The winners of New Philosopher Writers’ Award XIX ‘Life’ are: Winner: Australian academic and last quarter’s runner-up Phiona Stanley for…
Interview with Adam Magyar
What prompted you to do the “stainless” series, as well as your earlier work “squares” and “urban flow”?
I wanted to show the human layer…I’m trying to find energies, with lots of people and they’re all carrying some kind of personal story of belonging. But if you look at the whole thing from a distance, you see a layer, or you see human history, or you see society, but if you move closer you see their details.
Why the focus on the urban environment?
I’m capturing people between their homes and work. These hours are the rush hours, the in-between moments, and I need natural behaviour. I’m interested in moments when people are not actually doing anything. This is the time you want to forget; when you’re waiting for a train on a Monday morning and you want to accelerate that time. Why do we want to accelerate time? We need to get over that.
Why is photography important, and what do you see as the purpose of your job as a photographer?
I’m searching for some sort of truth. I’m constantly searching for some sort of energy that I would like to capture. For my work it has to happen in a short period of time, especially the videos. It happens in 12 seconds and when you look at them, you see all of the stories that you miss in your life, the ones you don’t learn about.
Your photographs capture people in a natural state, almost lost in themselves as they wait. How do you view your subjects?
I am lucky because I have the technology to capture people in this natural state. I’m using the camera, the really sophisticated machine eye that captures enormous detail in time and space, but I’m not evaluating them, I’m just showing them as they are. During those 15 seconds, it’s an in-between period of time; you are getting on the train. It’s kind of a relief that you don’t have to wait anymore, that you’re getting somewhere. Of course it has many metaphorical meanings: we don’t know where we are going; we have a kind of destination but we know that it’s not the real destination.
How important is this theme of movement or travelling in your work?
Being on the move contains possibilities, the feeling of heading somewhere and then arriving. That’s another thing: we never really arrive. It’s like happiness – we are always searching for happiness, but we cannot really find it. The times in my life when everything appeared to be pretty perfect, I was unhappy. I was running from situation to situation; I always hoped that the next city was going to be ‘it’, because it was so promising, and so beautiful. It was like waiting for the train, I was so happy that it was going to arrive. Then when I arrived, the optimism faded in a pretty short period of time.
How has your view on work changed over the years?
I work a lot. Some periods of my life I have worked 20 to 22 hours a day for weeks. I’m not sure how my body survived it. I feel that my father was my inspiration, working in his workshop. I learnt all of my manual capabilities from him and I also learnt – which is more important – the enthusiasm to work. The passionate part of my life was learnt from him.
What is the aim of your work, and what do you want people to get out of it?
With my work I always wanted to talk about “being” so that people feel it happen. And this is what I’ve been trying to nail down over the years; to make people feel. To feel this sense of being, that it is happening to them. Even if they just feel it for a second, I’m happy. One other important thing is that you rarely see interactions in my work. I try to avoid depicting interactions because I think in the end people are alone. Even if we belong to people who we love, in the end we are alone. At certain moments we are really alone, and that is something that I want to make people see and feel.