Máté Bartha: Abstract interpretation
Máté Bartha is a photographer and video artist born in Budapest, where he still lives and works. The passion for photography has been with him since high school, but he chose to study architecture first before taking up photography for good a year and a half later. During his years of study, he already posted many photos on local Hungarian websites similar to Flickr. With his master’s degree from the Moholy-Nagy University of Arts and Design and the University of Theatre and Film Arts (both in Budapest) in hand, he received the Hungarian National Scholarship for Photographers, and self-published his first book, entitled Common Nature (2014). In 2017, his project entitled KONTAKT, allowed him to be awarded the “Capa Grand Prize Fellowship”, but also the Robert Capa Grand Prize Hungary (2018) and the Louis Roederer Discovery Award – Les Rencontres de la Photographie, Arles (2019).
Inspired early on by the photographic style of August Sander, he was equally seduced by Eggleston’s colorful, intelligent, and simple compositions, and then by Gursky’s method of creating abstract surfaces from subjects that deal with contemporary social issues. Also interested in painting, he has always admired Rothko’s use of color and Hopper’s compositions.
Very observant, he likes to deal with real social problems, trying to interpret them in another, more abstract way, while keeping a link with “reality”, in order to be able to communicate clearly with a large audience, never hesitating to modify a situation in the sense of the “bizarre” or the “magical”. Ambiguity is thus a central element of Máté Bartha’s work. He uses still and moving images as a medium, with a sensitivity for socially relevant subjects. His visual approach is derived from a documentary point of view, but rather than trying to create the illusion of objectivity, Bartha attempts to create an ambivalence in the interpretation of each image, each story. By addressing issues related to the contemporary human environment, or to certain underrepresented groups, his works allow the viewer to revise seemingly obvious notions.
Your first photographic trigger ?
Mate Bartha : The lights through window blinds in my childhood room.
The man or woman of image who inspires you?
Mate Bartha : Albrecht Dürer.
The image you would have liked to make?
Mate Bartha : “Earthrise” by William Anders, 1968.
The one that moved you the most?
Mate Bartha : “The Isle of the Dead” by Arnold Böcklin, 1883.
A key image in your personal pantheon?
Mate Bartha : An old 35 mm color photo of a cardboard box and a bunch of metal wires lying on the street. I took it because they looked like friends.
A photographic memory from your childhood?
Mate Bartha : My dad’s black and white photos of trees in winter.
With no budget limit, what would be the work of art you would dream of acquiring?
Mate Bartha : The building of the Hungarian Parliament. I’d have some ideas.
According to you, what is the necessary quality to be a good photographer?
Mate Bartha : Patience.
The person you would like to photograph?
Mate Bartha : Someone with good answers for similar questions.
An indispensable photo book?
Mate Bartha : The Holy Bible by Adam Broomberg & Oliver Chanarin.
The camera of your childhood, your beginnings?
Mate Bartha : Some compact digital borrowed from a friend.
The one you use today?
Mate Bartha : Hasselblad 500 c/m.
Your favorite drug?
Mate Bartha : Pickled tomatoes.
The best way to disconnect for you ?
Mate Bartha : Cooking over campfire.
What is your relationship with the image ?
Mate Bartha : I tend to think that they mean something.
Your greatest quality ?
Mate Bartha : I’m pretty good at playing board games.
An image to illustrate a new banknote?
Mate Bartha : A serious portrait of my one-eyed, black cat, Kukac.
The job you would not have liked to do ?
Mate Bartha : There are many of those.
Your greatest professional extravagance?
Mate Bartha : Probably winning the Louis Roederer Discovery Award at Arles, 2019, shared with Laure Tiberghien.
What do you think are the bridges between photography and design?
Mate Bartha : Ideally design should be inspired by contemporary art, including photography, and not appropriating it.
The city, the country or the culture you dream of discovering?
Mate Bartha : Siberia.
The place you never get tired of ?
Mate Bartha : A small village in Hungary, at the river Tisza, where i’ve been spending my summers since my childhood.
Your biggest regret ?
Mate Bartha : That i didn’t learn a lot more languages.
In terms of social networks, are you more into Instagram, Facebook, Tik Tok or Snapchat and why?
Mate Bartha : Instagram probably, because of my ability to tell stories through images. But the commercials annoy me.
Color or B&W?
Mate Bartha : Color.
Daylight or artificial light?
Mate Bartha : Daylight.
Which city do you think is the most photogenic?
Mate Bartha : Majdanpek, Serbia.
If God existed would you ask him to pose for you, or would you opt for a selfie with him?
Mate Bartha : It’s enough to take a photo of anyone, or a selfie of yourself.
If I could organize your ideal dinner party, who would be around the table?
Mate Bartha : The characters from Mortal Kombat.
The image that represents for you the current state of the world?
Mate Bartha : “Tondal’s Vision” by Hieronymus Bosch.
What is missing in today’s world?
Mate Bartha : Probably more Marvel movies.
If you had to start all over again?
Mate Bartha : I’d be an ornithologist.