Upon reading Ken Light’s wonderful book, Witness in Our Time: Working Lives of Documentary Photographers, I felt forced to think again and again of my motivations for doing photography. One interesting point of this book was, that many photographers revisit their own life’s conflicts and find them in lives of other people. So, if someone spent his childhood at war, experiencing violence, hatred, starvation and suffering of many kinds, he is more sensitive to these feelings and he can relate himself to people in similar situations. Of course, it’s not a general rule, there are many notable exceptions, but it is indeed a good point.
So, what do I bring from my childhood and youth? Although I was grown up in the communist Eastern Europe, I didn’t feel oppressed at all. I was a child, and I got everything a child needs, however poor was my family. Also, I was a talking type guy, so my parents didn’t really share their (distressful) opinion about the system with me. We were poor, but we always had a place to sleep and something to eat, at least a slice of bread.
However, as I grew older, I realized one feeling inside my soul, that’s quite peculiar to Eastern Europe, especially to Hungary. That feeling was hopelessness. The feeling that whatever you do, it doesn’t matter, you cannot really change your life’s course. And you don’t really get anything to ease this feeling. Small communities destroyed, religion dying, taxes high, mobility low. Many people think that there is no way to escape, there is just one path to take. The path of grayness, the path of lukewarm boring life, the path of lost chances…
That’s what I’m very sensitive of. Hopelessness and the effort to overcome this devastating feeling.