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!

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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!

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Consent, at its best

Unknown photographer. Daguerreotype. Collection of Cobie Hijma.

(front of the closed case)

The traces of this keen gentleman are looking at us with such curiosity and ready-to-actness as if the 1850s only happened last week. He reminds me of a dear friend with a similar physique and just as open to the world. (I wonder if he will recognise himself reading these lines.)

I love daguerreotypes. They are the perfect embodiment of photography and nostalgia poetically merged: a moment of time quite literally encapsulated and eternalised. They make me think of glass coffins covered with the most soothing, soft textile one might find, politely giving the onlooker an active, decisive role in whether to glimpse or not. A kind of loving freedom given to the receiver: a small yet appropriately heavy, one-of-a-kind present from someone that has left a layer of themselves within its cushy, warm insides. I’m all yours: just open it up and I will be looking at you—if you want it so. Consent at its best.

Based on old movies from the last 120 years, I often think about how human nature has not really changed. Not in the past century at least. We use different technologies, dress according to various fashion trends, all of us consider our haircut the best in human history, and sure, we follow constantly updating norms. The core is unchanged, however. We are fueled by the exact same things: chasing love, wealth, and being wounded by pain.

These days, nevertheless, we shed copies of ourselves as if it guaranteed some sort of an ever-lasting life. Picture-taking has become the tool for leaving a legacy behind, or so we would like to think. Is this a real thing? Or let me rephrase: how can we do it the right way? Are there means to make it indeed lasting and meaningful, more than just a (virtual) pile of junk left behind by an unknown entity desperate to leave a trace? For common mortals, I mean. The rich and famous are different; and so are artists. They have found and mastered tools to achieve some sort of an everlasting “life”.

I would like to be remembered one way or another. Not leaving a child behind, I will need to be creative. (Kids ensure remembrance only for a couple of generations anyways.) My plan is to write books, giving the freedom of choice to people whether they open up the pages and immerse themselves in my thoughts—if they want it so. A completely different concept from a daguerreotype, but I do like a veil of characters hiding some of me. Probably it is not so much remembrance I’m hoping for, after all, but leaving something worthy behind.

Tired of looking at my outsides? Check out what’s hidden!

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