TAMÁS FÉNER

Born in Budapest 17 November 1938. His childhood coincided with World War II, and due to his Jewish background, he experienced exclusionary practices early on. Following the Wesselényi Street Jewish School (later Kazinczy Street Elementary School), in the Madách High School, his teacher, Dr. Gyula Bada, gave him decisive intellectual encouragement: he followed the acting circle and photographed their performances. A few of these photos were published first in Szabad Ifjúság [Free Youth], where he made the acquaintance of photojournalist Tibor Bass. In 1956, at the age of 18, during the Revolution, he walked the streets with his friend and photographed. He developed his own photographs – and a few of these have survived.

After receiving his high school diploma – with the aid of Tibor Bass – he was made an apprentice at Film Színház Muzsika [Film Theatre Music]. Here the possibility opened to photograph in the film factory, in theatres, and in artist ateliers. His first exhibition of these photos opened in 1969 at the Fészek Club. His interest later turned to ballet; a large-scale exhibition of his photographs taken of the performances and artists of the Pécsi Ballet and the Opera House – alongside his earlier work – opened in 1972 at the Műcsarnok/Kunsthalle Budapest. Based on the material from the show, a portrait film was produced about him by the Hungarian Television, directed by Pál Schiffer. In 1974, he himself made an animation film (a mixture of photos put on film and animation), on the life of miners, entitled On the Shift. He completed the photography department of the Journalism School of the Association of Hungarian Journalists (MÚOSZ), and he attended the art history classes of Professor Lajos Végvári at the Academy of Fine Arts. Here he became a member of the so-called Nadar Studio, which was the intellectual workshop of talented youth interested in photography and the arts.

Already at a young age he also took part in the operations of photographic organisations: he was a board member of the MÚOSZ Photojournalism Department, member of the Association of Hungarian Photographers (1972), and later its Secretary General; editor of the periodical, Fotóművészet [Photographic Art], and later its editor-in-chief between 1970–1990 – bringing a significant change in approach to the theoretical assessment of Hungarian photography. He also organised the Studio of Young Photographic Artists (FFS).

His life oeuvre up till now can be easily divided into periods with catchwords: theatre – ballet; gypsy fate; miners’ life; Jewish ties; cityscapes – Rome, Berlin, Budapest; philosophical – literary feeling – memories (see the essay!).

He has produced twenty-five photographic series of wide breadth, taught – and teaches – in four universities, has edited a dozen press organs, has been one of the primary organisers of the Hungarian photography scene for decades – and is an inescapable author of 20th century photographic history. His albums cannot be absent from the shelves of those who take photography at all seriously.

He has received the Balázs Béla Award, has been named Artist of Merit, and in 2010 received the Kossuth Award. He has had more than twenty solo shows in Hungary, as well as the same number of solo shows abroad, and countless albums have been published (most recently, in 2009, a volume of his life oeuvre, entitled FÉNER, was published by the Hungarian Museum of Photography.)

His works are preserved in the FIAP Archive in Arles, the Hungarian Museum of Photography, the Historical Photo Archive of the Hungarian National Museum, and the Körmendi-Csák Collection of 20th Century Hungarian Photographic Art.