. She was born with an innate talent and was savvy enough to put it to good use. I adore Sylvia Plachy and her art.

© hannah kozak

Hannah Kozak – Self Portrait @ Mai Manó Ház –

One of my favorite Sylvia Plachy epigrams:

“Flower-language,(virág-nyelv in Hungarian), is what speaking euphemistically was called. In totalitarian countries our lack of power made poets or liars of us all.”

Sylvia Plachy’s photographs used by permission.

Sylvia Plachy’s photography memoir: Self Portrait with Cows Going Home


Magical Budapest

Magical Budapest

Budapest has been on my sights for a long time. Despite modern development, Budapest retains magic and old charm around every corner. Buda and Pest were separate towns on opposite banks of the Danube River until 1873, when they were merged. They developed independently and the result is two unique regions; both exquisite.

@ hannah kozak

Danube River – Budapest, Hungary

I stayed on the Buda side of the Danube River, on a recommendation by a friend from Budapest. The area was calm, peaceful and filled with the beauty of green and trees all around me. I traveled daily to catch either the tram, trolley and metro depending on where I wanted to explore. A ten minute stroll and I was in the Castle District and there, I spent the day walking the streets, feeling as if I have traveled back in time to a quiet, peaceful world where I see Baroque residential homes next to ancient Roman stones.

@ hannah kozak

Trams on Buda side

@ hannah kozak

Cat on Buda side

@ hannah kozak

Man on street with cigarette

Here is Mathais Church, which is over 700 years old. The colorful character of the church is the manifestation of the cultural interchange on the borderline between East and West. It’s a unique interior created at the end of the 19th century by Bertalan Székely – the leading painter of the age and Frigyes Schuliek – architect.

© Hannah Kozak

Mathias Church in Budapest, Hungary

The Jewish Quarter, where I went back twice to spend time at the Great Synagogue, the largest Jewish house of worship in Europe. It was built in 1859 and has both Moorish and romantic elements.

© hannah kozak

The Great Synagogue Budapest, Hungary

© hannah kozak

The Great Synagogue
Budapest, Hungary


© hannah kozak

The Great Synagogue
Budapest, Hungary

© hannah kozak

Star of David @ The Great Synagogue

© hannah kozak

Star of David – The Great Synagogue

I spent time at the Holocaust Memorial’s metal “tree of life”, designed by Imre Varga in 1991. If you look closely, you can see family names of some of the hundreds of thousands of victims.

© hannah kozak

The Tree of Life
Budapest, Hungary

Made my way into a building inside the Great Synagogue and asked to see this antique book:

© hannah kozak

Register of Jewish Survivors in Budapest

Wandering the streets on the Pest side.

© hannah kozak

Budapest

© hannah kozak

@hannah kozak- Budapest, Hungary

 © hannah kozak

Budapest street

© hannah kozak

Budapest Street Art 2

In Belváros, the inner city of the historical old town of Pest is Rumbach Street Synagogue, located in the eastern section of Budapest.

The synagogue in Rumbach Street was built in 1872 to the design of the Viennese architect Otto Wagner. It served the Status Quo Ante community. It was built not as an exact replica of, but as an homage to the style of the octagonal, domed Dome of the Rock Muslim shrine in Jerusalem.

© hannah kozak

Rumbach Street Synagogue -Budapest, Hungary

© hannah kozak

Rumbach Street Synagogue 2 – Budapest, Hungary

@ hannah kozak

Hannah Kozak-Self Portrait Rumbach Synagogue

© hannah kozak

Rumbach Street Synagogue – Budapest, Hungary

© hannah kozak

Two men at Rumbach Street Synagogue – Budapest, Hungary

© hannah kozak

Door on Pest Side
Budapest, Hungary

© hannah kozak

© hannah kozak
Budapest, Hungary

© hannah kozak

Man on street – Budapest, Hungary

© hannah kozak

Boy on Street – Budapest, Hungary

© hannah kozak

Man in Coffee Shop – Budapest, Hungary

© hannah kozak

Metro Station – Budapest, Hungary

© hannah kozak

Wandering through Budapest

© hannah kozak

Girls in Deli at hotel where MJ stayed – Budapest, Hungary

© hannah kozak

Jewish Quarter – Pest Side,
Budapest, Hungary
I love the detailed tiles on this building

© hannah kozak

© hannah kozak

Always on the look out for wandering cubs and I lucked out when I found this dog who loved to play catch. I’ve never seen a dog leap so high!

© hannah kozak

Leaping dog in Budapest

© hannah kozak

Leaping Dog in Budapest 2

© hannah kozak

Leaping Dog 3 in Budapest, Hungary

© hannah kozak

Little Leaping Dog in Budapest

© hannah kozak

Women On Street – Budapest, Hungary

Magical Budapest


The Magic of Michael Jackson’s Memorial Tree in Budapest, Hungary

The Magic of Michael Jackson’s Memorial Tree in Budapest, Hungary

© hannah kozak

Michael Jackson Memorial Tree – Budapest, Hungary

When I heard there was a Michael Jackson Memorial Tree in Budapest, I was curious to see where it was and what it looked like in person. After figuring out which subway to take, I made my way up the stairs and as I came out into the bright sun, I was in the heart of the pedestrian district in the city’s Pest side. I found this happy tree is just a stone’s throw from the Metro and quite close to the Danube River. I simply love how inspiringly analog this tribute is.

I found my way to the Kempinksi Hotel and directly across the street from it, I saw the shrine to Michael Jackson. I also saw a woman kneeled over, who was pulling out dead plants and tending to the flowers. We briefly chatted and she told me she begins her day by coming to the tree, to keep it beautiful. When I returned later in the day, seeking early evening light, I spoke to two fans sitting on a bench. No matter where I am in the world, I am never alone. It’s nice to connect with people in another country about Michael.

© hannah kozak

Fan who daily maintains the magical MJ Tree
Budapest, Hungary

@ hannah kozak

Kempinski Hotel
View from the MJ Tree
Budapest, Hungary

When Michael was touring in Budapest, he stayed at the established Kempinski Hotel. His first visit was in 1994, when shooting a short feature on Heroes’ Square. He returned in 1996 twice. The first stay was to examine the venue of his upcoming concert for the History tour — Budapest was going to be his second stop. After scouting, he gave a performance in what was then the People’s Stadium (now the Ferenc Puskás Stadium).

His fans would gather in a park directly across the street from the hotel, just to try to get a glimpse of him. Michael would often stand by the window, look out, wave and send messages to his fans, whom he always loved and respected. After he died on June 25, 2009, a tree on the corner of the park was named and dedicated to him. His beloved fans began to decorate it.

© hannah kozak

Michael Jackson Memorial Tree – Budapest, Hungary

I noticed this ordinary tree with pictures, tributes, and handwritten notes all affixed to the trunk along with candles and flowers adorned the base. In the 1980’s there was so much oppression in Hungary behind the Iron Curtain. This was the same time that Michael was becoming more famous than ever — his music inspiring the people. When he returned in the 90’s it must have been such a thrill to see this expressive, passionate artist in person during his concert. I have always loved the passion from Michael Jackson’s fans. How beautiful someone loved him enough to start this dedication of L.O.V.E. and the tradition has continued with this well kept memorial tree. Michael was a storyteller, expressing himself through his music. It’s apparent his music resonated in the hearts and souls of people all around the globe, no matter where I travel. His fans in Hungary meet in the park and flash dance to one of Michael’s dances every year on his birthday. Traveling around the globe and creating special moments I love like this tree, makes me smile from deep in my heart. There is something comforting about finding a tree dedicated to Michael, clear across the Atlantic Ocean, so far from my home in Los Angeles.

© hannah kozak

Michael Jackson Memorial Tree 3 – Budapest, Hungary

© hannah kozak

Michael Jackson Memorial Tree 4 – Budapest, Hungary

© hannah kozak

Michael Jackson Memorial Tree 5 – Budapest, Hungary

© hannah kozak

Michael Jackson Memorial Tree 6 – Budapest, Hungary

© hannah kozak

Michael Jackson Memorial Tree 7 – Budapest, Hungary
I love this MJ Billie Jean doll.

The Magic of Michael Jackson’s Memorial Tree in Budapest, Hungary


%d bloggers like this: