Stephen was invited to exhibit his work and participate in a series of cultural/educational events surrounding the 50th Anniversary of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution, including the prestigious George Eastman House and an exhibition in Boston - "Budapest Then And Now" at the Hungarian Consulate along with Eric Lessings photographs from 1956. Stephen Spinder - an animated speaker - is an American who first visited Hungary 15 years ago, fell in love with the people and the culture, and has been photographing there ever since. He brings awareness of the 1956 Hungarian revolution and gives a talk about his interesting and incredibly unique 15-year history - his discovery of and travel through Transylvania and his city-life in Budapest. His love affair with Transylvania started in America in 1990. A year later he witnessed 'the real thing' in Budapest and Transylvania. The rich folk traditions in Transylvania became his passion; through his photos and stories we take a personal journey through this fabled landscape of Hungarian life.
Letter of Acknowledgement, Recommendation and Support
Elekes Botond, Ministry of Hungarian Culture
The intent of this letter is to acknowledge, recognize and support the talents and continued work of Mr. Stephen Spinder, an established American photographer with extensive ties to Hungary.
Mr. Spinder came to me over four year ago seeking support and guidance from us, the Hungarian Ministry of Culture, for his 10 years of photo-documentary work on the Hungarian minorities of Romania (Transylvania). This is a folk culture that still thrives, still survives today, in spite of the slow march of western consumerism. They still practice their ancient living traditions and thereby protect and preserve their culture. Mr. Spinder's work is centered on music and dance traditions and how this folklore is interlaced with identity and a sense of life's value.
I have seen Mr. Spinder's images, and his sensitivity to these people shows in his dedication and commitment to continue what has become his life's passion: to document the Hungarian people of Transylvania. I appreciate Mr. Spinder's passion for his work, his sincere interest, and his focused vision. I endorse and recommend his work.
The Hungarian Ministry of Culture has already taken concrete steps to celebrate Mr. Spinder's mission. Our Ministry purchased his work last year because we felt it very appropriately complimented the Cultural Ministers protocol gifts. I am also proud and honored to announce that Mr. Spinder has been invited to exhibit his portfolio,"Ten Years In Transylvania" under the auspices of the Budapest Spring Festival, the city's most prestigious international art celebration. The exhibition was facilitated in part, through support from the Cultural Ministry.
The upcoming exhibition follows Mr. Spinder's recent showing of his Budapest portfolio, "An American in Budapest - A Grand View", at the Benczúr Ház gallery, sponsored by the US Embassy and opened by Deputy Chief of Mission Ms. Janet Garvey. At the opening, newly appointed Hungarian Ambassador to Peru, Mr. Péter Kraft, publicly invited Mr. Spinder to represent Hungary through an exhibition in Lima.
That a foreign artist has shown such dedication to a craft and cause so close to our hearts should be highly commended. He has given years in the region building an irreplaceable documentation, which has contributed to the preservation of Hungarian traditional culture. We ask that you assist Mr. Spinder in facilitating the continuation of his work in Transylvania.
Should you require any further information or documentation, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Budapest is home again for me after a successful, yet lengthy 6-month, book/exhibition tour in USA, where my two published books found great recognition with book launch/exhibitions, and exposure in major US media including the New York Times.
One man's views
MORE than 120 views of Budapest surprise and delight in an exquisite, new, limited-edition (1,000 copies) black-and-white photography album, although it is complemented by a section of color photos as well.
"This is a retrospective of my work since 1991," said American photographer Stephen Spinder, who has made his mark over the past 12 years with his sensitive images of Budapest and Transylvania.
According to the foreword by Peter Fath, AmCham Executive Director in Budapest, "Stephen portrays, always in a different light, the feeling and the sense of history that dominates this city¹s abundance of architectural styles... I have been photographing this city for decades, and never thought of some of the views Stephen was able to capture."
Each image in the book is unique, presenting an unforgettable view of the landscape and its inhabitants. The photographs themselves deserve praise - one (pictured) has been chosen by the Hungarian Foreign Office for its current Christmas card - as does the excellent lay-out, carefully thought-out design and fine printing of the album. Stephen Spinder will be signing copies of his book at the Mai Manó Museum of Photography, Budapest Hungary.
FOCUS ON BUDAPEST
Old beauty through new eyes
It is not often that a city's charm and beauty can be expressed through a series of photographs. But in Stephen Spinder's new photography book Budapest Through My Lens: A Solitary Perspective, the essence of Budapest is captured through photos of streets, buildings, monuments and people. Spinder, a New York born photographer, has been photographing Budapest for 10 years, most of which he spent as a resident of the city.
Originally brought to Budapest to pursue his interest in traditional Hungarian dance, Spinder developed a love for the city, which he artistically presents through this new book. While the book contains a section of color images, the majority of the photos are duotone plates that present chilling images of Budapest in a sepia-toned black and white. As expressed by AmCham executive director Péter Fáth in his foreword, "black and white reduces the image to the most basic elements of artistic vision," and the use of duo-tone helps remove the ³postcard² feel that can plague quality color photographs. The series of images, from the snow-covered lion guarding the Chain Bridge, to the moon rising over the Matthias Church, evoke a nostalgic melancholy that will be appreciated by those familiar with the city's rich history. The photographs presented focus heavily on Budapest's monuments, but images of building interiors and daily life complete the city's representation. Each image is accompanied by a short caption from the photographer, describing the subject and his experience composing the image.
New Yorker finds home in the heart of Transylvania
Originally from New York, Stephen Spinder has travelled all over the globe, but now calls home wherever there is a folk dancing festival. Aside from his passion for folk dancing, Spinder takes beautiful fine art photographs of all the places his dancing feet take him and these works hang in some of the swankiest offices in Budapest. Spinder has been commissioned to take photographs by many of the top international corporations resident in the Hungarian capital, as well as the American Chamber of Commerce and the American Embassy.
The Budapest Office of Tourism and former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright have works by Spinder in their private collections. Spinder has taken pictures all over the region, but he specializes in the culture and lifestyle of Erdély, the Transylvanian region now in Romania, but still with a mainly ethnic Hungarian population. The portraits of the locals that Spinder succeeds in capturing with sensitivity tell an entire life story.
"With this exhibition I am trying to bring together the music, the dance, and the people I know who care as much about the cultural lifestyle as I do - the very ones who got me so fascinated in this topic in the first place. With the music and the dance, I want to bring my photos to life and present to the audience as I experienced them myself," explained Spinder.
Those interested in looking into the heart of Transylvania, can see a selection of Spinder¹s work showing at the gallery and exhibition hall of the popular Vista Travel Center. The show opens appropriately on the 10th anniversary of Spinder taking his first photograph of the region.
The works preserve on film the Hungarian traditions passed down through the ages that remain unchanged in remote parts of the country. However, some vestiges of a proud culture are now under threat, as Spinder relates, "I return continually to the mountains of Székelyföld, the hills of Kalotaszég and the valley of Szék. They have a disco now in Szék instead of a tánchaz. That means something, I guess. But otherwise, my impressions are always of time standing still, or at least existing in complete absence of Western influences."
Ten Years in Transylvania: Traditions of Hungarian Folk Culture
The photographer captured unique images revealing the folk culture and lifestyle of the Hungarian people in many regions of Transylvania: Szek, Mezoseg, Kalotaszeg, Mera, Kolozsvar and Gyimes and many smaller villages such as, Korosfo, Magyarvalko, and Valaszut, plus some others. This book is a *must* have for anyone who loves folk culture, traditional folk arts, and is captivated by the natural beauty of the Carpathian Mountains. The photos reveal so much about a way of life that is slowly giving away to modernization. Complex patterns and multi-colored embroidery on folk costumes of young women and girls and men's and boy's vests are just one example of the hidden treasures contained in this wonderful book. The photographer captured the faces of people of many ages engaging in the activities of life. He caught splendid images of a lifestyle and culture that is worth preserving and remembering. The natural beauty of the Carpathian Mountains with its dense forest hides villages and peasant homes that have intricately carved wooden trim decorating the eaves and elaborately decorated carved wooden gates. Revealed are onion domed churches and small chapels built of wood with carved entrances and shingled roofs. The natural rhythms of life are captured in splendid magnificence. The author had been a traditional folk dancer for many years and had performed with a traditional folk dance group which piqued his interest in the Hungarian culture. He became in his words "enthralled" by the music and dance of Hungary and Transylvania. His brief autobiography in this book reads like a fictional novel as his involvement with folk dance, traditional folk music grew into meeting some of the big name musicians and folk artists who help keep this culture alive. It culminated in his moving to Hungary in 1995 and participating in its modern history. Most highly recommended book.
Source: Budapest Sun, November 14, 2002
Source: New York Times, June 6, 2003
Source: Peter Fath, Business Hungary, December 2002
Source: American Chamber of Commerce
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