The Archive Magazine, Israel, March 2016, pages 170-202
Pictures of the Year, Budapest, March 2016
LensCulture Spotlight 2016 feb. Paris
2016 feb, Malaysia
Please find the courtesy English Translation of the Malaysian text below.
(ParenTED – video link soon )
As well, radio interviews available on request
Civil Rádió 10′
Katolikus Rádió 30′
Juventus Rádió 60′
Tilos rádió 60′
The following is a courtesy English Translation of the article published in Aperture in Feb. 2016.
interview by Syafiqah Diana
“Beauty in complexity: The complex humanistic relationships portrayed in one of Tamas’s best documentary series, Ageing Young.”
HL: Beauty in complexity
SF: Tamás Schild opens up about the complex humanistic relationships portrayed in one of his best documentary series, Ageing Young
What started off as a therapy eventually turned into a soaring career for this aspiring photographer. If you’ve been following Aperture for quite some time, chances are you’ve already got your mind and soul blown by this man’s winning picture at KLPA 2015 entitled “A mother is a mother everywhere”, a stunning portrait from the series Ageing Young by Tamas Schild. Given that he’s held high reputation in the global industry and has won many prestigious local and international awards under his belt, we knew straight away that it was just a matter of time before we could dive into a deeper conversation with this amazing persona.
Being a fan myself, I approached Tamas right after the KLPA prize-giving ceremony ended and truth to be told, he has that charismatic and friendly vibe that just makes everyone comfortable.
“I graduated in Humanities and before photography, I worked as a conference interpreter. That experience taught me the significance of conveying messages rather than words,” said Tamas.
Waking up from despair and hardships, Schild Tamas said that he found himself continuously drawn towards humanistic values that help him carry on. When he first started a charitable project to take pictures of poor people for them, Tamás was struck by a life-changing epiphany – the fact that he loves photography and that his new passion heals. And Tamas knows his new business well as it took him to the first national photo contest and won him the Art Category, at the age of fifty.
Describing his photographic style as natural, Tamás shared with us what is his real take on photographing people.
“I find life so exciting in itself that I do not feel the need for conceptual staging. That’s why I don’t have any studio and I don’t use flash. Lengthy staging and anything more than available light would only distract my models from being truly themselves in their own environment.”
Having seen his stunning works of art, all I could say is that Tamas’s take on ‘natural’ photography echoes well with his personal photography project, of which contains pure emotions and life – Ageing Young.
Reminiscing the moments when he first started the charitable photography project, Tamas shared with us the day when he received a gracious call from a Roma girl:
“I live at a two-hour drive away from this family and I visited them to the invitation. Nelly, who is the eldest of the four sisters in this series called me using a borrowed telephone to take a pro bono picture of her and her newborn baby at their home. She was twenty two at that time with her third child, her first baby girl. So that happened and the rest is history.”
The story of four young sisters
The Roma family series, titled Ageing Young is an ongoing self-assigned photography series that follows through the changes of four young Roma sisters from Rural Hungary between the years 2009 to 2015. A tribute to Nelly’s family, this series attempts to have humanistic complexity prevail over a photojournalistic one.
“I am less interested in the social phenomena and criticism than in the individuals themselves; they are not mere representations of such and therefore are not interchangeable with someone else in the same setting. I’d define my approach as environmental portraiture – yes, the reality is present and is not hushed, but it is marginally present, like a subterfluent stream of the message. Instead, the model is elevated from the primary physical reality. At its best, it can become reality-based art. Life as is, as art. I find that idea challenging.
To be more specific, what interests me is the people themselves. People who live a constrained and vulnerable life and their life with all its imperfections and flaws can still be full and fulfilled. I find that inspiring, too.”
Against the stigmas
Tamas’s idea of looking beyond the imperfections of life seems to relate well with the Roma series – beauty lies in the complexity of lives displayed by the sisterhood. Despite being seen as school dropouts and jobless, these young Roma sisters hold closely together as families while going through the critical phase of becoming mothers in their teenage years.
Looking again at the pictures of the series, I personally feel the subtleness of emotions showed by each – a feeling of utter catharsis if I may – that truly speaks into my soul. It is now understandable why Tamas regarded the subjects as his main inspiration.
“Growing up under communism, we had restricted access to the contemporary art world. However, I loved the Dutch, Italian medieval painters and the Impressionists; and I still do. But what really inspire me are all my models and the whirlwind of emotions I have while spending time with them.”
Family conflicts, vulnerability, love, trust and solidarity are all parts of complexity of life that a photographer like Tamas needs to deal with during the shooting process with Nelly, Mary, Klemy and Nicky; the four sisters depicted in the series. However, I believe I speak for many if I say we’re all wondering what does it take for a person to establish that kind of mutual trust with the subject?
“I am very lucky on that score. I was raised in trust and so turning to people with unpretentious trust comes naturally to me. Of course there will always be people who could not care less about my trust in them. And there are those whose trust you need to earn. But more importantly there will also be those with whom, like between free radicals in chemistry, bonding develops without much hassle. I have felt that natural bonding with this family since the first day we met.”
A bond that lasts
6 years and still counting, Tamas’s interest in photographing the lives of this Roma family is far from an end. I asked him what changes or progress in the family circle in terms of their relationship that he finds most touching? His answer blew my mind.
“Actually it is not the changes or progress, but the opposit that touches me most.
The youngest twin sisters who were thirteen and talented singers then are past nineteen now. The mother of the four sisters and three of the girls live together now with the men they love and call them their husbands. They have no money for weddings. All four girls have dropped out of school by the age of sixteen and are unskilled workers. None of them have a permanent job. Three of the four girls have laboured five children. The parents, the four girls and three husbands plus the five children live under the same roof, tightly packed together.”
According to Tamas, the bond that’s keeping this family together has been the very reason why he finds himself continuously amused.
“It is in this context that family ties are of primary importance to them. I would not have thought that I would witness so much loving and joy among them and for their children in particular under those difficult circumstances. I do find that exhilarating.”
The unsolved challenges
However, great work always comes with great challenges. Tamas said that taking these portraits is not always a breezy affair.
”It all comes with participation and a certain level of involvement in their lives. And human relationships come with responsibility. If they have problems they will of course turn to the one who is better off than they are, be that the need for a pair shoes or jeans for the kids, unpaid bills or their housing problems. And you need to learn the hard way where your limits lie. You can’t solve everybody’s life. And when you both realize that, can you still continue untarnished?
It is best to set the ground rules at the outset as to what you can do and what you cannot do for them. And within those constraints, the question at the end the day is whether we have done everything we can for each other. And if the answer is yes, it is easier to learn to live with the unsolved challenges.”
The need for acceptance
Inhaling deeply, I could feel a gist of humanistic essence that’s radiating from his words. It’s easy to tell that Tamas has seen a lot of life in the days when he visits the family; that he too, as a human sees himself in the complexity of emotions entangled within the bond.
As we sip through the talk, Tamas mentioned an insightful thought about the motive behind the series apart from exploring the common traits that all humans possess, rather than highlighting the differences that divide us apart.
“I took these photos for my models, as I would like to show them that I see them as valuable people. Showing them their beauty is a universal language to say that they are valuable. In a world where so many look down upon them and face prejudice, elevating them in their injured self-esteem is the most I can do. They live hard lives, and at a time we cannot really help them. They do not need our pity; they need our acceptance. Let alone love.
Also, I took these photos for myself as I find this process self-rewarding. And I show these photos to a wider public as I hope that they carry meanings that go beyond the particular situation in which they were taken.
By the way, these people opened up their lives to me. I owe them for this. I do not pay them, but I offer reciprocal gestures. For example, I do charitable work for them.”
Beauty is as beauty does
With the theme being “Seeing Beauty”, KLPA 2015 has opened up a myriad of interpretations being associated with the portrait “A mother is a mother everywhere.” So I asked Tamás the very question that has probed each and every one of us at times: “What is beauty to you?”
“Being as imperfect as I am, I think I would find it difficult to bond with a perfect beauty. I need to pardon something in exchange. And when equilibrium is reached between the proportions, shapes and sizes and their flaws, you have harmony. Beauty in Art does far more than depict that fragile harmony. It radiates,” said Tamás.
Searching for a significant theme for a photo that speaks is not as easy as one might assume and Tamas has made it clear with his Roma series – the creation of a touching photo is nothing about breeze – you need to spend time, you need to establish mutual respect and trust, you need to instill empathy within your selves and above all, you need to understand; not assume. After all, the aim of a good documentary photo is not to speak up on behalf of the subjects; but to provide a channel so they could speak their thoughts to the minds of the audience themselves.
“When pressing the shutter I primarily resonate to the situations I become involved in. Others have a preference to visualize in advance the anticipated photograph with engineering precision. The answers vary and all can lead to compelling result. You need to find your own approach, as any of them are valid. At any rate it takes more time, emotion and thought processing than most people think and with a bit of grace of luck, the cream of your output will be proportionate with your investment. Follow your heart and take your mind with you. Exercise caution in trying to meet the real or conceived expectations of others, as otherwise you may easily end up frustrated (you can’t impress everyone).”