33 year-old Hungarian photographer Marton Perlaki presents Bird, Bald, Book, Bubble, Brick, Potato, a quite unusual body of work tinged with dark humor that earned Marton a place among this year’s emerging photographers selected through Foam Magazine‘s prestigious Talent Call.
Hello Marton, thank you for this interview. What are your main interests as a photographer?
I am an overly curious person and this is probably part of the reason why I became a photographer. I am intrigued by many aspects of photography, and I’m especially interested in the psychology of perception rather than the technicalities of the medium: I’m most curious about the context of a picture and the possible conversations between photographs.
Please introduce us to your series Bird, Bald, Book, Bubble, Brick, Potato. What is it about, and what themes are you touching on with this body of work?
This is an ongoing series I started in the summer of 2014 that uses two photographic genres: still life, and staged portraiture applied to a specific subject. I think of these photographs as a sort of visual poems touching on the subjects of defenselessness, fragility and the fleeting.
The project started as a stream of ideas. I accidentally stumbled onto some cigarette cards from the 1950s displaying useful household tips for middle-class families. At first glance the images looked silly and nonsensical; but after reading the corresponding text on the back of the card, the pictograms suddenly made sense. I’ve always been interested in how a situation can become disjointed by replacing or removing certain visual information from a picture.
The title of the series refers to the main, disparate elements we see in the photographs. How did you come to select these six particular subjects?
Bird, Bald, Book, Bubble, Brick, Potato is a working title; at any rate, it reminds me of an elementary school word learning game: which word is the odd man that you see on the pictures but does not begin with the letter B?
I feel my pictures have a certain childish absurd humor, which plays an important role in my work; even though I am always leaving a little room for melancholy.
Who is the bald man?
His name is Elemer Szatmari and he is a happy family man living in Szolnok, Hungary. I accidentally stumbled upon a photo of him on Facebook. I contacted him and asked him if I could take his photograph for a series that I was working on. He immediately said yes. I’ve photographed him many times since then, asking him to pose in the most peculiar situations for me. His enthusiasm hasn’t faded, at least not yet.
Even though he has not much former experience being in front of a camera (he works as a teacher and a programmer) he is one of the best models I’ve ever worked with. He is incredibly patient and his peculiar looks, simultaneously sculptural and enigmatic, were perfect for the series.
Can you talk a bit about your ideas and process in creating the images? What were you aiming for, visually speaking?
Before taking a picture I usually plan most aspects of the process in as much detail as possible, but when the time comes to take the actual photograph I try to lose myself within the boundaries I created, and leave as much room as possible for pleasant surprises.
I generally aim for simplicity in terms of technique – most of the pictures in this series have been taken in natural daylight. The reason behind that is not primarily aesthetic but more about keeping the focus on the context and the subject/object I am photographing. I also think that a simple and innocent visual composition creates a good balance with the whimsical, sometimes mischievous nature of photographs.
Did you have any specific reference or source(s) of inspiration while working on Bird, Bald, Book, Bubble, Brick, Potato?
I drew a lot of inspiration from instructional or educational materials.
What do you hope gets across to the viewer who sees the Bird, Bald, Book, Bubble, Brick, Potato images?
I like to think about this series as a game of associations. I invite the viewer to create their own, personal narrative whilst looking at the pictures. It seems like a fun process to me.
What have been the main influences on your photography?
I was raised in an intellectual, musical family. We went to the opera and theaters regularly. I feel theater, especially the theater of the absurd, had an influence on me.
As far as photography goes, I find the spontaneity of old family photographs and vernacular photography inspiring. I also often seek inspiration from artistic eras like the New Objectivity and Constructivism. I’m a major fan of Hans Peter Feldman, and I really enjoyed the Jim Shaw exhibition I just saw at the New Museum in New York.
Who are some of your favorite contemporary photographers?
Lars Tunbjörk, Elspeth Diederix, Alec Soth, Asger Carlsen, Rineke Dijkstra; the list goes on…
Choose your #threewordsofphotography.
Juxtaposition. Curiosity. Abstraction.