Interview with photographer László Kovács
Bence Makkai: For a start, say a few words about yourself.
László Kovács: Unlike many, I wasn’t interested in photography as a child, nobody practiced photography in the family, and then when I was a teenager I found a camera in the attic. I liked it a lot, but I had no idea how to use it. Then I grew up, and I bought a little digital camera for my wedding (2004). That’s when I first felt the taste of photography…
Makkai Bence: Since this interview is taken for the phonecamproject group my questions will first concern your photos taken with mobile phone, but I cannot disregard your other photos as well. I’ve written about your works in general:
Projections, reversed perspectives, faded-out colours: on your images, let me put it this way, there is a strong smell of presence, but not just any kind of physical presence. Not just a simple being there, in front of the image, face-to-face with the image, but very excitingly, the onlooker must step into the inner field of the picture to make the message accessible or graspable. Your photos end up in some sort of metaphysics, much rather than in any kind of stereotypical documentation. This strong presence is reassessed by your works.
Beyond documentation, how can we be real photographers, “image-drawers” with so many means of visual record available to us? How can anyone be a photographer in the true sense of the word in our contemporary “diluted” visual world?
Kovács László: I think it’s a very difficult question. It is true that photography, like everything else, got very diluted. I don’t only blame the photographers for this, the problem is with the needs. Unfortunately, it’s the kitsch, the glitter that’s “successful” today with the spectators, of course, there are still many who like more meaningful photos. What’s the secret? Well, maybe that what’s also characteristic of us in everyday life. Let all our photos be honest, let us place our pure hearts in them, and enjoy it. We shouldn’t want to make photographs for the sake of large masses! Let us make photos for ourselves, I think this is the most important. Nothing guarantees of course that anyone will be successful by it, but at least he or she can say that they did everything they could, they were honest, and showed their souls through their photos. .
Bence Makkai: So let’s dwell a little longer on the previous question:
I’ve read the following ars photographica in one of your presentations:
“This album was created because I tried to prove that it’s not the camera that’s most important in the art of photography […] for a good photo you need the EYE!”
And here’s one of your photos:
It makes me think of the works of Moholy-Nagy László
Tell me about this photo
Why mobile phone photography? I think I just got bored of absurd sentences like:
– It’s easy for you like this, with such a camera.
– If I could buy a camera like yours I could also make good photos.
It was because of these and similar sentences that I’ve decided to prove that a good photo doesn’t primarily depend on the camera.
At first I planned to show one photo per day made with a phone camera, but then it started to get too forced and go against quality.
I’ve been publishing here ever since, what’s more, I also feel that these photos represent me more.
Certainly, I don’t mean to say by this that a single lens reflex camera has no legitimacy.
Of course, there are subjects or situations when a DSLR is indispensable.
A few words about the photo: I’m so fond of shadows, they practically create something else in every single moment of the day, and the sun was shining in, I saw the shadow inside the lampshade, it was clear I had to take that shot.
Bence Makkai: Now you’ve already answered my next question too, namely, how you see the difference between the two instruments (mobile phone camera and reflex camera)… But let’s return to the previous photo: this has a privileged status among your other photos. In contrast to many other of your works, where the main protagonist is the shadow, the object which casts the shadow is just as present as the shadow. The imperfection of the mirror breaks the beams of light and the waves permeate the entire photo. A lamp and its shade: the source of the light is the shadow itself. Strict composition, exciting lines. Beyond the momentary presence, that you noticed and photographed it, what other “message” could you attach to it?
László Kovács: Umm, I don’t really mean to convey any message with my photos, or I’d like the viewer not to try to figure out what my message is, but tell his/her own story about what the photo means to them. The message is merely about noticing the little things, life is full of little miracles and if you’re receptive to them, and if you like to live, it opens up to you… a dreamworld which, once it grasps you, rests with you forever. .
Bence Makkai: But ultimately this is still a new world you’re offering to us…
László Kovács: Well, I don’t know about this :). I’m trying, but I can’t tell how much people see of it 🙂
Bence Makkai: You’ve already formulated a sort of goal in your previous answer: don’t just look – see! Your photos give birth to a new approach in our relation to customary objects, our everyday world. And it’s not enough to just see, but share it, show it to others as well. Look, this world can be like this. How far are you aware of it when you call yourself a photographer?
László Kovács: I tend to have a fundamentally different way of thinking about different fields of life than the average. I don’t care about outward appearances in life, I’d rather look at the inner values. Perhaps this is what’s mirrored by my photos. I don’t click around, but I observe, change perspectives, look at the subject from all sides. I don’t know, is it a good answer to your question? I’m not much of a man of words…
Bence Makkai: You are not a man of words, you say: still, you wonderfully find the way to match words, and not just any kinds of words to your photos. Although you rarely give titles to your works, in several cases the images are accompanied by literary texts; this is how I met the name and work of poet Ákos Fodor.
He writes in one of his poems:
are more significant
than what casts them.
although I can’t remember which of your photos was accompanied by this quotation, I associated it with this one: :
My question is: how does the text reinterpret the photo, or the other way round?
Others have asked me as well if I shoot the photos first or I match them to the text. I always have the photo first, then I search on the internet for literary texts, poems or quotations that I consider suitable.
I like literature a lot, I even used to write earlier, that’s why I thought of associating some of my photos with texts.
Bence Makkai: And when you find the appropriate text, after that you see your work differently? What do you think: how does the text reinterpret the image?
László Kovács: I don’t think it does, at least my purpose is for the meaning of the photo to remain the same, completed and better explained by the text.
Bence Makkai: Light. Shadow. One is always more significant than the other. The question unavoidably rises: the chicken or the egg? Which comes first? Which is more important?
László Kovács: One completes the other… if there was no light, there would be no shadow… one is indispensable for the other.
Bence Makkai: Ákos Fodor again, and another image based on a light-shadow play:
Distorted shadows, strong contrasts, almost like an upside-down world. A strange story about an everyday situation:
and the text:
Be very careful, because you turn
the world into how you see it“
In your opinion how real is the world? How much reality is there in the world? And how much reality is there in art?
László Kovács: I think the answer is right in this quote! 🙂 By art, you can present your own reality the way you see it yourself. Your reality may not be the true one, but you believe in it. These days there is very little reality in the world, very little honesty, and this, I think, can be much better communicated through art. There is no backstage, no stupid comedies there, art, if it’s good, is simple and honest.
Bence Makkai: I’ve also read it at Ákos Fodor:
as the wind flutters the curtain
not the curtain, not the wind. The flutter.“
Is photography love or job?
László Kovács: This is the easiest question, it is clearly love until the grave…
Even if I don’t have a camera or my phone in my hand, my brain is still exposing, my head is full of a bunch of unforgettable moments.
Bence Makkai: Photos made in the head: perhaps the best of them 🙂
László Kovács: Definitely 🙂
Bence Makkai: Thank you for the conversation