Essays, Reviews




          It is quite a recent photo, made this year, which captured János Derzsi in the role of Woyzeck and Anna Györgyi as Marie in the play put on stage at the Új Színház (New Theater), directed by Csaba Kiss. Marie’s face is illuminated by a light, as if she were sun-bathing and it feels so comforting to have both hands of her lover on her cheeks. She buries her whole being in the large palms of the man, clearly enjoying being loved. But at the same time, her face reflects some sort of faint deceptive notion, concealing a kind of strain behind a calm façade. Woyzeck’s face is hidden in an ill-omened darkness, only one of his hands in the light, strongly clasping Marie. The apparent idyll threatens with explosion.

          Iván Benda likes to pry into intimate moments with his camera and is fond of getting close to human faces. For instance: he catches a grimace of Zoltán Kocsis, when he is practically bending over his piano keyboard, pouting his lips; György Solti energetically grabbing his baton, mesmerizing something to the orchestra with his penetrating look while strongly clenching his teeth; Andrea Ladányi is deeply immersed in her thoughts, yet her well-defined muscles are very expressive even in a sitting position.  His photos are genuinely illuminated; the pictures often look like paintings.

          Benda is not only interested in faces, but regards the human spine equally expressive. He shows us the three characters of the female Godot – Vali Horváth, Ibolya Baranyai, Zsuzsa Dósa – from the front, as they hopelessly march towards nihility. And then we see them as they are tottering in nihility, their retreating backs, the slow and uncertain paces of their legs, as they are holding on to each other with their hands; we see the bare walls of the interior of the theater, the freezing white lights of the spotlights. But there is one restrained light among them that shines in gold, almost Sun-like, because Benda noticeably does not favour total hopelessness. In many of his pictures one can detect the presence of a light that is exacting its own place in space, practically evoking an individual life. The light gleams on the dancers’ bodies in a peculiar way. During the recording of The Festival Ballet’s production “The Nuptial”, the yellowish red light slips under the fluttering skirts, lurks in the material, and finds its way to the hair of the dancers that flicker from the fast movements. It also has a flittering effect on the skin-tight dresses and the bare skin of the dancers.

          Benda is a silently playful photographer; he does not strive for sensation, nor excessive movements; he is discreet but at the same time is considerately sensitive. He has been following the activity of the theater of Győr for a long time. He takes photos of theaters, dances, and concerts.

          He took to photography in a roundabout way. He has been a soloist singer of the Art Troop of the Hungarian People’s Army. Later on he toured foreign countries with his music group – he played the drums – for nearly three years they performed mainly in bars and restaurants. Only after this period did he become a professional photographer. He does advertisements as well as photographs marriages, but is truly devoted to performing art. In his exhibition held in 1993 at the Budapest Congress Centre photos of landscapes have played a significant role.

          An exhibition has been staged recently at the same venue displaying the material of his new album, “Fotó: benda”.


.Gábor Bóta