Iosif Kiràly


The comprehensive project Reconstructions explores various locales in Romania and Berlin with a view to their post-socialist changes. The photo collages bring into focus the way formerly symbol-laden structures and monuments are treated, or the different urban and economic developments in play. Each photographic work consists of numerous individual fragments that were captured at differing times (varying from minutes to years) in the same location. This fosters a multi-perspective view of a picture that, with temporal discontinuity, disjoints the apparent spatial continuity.

Fig. 1: Reconstruction – Berlin, Palast der Republik, 2004–2009, photo collage, 88.5 x 300 cm

Fig. 2: Reconstruction – Mogosoaia, Lenin and Groza, 2007–2009, photo collage, 126 x 170.5 cm

Excerpts of an Interview by Ileana Pintilie, 2009

How did you come up with the system of panoramic photography in Reconstructions (and elsewhere)? What were the first variants, the beginning of this multilayered perception?

The perception of time, the distortions of memory, and the dynamics of changes that affect our perception of individuals, objects, and urban spaces, at different speed levels were fascinating to me years before I began this project. I have sought and experimented with different visual formats before finding the one through which I could better express such concepts. My pursuit of a visual language that would be adequate to the Reconstructions project developed in the context of a profound shift in the field of photography, namely the abrupt transition from analog to digital technology. The first “reconstructions” were photo montages that consisted of photographs/ snapshots taken with film-based cameras. By the end of the 1990s, I purchased a camera that could inscribe each photograph with the time, date, and year in which it was taken. In this preliminary stage of the project, the time-code was visible in all the fragments (snapshots) that made up the “reconstruction.” After realizing the possibilities of digital technology and the fact that it could help me to better develop this project both from a conceptual standpoint and from a visual one (for example, digital photography made it easier to zoom-in and zoom-out from an image, and to navigate through the different visual layers of a panorama), I began to work exclusively with digital cameras and computers. The act of taking a photograph with a digital camera is not radically different from its analog equivalent. However, constructing the panoramas (photo montages) using digital technology is a totally different experience because instead of using scissors and adhesive tape I use computers, software programs, graphic tablets, digital pens, and erasers.

To what extent is your photography an objective or a subjective document, stemming from immediate perception, as well as memory?

The function of objectively documenting reality, which has been photography’s claim since its inception, is becoming more and more controversial. Nowadays, when the photographic image can be produced, modified, and disseminated more widely and efficiently than ever, we are confronted with a bizarre phenomenon. On the one hand, the credibility of a photograph from the documentary point of view is greatly diminished, yet on the other hand our fear of becoming the subject of an unauthorized photograph has increased. Photography is increasingly perceived as a powerful instrument that does not document reality but rather manipulates it. My own photographs—I’m referring to the Reconstructions series—are meta-images, subjective interpretations of reality produced from objective fragments (component snapshots). In film there is a term for this kind of work: “docu-fiction,” namely a fiction film made from documentary footage.

Do you feel particularly close to a certain theme, such as the urban landscape? Or are you more interested in doing research into society? [...]

Yes, the “urban landscape” is an important theme for me but not in the sense of architecture photography. It is one of the places in or through which one can see certain tendencies of society that populates and continuously changes the “landscape.” In my photographic research, it has been my collaboration with Mariana Celac (and my acquaintance with her extraordinary research in the field of urban development/ evolution) that helped me even more than my background as an architect. Together we have made many photographic trips and we have had many discussions about my photographs. [...]

Many of your photos, especially those inspired by Bucharest, seem to be also a social commentary (I am referring to the emblematic snapshots of stray dogs, for example). To what extent does this apply to the photos inspired by other locations, such as those taken in Iran?

I generally do not start with the idea of making explicit social or political commentaries in my photographs. However, I do not exclude the possibility of such commentaries being made by certain viewers in relation to these images. I will tell you an anecdote: once a reporter from a Romanian TV channel came together with a cameraman for documenting one of my exhibitions on the Reconstructions project. While they were filming the exhibition, a well-known Romanian philosopher entered the gallery. After he had seen the work on display the reporter approached him for a short interview: “Mr. X, does it seem to you that the author of these photographs managed to represent in any way the matter of memory and of the passing of time in his images?” The philosopher replied: “What time? What memory? I do not see memory or the passing of time. I would rather construe these images as urban landscapes that speak to Romania’s decline of and the fact that it has been anesthetized by so many disastrous governments with their mixing of traces of Communism with aggressive and inhumane neo-liberalism.” I think that certain information regarding the past and the present, or regarding mentalities and political configurations, can be inferred from the panoramas even when it comes to places in which I did not photograph as systematically as in Romania.

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