Adrienn Józan is a photographer born and based in Hungury. Szevasz is a Hungarian informal, slightly old-fashioned greeting to express “hello” and “goodbye.” Lujzi is Adrienn’s childhood nickname, sometimes her mom still calls her that. In the opening words of our conversation, she mentions something that really reflects her project : “I did not want to choose if it is the beginning or the end of a story, that is why the duality of szevasz appealed to me.”
Let’s start from the beginning. Tell us about how you got into photography and how this project came about?
I was a secondary school student when my parents decided to replace our compact digital camera with a DSLR. I started playing around with it and also discovered Photoshop. I first uploaded my photos to Deviantart. Before Instagram it was the number one place for many artists. My interest in photography gradually grew and I started learning it by myself. For long it remained a hobby. I was concentrating on my university studies then my work career. None of them were photography related.
The turning point was in 2016 when I participated in a photography course at Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design. It completely changed my relationship to photography. Everything fell into place: I had a vision, I had concepts to work on, I started preferring working on series and my visual style got totally different. From a hobby it grew into a passion.
For my first series I wanted to make something self-introductory. Since I take most of my photos at home, it felt natural to start experimenting here. The concept of Szevasz Lujzi evolved as I had more photos. First it was unclear how the story will unfold. I took pictures of everything, then it turned out that I have recurring patterns that I can start working with. That is how childhood games, the relationship with my parents or growing up as a woman became the central themes.
Was your family members open to be photographed and how did you explain to them what you are doing?
My family is really supportive of me. I told them the concept and what I expected of them. Before my birth my parents had a keen interest in photography, they developed their own films at home in the bathroom. I think they never lost this experimenting, playful approach to photography. The most common hardship we faced during the shoots was staying serious while they had to do something unnatural. I ended up with so many laughing photos.
What is your opinion about postmodern theories of the family?
There are several notions of these theories I agree with. Even though my series presents the nuclear family, my goal was not to idealize it. My family means home and safety I can always rely on, but it is not the same for everyone. I am personally absolutely fine with the idea of family changing, as long as the family members are happy. I don’t mind if a family consists of a single mom raising a kid, or a same sex couple adopts children etc. Sadly there are still people who are extremely strict about the traditional gender roles and attack those who dare to deviate from them.
What is the proper way of presenting these works in natural size? Are they big framed prints? Do you intend to create a photobook?
At the end of 2019, as part of a manual bookbinding workshop at Lapozó, the dummy book of the series was created with the help of Emőke Dobos and Lilla Szántói. The book was designed by myself and it is featuring my kindergarten drawings. I drew inspiration from pop-up books for children and created pages which can be folded out and spreads that cannot be opened, you can only peep in between the pages. There are no instructions in the book, the viewer has to explore the special elements themselves, it is like a game.
Only a couple of the photos have been exhibited so far. My goal for the future is to find a place where the whole series can be displayed. As the book turned out to be an unconventional album, my aim is to have a similar exhibition customized for the venue.
Can you please name us your major influences? -not necessarily in the photographic space
Viola Fátyol was one of the teachers at the photo course, and later she became my mentor and great friend who helped me launch my photographic career. Initially she had the biggest impact on my work.
I mostly draw inspiration from the works of other photographers and visual artists. When it comes to self-portraiture and family photography, all of my main idols are females: Elina Brotherus, Sally Mann, Elinor Carucci and Francesca Woodman.
What are you working on now?
Last year I was awarded the Hungarian National Cultural Fund’s grant to work on my second series. Its working title is Spread Your Wings and is dealing with everyday life in my small hometown. The aging population faces problems induced by the Hungarian moral and political crisis and that young people leave the town in a growing number. This trend is not typical of my place but many smaller towns around Europe have to deal with it, as well.
You work and live in Hungary. Can you give us some info about how Photography is been perceived as a medium of art in your homeland?
Looking at the surface only, it looks better year by year. There is a photo festival in Spring and the Hungarian Month of Photography in Autumn, both organised annually. A growing number of museums and galleries are dealing with photography, and it can be studied at three universities now. Most events are concentrated in Budapest, the rest of the country offers less opportunities for art lovers.
Speaking of an artist’s view, the situation is different. If a young, emerging Hungarian artist does not have commissions or a daily job, then it is really hard to make a living of art. If I didn’t have a job I wouldn’t afford working on my portfolio. The above mentioned National Cultural Fund that supported numerous exhibitions, artists, magazines etc., is going to be restructured and become more political.
More on her website.