To send you the very last (virtual) rays of sunshine this summer, we’d like to share a new project – Hungarian Sea – produced in 2010 – 2011 by a Polish photographer Michal Solarski.
Hungarian Sea is a nostalgic return to the times and places of childhood holidays by the sea, or to be precise, by the Balaton lake in Hungary. For six consecutive years the photographer and his family travelled across Eastern Europe in a small Fiat to reach their holiday destination, which was commonly called the Hungarian Sea. Back in the Soviet times the Balaton used to be a popular holiday resort for the working class families who – for political and financial reasons – couldn’t travel to popular holiday destinations of today such as Italy, Spain, or Greece. Back then the Balaton appeared as a colourful ‘paradise’ free of any problems or worries – something Solarski mentions in opposition to ‘sad, cold, and almost monochromatically grey Poland’ of those times.
Now, for many Eastern Europeans the Hungarian Sea brings back memories of carefree childhood summers spent with their families on the beach, almost as if that place entered a collective post-communist and post-Soviet memory (probably just like the Bulgarian Golden Sands did). Since owning a camera was still a luxury in those times, having holiday photographs from that era is rather uncommon. When going through a family album, however, Solarski was lucky enough to find a single, blurry picture of himself and his sister on one of Balaton’s piers going. As if to do justice to those magical times, Solarski returns to the Balaton over 20 years later. He revisits same places to bring back tangible documents of past happy family moments but also to realize that while the resort might not have changed too much, he’s not the same little boy…
Looking at Solarski’s cycle, I really feel transported back in time to (my imagination of) the 1980s Balaton. Photographs have a bit of a vintage feel for me – and not sure whether that’s due to the narrative, toned-down yet still paradoxically bright colours, or the slightly humorous content (e.g. a blonde, tanned diva showing off her sumptuous body; people sunbathing on a concrete pavement; or crocodile-shaped kayaks) typical of the Eastern-European portrayal of the Communist era… Nonetheless, it’s a great time-travel project and should bring few smiles on this last day of the summer 2015 🙂