Benkő Imre: Blues. Budapest, 2000-2002
Try to imagine, Imre Benkő, after boozing all night, at dawn standing up on a table at one of the most popular night-clubs in Budapest and shouting in pert Hungarian style: Stop! Now, play my song, Lajcsi! And the Gypsy musician looking at him inquirily.
I will not continue. Anybody who knows Imre, or has seen him at least once, does not need to be told why this situation is complete nonsense. Benkő boozing, standing on the table, and shouting at the top of his voice. This is really an it-could-never-happen type of thing. And yet, though I have not taken leave of reality, this time Imre Benkő has indeed ordered music. The working title of his exhibitoin, Blues (about) Budapest, (in) Budapest, (for) Budapest, is not yet official, but it certainly would be accurate, since the photographs of the Pulitzer-prize winning photographer, who took pictures of Budapest and its inhabitants in 2000-2001 thanks to a photographic grant given by the City of Budapest, are closely related to this genre of music. The music is characterised by a slight melancholy, and humanism overcoming poverty, features which are also characteristic of the town as seen by Benkő. As the melodic structure of the original black blues is based on the formula of call and answer, the photographs seem to arrange themselves in number, order, size and setting. In these pictures there is no gore, no sensationalism, no grotesque faces made by supposedly famous stars, there are no colour snap-shots of well-known scenes of the town, only 24 panoramic photographs and 34 black and white photographs of different spots in the Hungarian capital at the millennium. No matter where goes with his camera, Corvin-square, Duna Plaza, the Mamut shopping centre, Józsefváros or Hajógyári Island he always notices and unfolds his subject from its layers, the essence, the feeling, the atmosphere that many of us know so well. These photographs resound very much with Bekő-style. Just as the blues sounds in the tightly constructed tunes and in the instruments of Muddy Waters or John Mayall.
I have to declare again, seeing his latest pictures: Imre Benkő is a great photographer. Budapest has spent its precious little resources for a good purpose, and a real happy end seems within reach. Something that we have waited a long time for.
Hungarian House of Photography in Mai Manó House
H-1065 Budapest-Terézváros, Nagymező utca 20.