The orchestrated candid

A monochrome family portrait of a mother and two children. The toddler is sitting on the floor, flipping through a book, while the mom is seated on a chair with a baby restingon her right arm. With her left hand, she is carefully holding the little one, her gaze lost in the baby's presence. Their clothing is unremarkable, not their Sunday best. From the left, sunshine is puring through a window, stroking the mom and the toddler's left side and highlighting the baby's white gown and little face.
Unknown photographer. Gelatin silver print.

Collection of Réka Szentirmay. (front)

This picture is an early forerunner of today’s social media images: a visual proof of bliss, effortlessly performed without even the slightest stink of production. These images are to look like genuine moments captured by a lucky photographer that happened to be at the right spot at the right time. It is an art form, the orchestrated candid: making something convincingly accidental yet perfect is not for the faint-hearted.

This is a beautiful shot without a doubt. And it is at least semi-accidental: directing a baby is impossible and the big sister is also not yet old enough to follow all commands from a photographer. But the rest is heavily controlled. It is a lovely fusion of lights and shadows, a balanced record of maternal achievement. Such harmony does not happen without skillful preparation. One might be born with a sense of good composition but trapping the light like this needs mastery both with the camera in hands and later in the darkroom. (Note the mother’s eyes.) Even the messy backdrop suggests preparedness. So much so that I wonder if it is indeed in someone’s own house or quite possibly a real studio—even if it’s the business of someone on a low budget.

I do love how no one is interested in the photographer. My favourite detail is the baby’s resigned patience, probably envisioning the next breastfeeding session. The mom is consumed by the sight of her youngest child, while the eldest is flipping through a book. I imagine her thinking how she has seen better, but it will do for the near future.

It appears to be a peaceful little community where, at this very moment, everyone is rather satisfied with their lives—or not unhappy at least. Family bliss at its best.

I started to collect vintage photographs with a very specific idea in mind. I was looking for “faceless” women, whatever the reason behind the facelessness might be: technical issues, the male gaze, motherly absorptions in an offspring, etc. This painterly piece is the perfect embodiment of what I’m looking for when it comes to my collection. A nicely timed appearance here.

Tired of looking at my backside? Check out my front!

Do you like what we are doing? Support us on Ko-fi.



Unknown photographer. Gelatin silver print. Collection of Cobie Hijma. (back)

The young man in this picture is supposed to show nothing else than his best attire, confidence and readiness for whatever crap Life might throw at him, yet I sense some sort of awkward resistance in his thoughtful presence. Maybe a refusal to grow up—or it could be the gorgeously decorated but incredibly uncomfortable-looking chair pushing exactly the most painful spots in his back.

For some, it is an unwelcome moment in life: becoming an adult. Facing the expectations of the world, official authorities demanding respect they often don’t seem to have earned, making a living—cleaning up your own filth. Society and its hopes are often just as uncomfortable as some furniture to sit on: they might be lovely to look at, but there are a few who wish to have nothing else to do with it.

The source of my unease might be his lips: not smiling, not strict, simply in the process of just about trying to say something, frozen in time with the unspoken thought trapped in his mind. „I actually wanted to be an actor.” „I’m not that much into law, you know, but I’m to take over the family business one day.” „What did you say again? Why can’t I have my instrument in this picture?” “Could you please hand me a pen? I would like to feel more in charge of my own fate.”

But then again, can I even imagine what a young man about a century ago might have felt? Those were different times. It is hard enough to imagine what people around 18 think these days. I was there only 20 years ago, and that was a different era. Times change dizzyingly fast.

There is probably one thing that might feel more or less the same, however: the pains of “growing” some sort of stature, whatever that might be. Studying well, raising a family, having a big enough car or the latest gadgets, a higher and higher salary—or just a little money left at the end of the month so that one doesn’t have to worry about the basics until the next payment arrives.

What even is stature? Just another construct? Can one carefully refurbish the existing model and respectfully reshape it more to their liking? I can only hope.

Tired of looking at my backside? Check out my front!

Do you like what we are doing? Support us on Ko-fi.


Unknown photographer, probably 1930s. Gelatin silver print.

Collection of Réka Szentirmay. (front)

This gracefully painterly piece of treasure always reminds me of the brilliance of the unforeseen. I am fascinated by the delightful “mistakes” produced by humans or mechanical hiccups within the camera. Amongst such photographs, this is definitely the most beloved item in my collection, its pictorial qualities only heightened by its unfinishedness.

Look at this well-dressed lady frozen in the middle of a thought, blurry like a ghost. She wants to say something but it’s too late. Her time to shine is about to end, the narrow chance she had to share an idea is now gone. She hardly had time to pronounce the first syllable. She surrenders, the agony of rusting ignorance and unfairness shadowing her face. She has not given up yet, however. She will return, again and again. Until she can finally finish what she wants to say.

The perfect photographic representation of a Sisyphean task, this picture is nothing less than pain materialised. The essence of womanhood: the lingering annoyance of being unheard, being underestimated.

What an amazing object a photograph is, so readily giving itself to project our own feelings onto it! Regardless of who took this picture and when that happened, I feel a strong connection to the sitter and her torments—even though it could be simply an ill-timed imprint of an otherwise entirely happy moment. For me, it echoes the struggles all women face.

A pity that many do not realise that all that’s needed is the chances given. Honestly, that is all a human wants.

There is another side to every story. And it’s just one click away!

Do you like what we are doing? Support us on Ko-fi.