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Dezső Szabó: Contacts

An OFF-Biennale Budapest event

May 21-27, 2015

The title describes my archives consisting of over 32 000 photos that, encompassing a period of 1992 up till now, are presented in a uniform format and in a chronological order of their taking. The title Contacts refers to the form these pictures are presented. I believe that the concept of photo contacts, or contact copy, is little known outside the photographic profession and thus requires explanation. First and foremost, it is a concept of analogue photography, in a world that has settled for digital images. Consequently, the definition is this: a contact copy is a positive copy. When making it, the light-sensitive photo paper is in direct contact with the negative, i.e. the contact copy is the same size as the negative. The 32 000 contacts thus exhibited were made on a 35 mm film (Leica). This means 24×36 mm pictures, resulting in 36–38 pictures by roll/page. These pages are arranged in 100-page volumes, so altogether they make up 9 sizable, numbered albums. A number of things follow from this method. The film roll preserves every exposition, mistake or accident. If there was any erasing, the absence would also be visible. (The relationship between the analogue and digital pictures leads to important theoretical questions.) In this case it is only this feature that matters, i.e. the methodology and process that can be tracked down and seen in the contacts, which allow detecting an artist’s method of work. This way we can glimpse into experiments mistakes and variations of form, which precede the known results. Accidents and eventualities, life itself, cannot be excluded. These 32 000 photos comprise history, the history of 23 years as well.


The material – comprising studies and private, experimental pictures, as well as those meant for the public – rendered side by side, can be read as a unique story, involving figures of contemporary art life, tourist photos, and those of known and not known projects that have never been realised, etc. Like a film beginning in the distant past, in 1992, starts in black and white, then turns to colour in the turn of 1996-1997 and continues so till today. Sticking to analogue pictures may be interpreted as anachronism. Although it is photography, I am an artist, I approach photography from the perspective of medium theory. I examine the operating mechanism of photographic images.


It is mainly for theoretical reasons that I choose analogue technology. Over the years I have conducted several long-term projects that necessitated such uniformity and steadiness (e.g. the Fonyód project from 1996 to 2014). Many of these, however, remained unrealised because of the lack of support and financial background. All this can be seen in this archive.


To sum it up, this material can be interpreted as an archive, a sketchbook or a diary. Although it mainly applies the logic of fine art, it can still connect to the discourse on archives. 


Dezső Szabó

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