2014 – Professional – Anna Tihanyi

Anna Tihanyi “Berlin BHF”

Berlin bhf. (bahnhof) is a staged photography series, inspired by Hungarian authors’ Berlin experiences. The concepts are rooted in intimate issues of my personal life, but through which I could emphasize Berlin being a transitory state, as a habitat of the passengers, the temporary home for these authors.

I’m interested in the dialogue between photography and literature, though these texts are inspirational and rather give a common atmosphere for all images then illustrate one photograph.

The scenes take places in different interiors of Berlin and Budapest, show feelings and relations through these moments of transitions.

Through my visually coherent series I wanted to emphasize the common aspect of rootlessness and alienation, the permanent feeling of outcast and the desire of being integrated.



How did you start doing photography?

I always loved cinema and its narrative nature. I think I approach photography from a cinematic direction. One day when I was in San Francisco – which is a dream city of mine by the way – I went to a Diane Arbus exhibition they had at the MOMA at that time. That was the first time I met her mundane yet surrealistic portraits and it just struck me: If you can create these kind of things with photography, I want to try it out as well! And so I did.

What did photography give you?

Freedom. The freedom to express myself. Strangely enough the way I look at the world around me was influenced by cinema a lot more than it was by photography, yet I can’t imagine myself shooting moving images. What I’m really interested in photography is freezing that exact moment that never existed before and will no longer be.

A lot of your images look as if they could be frames from a feature film. Does that have anything to do with your love for cinema?

I definitely think about photography as segments of a story. I like to create atmospheres that you could call cinematic, yes. I imagine my pictures as frozen movies.

What is it that you try to achieve with photography?

To me photography is a bit like therapy. I work with topics that are related to situations I find myself in, my anxieties or childhood memories. It’s a process to better understand myself. But at the same time, the issues that I try to explore – like disappointment and isolation – are not unique to me. Most people have to deal with them at some point in their lives, so hopefully they can connect with my images.

What do you think makes a truly great image?

If looking at a picture makes me want to know more about the photographer, I know I’m dealing with a great image. Who took this picture and why? Where did he or she come from? Or if it inspires me by opening something up I never knew I had in me. That’s also great.

Where do you get your inspirations from?

I never carry my camera around, but I take notes. I feel like that the camera stands between me and what I experience, so I just don’t take it with me. So what I do is I watch people and their interactions. For example,if I see a couple fighting on the subway, I look at how the girl turns away, how the guy sits and so on. And I write it down, and build it into my photos. I also take a lot of inspiration from literature and movies.

Do you leave any room for spontaneity at your photo shoots or is everything planned to the last detail?

I do leave some room, yes, but I carefully plan most of the shoot. For me the preproduction phase can take a really long time: I create mood boards, sketches, plan the lighting, select the locations, all that stuff. I usually work with a large crew, and I’m open to their ideas and suggestions, but there are always certain elements of a project that I stick to no matter what.

What were the biggest obstacles you had to overcome in your career as a photographer?

Well, there are always some financial issues of course. It’s not cheap to be a photographer – you need equipment, money to apply for certain things, to go to portfolio reviews, and to present your work. Although, for me to stop doing photography was always out of the question, giving up was never an option. To be honest, I prefer to look at obstacles as challenges. As with my Berlin project for example, I didn’t know anyone, didn’t speak the language, and I was broke. But it worked out somehow, even if it meant that we had to move really heavy furniture around in some pretty weird situations. And of course, you get doubts every now and then. Is your project going to turn out the way you want it to? Is it ever going to turn out? What if nothing original will come to your mind ever again? That has to do with self-confidence, and it goes back to this whole therapy thing.

How did winning the Lucie Scholarship change your career?

Of course on the one hand you do win 5000 dollars, which made me able to afford a medium format camera that I need for my next project. On the other hand, I sort of feel that now they consider me to be in a different league, galleries and clients take me more seriously. People care about titles and awards, I’m not sure whether it’s a good thing, but that’s the way it is. It is a sign that the industry has accepted you and your work as professional.

Do you think it is important to participate in photography competitions and awards?

For me it is. It makes your career advance easier if you find a way to put yourself out there. It’s also a good source of professional and public feedback, that can help you improve as a photographer. It’s not necessarily the award itself that matters the most, but to get into the bloodstream of the industry.