Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Merry Christmas

The Balllad of Bodvalenke by Ferenc Kunhegyesi

Thanks to Judit, Iringo and Eszter

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Hungarian Photographers

Hungary has produced an incredible number of remarkable
Photographers - Robert Capa, Andre Kertesz, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, and Brassai spring to mind – there are many more.
All of them had to leave Hungary to get noticed or more truthfully, to escape discrimination and persecution – all of them were Jews.
So it was great to be able to see a major exhibition of the work of Robert Capa whilst in Budapest at the Ludwig Museum of Contemporary Art.

Capa’s archive numbers more than 70,000 images of which 937 have been selected by his brother Cornell and his biographer Richard Whelan as the ‘Difinitive Collection’ the most outstanding of his oeuvre from 1932 – 1954 to represent the cornerstones of his life’s work and his career as a press photographer.
Three series of the Master Selection have been printed using traditional methods. These consist of 40 x 50 cm enlargements marked with Robert Capa’s embossed seal. No more will be made. Of the three series one remains in New York, the second is in the Fuji Museum in Tokyo and the Hungarian Ministry of Culture has purchased the third.
Berlin, Paris, The Spanish Civil War, China, The Normandy Landings,
Germany 1944/5, The Soviet Union with writer John Steinbeck 1947,
Israel 1948 – 1950 and finally Indochina, Capa’s nemesis. An immense body of work condensed into just 22 years. Full of life and raw power these are very emotive images commemorating some of the most devastating events of the 20th century. I particularly liked the portraits of Leon Trotski looking manic,
Madame Chiang Kai-Shek cool and cold and Henri Matisse in bed with his cat.
And we were given a brilliant, free, bilingual catalogue with our entry ticket.

Henri Matisse

Omaha Beach. Capa was in the first wave of American troops landing on the Normandy coast on the 6th June 1944. He took hundreds of photographs. The rolls of film were taken to the London office of Life magazine where the lab assistant, in a huge rush, set the temperature of the drying cabinet too high causing the emulsion to melt and so destroying the majority of the images.
Only eleven frames survived of poor quality and blurred. Life published them all with a caption explaining the blur as camera shake due to the excitement of the moment. Capa responded by titling his war memoirs in 1947 ‘Slightly Out of Focus.’


Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Magdolna utca

The above image has been chosen for the cover of a sociology text book based on interviews with the people who live in this street in the heart of Budapest's VIIIth District.
It is our second Hungarian cover to date ... the first being the August edition of 'Amaro Drom.'
Below are more residents of Magdolna utca.

Technology Gets in theWay

We like blogging. It's a big buzz when a new follower signs up especially when you are a long way from home. But the whole process is not interactive enough when compared to the amount of effort involved.
We would like 'Once We Were Birds' to be a lot more busy with more followers signing up and lots more comments ... please.
When we speak to people about this they invariably say that the technology gets in the way! But surely if we can do it anyone can! Maybe it's because you have to set up a Google account before you can sign on or post comments - but that doesn't cost anything - all you do is put in an email address and password then you are away.
One person said they struggled with this for an hour only to fail. It is a pain when things don't work and a total disincentive but please don't give up - try again - next time it will work.
There is a great deal more to come from us including the exhibition preparations - the show opens at Oriel Myrddin, Carmarthen, WALES on 9th January 2010 and you are all welcome. It will then tour to Hungary and to the USA so stay with us for the journey.

If it still gets in the way ... chuck a grenade at it!

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Quick Catch Up

Bavarian woodpiles - preparing for winter

Richard and his wife - Bavarian farmers collecting early apples

Richard's hives - the honey from the Bavarian woods was unbelievably delicious.

This lady was wizzing along ... one handed!

Branka and Marius - friends we met on the Muhlfeld campsite

Branka in her lovely Transit conversion

This gets our vote for the tackiest souvenier - a snip @ Euros 20!

My Euro 5.50 'Pinocalada' ice cream cup!

Apologies for the 9 week absence.

We returned to Wales at the beginning of September. We really didn't want to be back. We wanted to keep on travelling and found it difficult to acclimatise to life at home having so enjoyed being immersed in our work and all the intensity it generated.
This feeling of displacement and loss is still with us but we just have to work through it.
We left Hungary headed for Bavaria and a short holiday - going from one of the poorest places in Europe to one of the richest overnight was not an easy transition.

It was incredibly difficult to find a campsite on a lake it being high season and everywhere lakeside choc-a-bloc, like sardines in a can. Eventually, thanks to Suse and the internet, we found a spot in Hersching on the Ammersee that was just perfect. Only the local wind surfing school and a few discerning travellers seemed to ever hit on it - maybe because it had no hot showers! Luckily the weather was fab so we were able to keep clean and swim every single day. Ahhhhh!
Above are a few of our holiday snaps .... From now on we will try to blog weekly so please stay with us.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Roma Cave Dwellers near Eger

Eger is one of the formost wine producing regions in Northern Hungary. It is famous for Egri Bikaver 'Bulls Blood.' Long barrique aging makes this wine 'rich and fiery.'
The cellars in which the barrels lie during the aging process are carved into the several hundred meter thick rolite tufa found in the Eger area. This material can be formed perfectly, and it can maintain wine at the permanent temperature of 10 - 15 degrees centigrade. The moses and 'noble' mould to be found in the cellars establish a unique atmosphere that helps the mellowing of the wine and its fragrence.
Some of these caves have been abandoned by non use and subsequently occupied by homeless Roma.
Lets hope the beneficial surroundings will suit them too !

Access path to the cave

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Bodvalenke August 2009

Today, at the beginning of August 2009 and only two months into the Fresco Project (see previous post), Bodvalenke is very depressed. There is no work and hasn’t been for many years. The original Hungarian occupants have left and now there is a population of only 205, 90% are Roma, 80 of which are children. They are the poorest.
Eszter Pasztor, the frsco project originator, estimates that 40 of these children are actually starving. The reasons for this are simple. The family allowances and social security benefits are being drained at source by a very unscrupulous Roma money lender who exploits her own people with a particularly vile brand of food usuary.
This is how it works. Your children are hungry. You have no money. You go to the money lender because you have no choice. She sells you a loaf of bread at twice the shop price (the shop doesn’t give credit)! She then charges you 100% interest per month on the already inflated cost of the loaf (banks charge 15% per year!) so you can see how easy it is to build up massive amounts of debt quickly.
On top of that you are grateful to her for helping you out of a crisis. Not only is she respected but she is the clan leader! You don’t even realise how dependent on her you are until the loans are called in and the violence begins.

The 'eco' toilet

Bori's brothers meet the combine

Bori, age 14, our guide through the village