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János Szász
(1925 — 2005)

He was born in 1925 in Pécs, Hungary, into a wealthy local family. After finishing the University of Law with honours, due to his father’s army rank he was not allowed to become a lawyer by the Communist regime. The young lawyer had to re-start his studies alongside 14 year-olds as an apprentice photographer, while earning a living as a sign writer.

He started by photographing his immediate surroundings, his family as a practice, then, when later assured of his craft, moved on to wider themes. His most productive years span from 1960 to 1976 when commissioned by the city design office to record regional contemporary and rural architecture. He found use for his unique feel for perspective in this world, and elaborated his style of printing – involving a revolutionary use of chemicals, even handicrafts elements from his signwriting years.

Conditions of photographers like him were unique all over Eastern Europe. They set up small mobile laboratories in their kitchens or bathrooms and as they carried out everything from exposure to drying the hard copies, this deep knowledge generated a lot of technical experience and innovations, leading to strong personal touches so well noted in the works of Szász. „Never to give up” – became his life’s motto: the need pushing the boundaries towards the unimitable prints we see today.He elaborated a technique in which, using soft paper he still managed to get very hard tones, still not lose the details. Photography historian Károly Kincses called this „Black in Black”: the fine detail that emerges in the otherwise harsh shadows he used.

In the early Eighties cataract attacked both his eyes, resulting a gradual loss of sight angle and quality – ’cheap zooms replacing the Zeiss wide angle lenses’ – as he put it. He taught photography for decades, organised exhibitions and courses, led photoclubs, and published regularly in professional publications. He initiated the official Annual National Photographic Exhibition of Secondary Schools, which event is still hosted yearly in Pécs, with an award carrying his name.

His achievements in art, education, journalism, cultural management, civil society have been acknowledged by the award of the Honorary Golden Eye, the Hungarian Association of PhotoArtists’ Lifetime Achievement Award, „Best Advertisement – Photography” Award in 1980. His album on folk architecture, a bestseller, was awarded ’Beautiful Book of the Year’ (1976) and a prize of the Leipzig Book Fair (1977).

Since his death, his work has been shown in Hungary and in Hungarian Cultural Centres around the globe, and has been exhibited in several museums and private galleries.

(Courtesy of the artist’s website)