Marton Magocsi: King of My Castle

All families are full of legends.

A few of them are true, many of them are based in truth, and most are just legends.

Nevertheless, in recent years, I have felt our legends’ settings, my parents' and grandparents' experiences come back to life around me. It’s as if I had grown up with the illusion that these stories of living with repression and hate would be things of the past. It all seems very surreal.

To document this perceived mix of the past and present, I turned to using long-expired film, exposing the found medium to the images of own life and of present day Hungary I see working as a photojournalist. The result is a mix of reality as recorded by the camera, distortion by the whims of the medium, and my own arbitrary narrative, not confined by my journalistic need to record a perceived truth, a kind of created evidence. The look and feel of the images are decades old, yet the content is very contemporary.

Nagykónyi, Playground, 2017

My first experience of the West in the middle of the eighties was how much better playgrounds in Hamburg were.

My parent's most vivid memory of that trip was the no-man's land between East and West Germany.


The curator of the exhition, Judit Gellér on the series (photos continue below the text):

The scenes are familiar. Even cozy, so to say. There is the playground on the outskirts of the village. The flags are hung on the dirty tiles of the marketplace stand. And there is the TV with the turtle-shaped back, or the tent garages at Normafa, one of the most frequented green spots in the Buda Hills. They have hardly changed from the look of things, but their content and significance have been very much altered. They recall memories while being very much current.

Márton Magócsi set out to explore stories related to his own family and friends. His creative path encompasses a recalling of the past, the revival of memories and events, then – by colliding the real and unreal, the old and the new – the interpretation of the present, that is, a kind of search for the truth.

The photographs complemented with texts become subjective interpretations of irony and self-irony, through which we can see the resurrection of partially or fully processed past events. The analog technique, together with the arbitrary distortions and chromatic aberrations caused by the expired film, result in the photographs resembling the atmosphere of old family pictures, which could be found in the albums, drawers or shoeboxes of any of us. The method and objective of taking the photographs are exactly this: recalling a sense of familiarity during which the personal memories of the author are included in the collective memory.

In the process of getting to know these private memories, the recent history of Hungary, which is closely intertwined with the geographical, social, economic and political context, is also ultimately delineated. How – if at all – was our lifestyle, value system changed by the change of political regime, the opening up of the borders, the resulting availability of foreign products? What legacy has the Socialist past left us? What did the free market change and leave untouched in this Central-Eastern European country predisposed to seclusion?

Márton Magócsi’s series titled King of My Castle is about the presentation of his own experiences, the reinterpretation of family legends and stories of friends, which, in a sense, means not only the recalling and processing of the personal but also of the collective past. However, in the slide projection, we see the past and the present, the real and the fictive intertwined: the archive and the recent images are presented in an unsettling sequence. Memories are creating memories.


Lyukóvölgy, Flight, 2017

They told us they were trying to get the pickup out of the snow to take a woman to a mothers' home to escape from her abusive husband.

Family legend has it that my grandfather had my mother's family all set up to flee to Austria in 1956, but my aunt had pneumonia and he refused to travel on the back of a truck with a sick child.


Budapest, BMW, 2017

These garages are not nice in the Buda Hills, but they serve their purpose.

It was also not nice, that my grandfather had his car confiscated for military purposes during the Second World War. But at least he could hide his life in a small shack and it wasn’t confiscated for military purposes.



Biharkeresztes, Trucks, 2017

They took a rest close to the Romanian border on the road between east and west.

My grandmother was Austrian. Our family always had a part living in the West with connections and roots in the East, and a part living in the East with connections and roots in the West.



Budapest, Canadian Pomelo, 2016

Almost every family in our circle had relatives who had emmigrated, mostly to Canada.

Our Canadian uncle was in Hamburg, Germany, and it seems we had some distant relatives in Florida who left in 1956. I was always very happy with the Bounty chocolate bars my uncle would bring us in the nineties when he was able to visit home again.



Derecske, Football, 2017

It's as if they knew the future in Derecske when they constructed this giant concrete football.

My grandmother was always angry at my father and grandfather in when they snuck away to football matches in the sixties.



Budapest, 1956, 2017

My father was a child during the 1956 revolution and when his father was jailed afterwards.

He was a judge in Kecskemét, and president of the revolutionary committee of the county. When I am assigned to take photos of court proceedings there, I always put a flower under my grandfather's memorial plaque in the courthouse.



Miskolc, Heavy Industry, 2017

Heavy industry is now mostly defunct under market conditions in Miskolc.

My mother's father, a civil engineer, spent his weekdays living and working in Miskolc after the Second World War building communist heavy industry.


Budapest, 1989, 2017

We spent two and a half years in the United States when communism collapsed in Eastern Europe, and my parents followed the events on CNN with perplexed hopefulness.

I have no memories of the events at home, the only image burned into my mind is that of the dead Ceausescu, even though my parents told me not to look.



Budapest, Winner, 2017

When my parents and their friends organised competitions for the kids, they always created so many categories that everyone would get a medal and could feel like a winner.

I was really disappointed with second place in my first real competition.



Bag, Wood Thief, 2017

A man crossed the snowy field back to the slums of the village with a piece of wood he had taken from the nearby forest.

I had great expectations when we moved to the United States from then still socialist Hungary in 1989: great playgrounds (like in Hamburg!) for example and I was really hoping my parents would be able to afford buying a video camera and my best friend and I could shoot the LEGO movie we had been planning for years.

My parents had great expectations when we moved back to then no longer socialist Hungary in 1991.



Pannonhalma, Benedictine High School, 2017

My family has been intelligentsia for at least three generations.

My mother's father was the seventh child of a Schwabian shoemaker, he climbed to become a civil engineer with his brains between the two world wars.



Budapest, Relocation, 2017

The hill where the wrecking machine stands is where I asked my wife, then girlfriend, if we would move in together.

The hill was since demolished, because someone else, generally considered even more important, also decided to move.



Budapest, Protest, 2017

I think I was lucky with my family, shame, as a social construct and disciplinary tool in this meaning has not been part of our tool set since my grandparents.



Budapest, Chairlift, 2017

I never once saw my mother and father argue as I grew up. I don’t know how they did it, and I don’t know if this had anything to do with how I screwed up my relationships in my teenage years and twenties. I do know that I blamed them for all my misery back then.



Gelej, <3, 2017

Polgardi, although on the other side of the country, is still mentioned with affection and nostalgia in my mother’s family. Relatives lived there, and my aunt and grandmother stayed with them during some of the Second World War.



Sukoró, Neighbour, 2017

My parents' summer house is where I can go to relax and feel like a child again, unless the neighbour starts renovation of his pool at six in the morning on Sunday.

When my father and my mother bought the small village house in the eighties, it was surrounded by vineyards, and they would come here for what pundits call internal emigration.



Budapest, Staying Home, 2017

I had to be around four or five years old. My father arrived home after a hard day at work, I was being naughty, and I got a slap on my buttocks. I don’t remember any of this, but he says I looked up at him and asked: “This wasn’t really for me, was it?”. He also says it was the only time he ever hit me. I believe him.



Own one!

Limited edition of 5 giclée prints of each image in the series are available in 75x50cm size. Hahnemühle matte archival paper on Gatorboard framed in white, hand-painted Tilia. Anti-reflex glass available upon request. E-mail me for details!
Share a legend!

Do you have an own family legend that comes to mind viewing these images? Please support this ongoing project by sharing it with me!
See the slideshow!

A slideshow of extra photos from the series and from my own and my father's archive accompanies the exhibition. I will be sharing one each day on my Facebook-page with the background story.