Born 30 April 1946 in Budapest. It was in the Yvette Bíró film club at the Madách High School that he sensed the importance of visuality. In 1964, he took on a position at the Budapest Photographers’ Co-operative, while in 1966 he took the professional exam for photographers. He later received a degree in art history and philosophy.
From 1972 to 1991, he was a photojournalist for the weekly illustrated Nők Lapja (Women’s Magazine), and later columnist and senior staff member. Between 1991-93, he was artistic director of the Hungarian edition of Playboy. Subsequently, with an exclusive contract (with Zsuzsa Sóvári, as Kép és Írás [Image and Text] columnist), his photographs appeared each week in the newspapers Esti Hírlap, Kurír, and Mai Nap. The series also appeared in Népszabadság as Képek és Szavak (Images and Words).
Since 1973, he has been a member of the Hungarian Press Association (MÚOSZ), and since 1978 of the Hungarian Association of Photographers and of the Association of Hungarian Creative Artists.
Between 1973 and 1979, he recorded the cultivators of crafts dying out in Hungary – and presented his photos at the exhibition entitled In Praise of Crafts.
In 1978, he spent several months in Thailand: he took photos on the subjects of Buddhism, and on drug addiction and its treatments. (He then had an exhibition entitled City of Angels.)
Between 1981-83, he photographed the Hungarian mental institutions, and his photos were published in the volume entitled Téboly, terápia, stigma (Mania, Therapy, Stigma), from the Discovering Hungary series.
Szebeni’s album entitled Boldogok, akik házadban laknak (The Blessed, Who Live in Your Land) surveyed the world of the monasteries of the four religious orders encountered in the Hungary of the epoch (1983-86), and was published by the Corvina Publishing House; in the late eighties, he photographed the life of the Calvinists in Hungary. (It should be recognised that in Kádár-era Hungary, this was not a simple choice of subject matter.)
He showed a side revealing his public and political sensibilities in the volume entitled Vajszínű árnyalat 1988- (Butter-Coloured Hue, 1988- ), recording the events of the Hungarian and Eastern European political changes – with an accompanying essay by Péter Esterházy.
In the 1990s, he published several albums of unusual portraits of famous and lesser-known people (Arctérképek [Facial Maps], Vallomás [Confession], Dimarco-változatok [Dimarco Variations], Női vonal [Female Line], Hölgyeim és Uraim [Ladies and Gentlemen]).
In 1990, he was a founder of the Hungarian Photojournalists’ Association, and between 1990-95 he was its deputy secretary general; during the same period, he was elected member of the board of the Association of Hungarian Photographers. Between 2005 and 2010, he undertook the artistic direction of the photographic art department of the Hortobágyi International Artist Colony.
The Bécs-Budapest 2000 (Vienna-Budapest 2000, 1999) album was realised based on his idea, in which two Hungarian and two Austrian pairs of authors (photographer and writer) introduce two kindred cities.
In 1999, on the invitation of János Xantus, Szebeni played himself in the film entitled Se kép, se hang (Without a Sign). In 2009, Károly Makk invited him for a cameo role in his political thriller, Így, ahogy vagytok (As You Are). (As proof of Szebeni’s versatility.)
His “public” photographic activity continued with his book published in three languages, entitled …res publica…(2004), in which he immortalised all those dignitaries of public law, who played a determining role in Hungary’s accession to the European Union.
He published three volumes on the internal, up-and-down scene of the Budapest Kamaraszínház (Chamber Theatre) – breaking with the stereotypes of traditional theatre photography up till then (Bevilágítás [Illumination], Egy szerelem három éjszakája [Three Nights of a Love], Szín-darabok [Plays]).
His large format album, entitled Hídregény (Novel of a Bridge, 2007), presents the birth of the bridge over the Kőröshegy Valley – Central Europe’s largest bridge.
In early 2013, the photo album, LGT – Etűdök kamerára és három helyszínre (Presser Gábor jegyzeteivel) [LGT – Etudes for Camera and Three Locations (with the notes of Gábor Presser)] was published, on the occasion of the February 2013 concerts of the Locomotív GT band. The photographer presents three important events from the history of the rock band: Tabán, 1979; LGT-show, 1980; Nyugati búcsú, 1992).
The public has viewed Szebeni’s works at more than 50 solo exhibitions, while he has published more than 25 books. (And among them, many have been awarded bibliographic prizes.)
He has received the Balogh Rudolf Prize (1995), the Golden Pen of the Hungarian Press Association (MÚOSZ)(2006), and has been named Artist of Merit of the Republic of Hungary (2006).
Characteristic of his entire career – alongside the extraordinarily high level of technical execution and demanding subjects – is his close connection with associated art forms and scientific material. Literature, theatre, music, ethnography, psychology and photography, with their reinforcing impact, attain not only an aesthetic effect, but also an intellectual one.
Szebeni’s photographs are held in many public and private collections, including the Hungarian Museum of Photography, the Historical Archive of the Hungarian National Museum, and the Körmendi-Csák Collection of 20th Century Hungarian Photography.
Twenty-six of his photographs were selected as part of the collection at the Metropolitan Museum in New York.