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Interview

Istvan Bielik: As a photographer, I consider my duty to show the lives of minorities and to point out injustice in the world

text:
Futures Photography
Date:
November 11, 2020
“As a documentary photographer, I consider my duty to show the lives of minorities and the need to point out injustice in the world.” Meet István Bielik (b. 1985), nominated for Futures by Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center.

Bielik is a freelance photographer based in Budapest. He works with various Hungarian newspapers and online magazines. As a photographer, he sees it as his mission to use the instruments of visual storytelling to present the situation of the downtrodden and those who live as minorities on the margins of society, who cannot make themselves heard by the majority. In so doing, he shines a light on injustices in the world.

In this interview, he talks about his inspiration and career:

The documentary photographer Adam Broomberg mentored five Futures Talents over the three months running up to Unseen Amsterdam 2019
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Can you tell us a little bit about your inspirations? Which themes do you often work with?

As a documentary photographer, I consider my duty to show the lives of minorities and the need as well as to point out injustice in the world with the tools of visual storytelling focused on people. My previous works have always revolved around current issues and conflicts in the world as well as their consequences; nowadays, I work on stories where I would like to represent the sufferers of a former, repressive regime. Considering their age, only a small number of the survivors of the forced labor camps are still alive. I think it is a great responsibility to prevent their stories from disappearing into the maze of history and thus honoring them. As the events left their scars on the survivors, who have been carrying these marks ever since, so did the forced-labor camps and mines leave the landscape and the collective consciousness of humanity scarred forever. The stories they shared had a profound impact on me. I became close with the storytellers, and already knowing their stories, I started to feel an urge to record the associated places, objects, memories, and feelings with my camera. I capture still-remaining fragments of their memories and history, both in Hungary and in the post-Soviet region, salvaging their stories for posterity. As such, none of this is consigned to the past but stays with us as a reminder, preventing such monstrosities from occurring ever again.

How do you see your relationship with the medium? How do you use photography to express your art?

I’m very lucky because photography is my hobby, my work and also my vocation. Photography is also part of a creative recreation for me, although at that time I prefer to use analog techniques to separate the fun from the work. In addition to active creation, I also spend a lot of time with photography as a recipient: I dive myself into the work of other contemporary photographers, go to exhibitions and do research, looking for inspiration. As a photojournalist, I’ve used photography as an objective medium for a long time, but it’s becoming more and more transforming for me, today I see it as a good opportunity to spend time on topics that interest me that I want to talk about.

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Do you have any ongoing (or more recent) project that you would like to share with us?

I just started to work on new material, its working title is ‘The land of catfishes and water lilies.’ I examine the rural Hungary by a 50-km-long canal in south Hungary, close to the Serbian-Croatian-Hungarian tri-border area where my wife was born. This area is a shelter for me from the first time I saw it. This is a project about how I see life in the countryside as an urban-born. I research the people’s relationship with nature, religion and national minorities.

We have been facing a lot of challenges this year. How do you see this moment for art? Is it changing your practice?

In the quarantine period, I didn't have work for months. In the beginning of it, I moved away from photography and then started to capture our quarantine life with an old 35mm film analogue camera. I realized due to its lack of how important it is for me to create.

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What do you expect from this experience as a Futures talent?

As a documentary photographer, it's important to always keep up to date our visual language and storytelling skills. This experience is a great opportunity to get feedback from the world’s most prominent photography experts. I’m curious about how others build up their working methods to catch up new skills, with these new inspirations I can improve my creativity. My aim is to get into an inspiring, vibrant multicultural environment and make contact with the world’s upcoming talents. Interested in the new point of views and the looking for the new tendencies of visual storytelling. I would like to study the latest trends and innovations of contemporary photography. I hope with this new knowledge will refresh my vision and in the future I can take it into my routine, and  use it in my new projects.

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