michal solarski – hungarian sea

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Michal Solarski

Hungarian Sea

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The Hungarian Lake Balaton is the largest in Central Europe.

As Hungary is landlocked, the lake is often called the Hungarian Sea. From the 1960’s onwards, Balaton became a major destination for ordinary working Hungarians as well as for those from the Eastern side of the Iron Curtain, who were rewarded for their work in building socialism with a permit to travel across the border.

As we could not dream of traveling to Spain, Italy or Greece, Balaton was the closest and most achievable destination for ordinary Poles to see what’s out there. My family and I were among the lucky ones who could go and spend holidays in what appeared to us as a paradise. Equipped with government-issued food vouchers and some little amount of pocket money in local currency, we were heading South to a warm, colourful and pleasant place. For us, coming from sad, cold and almost monochromatically grey Poland it was like a window to the world.

Twenty-odd years later, going through the pages of my family album, I found only one photograph of Balaton. It was a blurry picture of me, my sister and my parents, that was taken somewhere on one of the lake’s piers. This snapshot was the only reminiscence of six subsequent summers spent by the lake.

The photographs below are my attempt to create what my parents failed to do. I try to see the world through the eyes of a little boy who used to holiday there with his parents and sister over twenty years ago. Strolling among ruins of the glamorous (back in the day) concrete villas of Castro, Brezhnev and Honecker, the memories start to flood back.

Balaton has hardly changed, it is almost exactly the same as when I left it. Perhaps a bit more rusty, but the atmosphere remained the same. Only now for me it is no longer a paradise. I have grown and changed.

‘Hungarian Sea’ is a part of the bigger body of work about the summer holiday resorts in post-communist countries. It will be continued in the region of the Black Sea and the Baltic Sea.



Michal was born in Poland. After graduating from University, where he got a distinction for his studies, he decided to go to London to pursue his career as a photographer. After a few years doing odd jobs, he finally established himself as one.

He divides his professional career between advertising and documentary photography, traveling extensively between the UK and Eastern Europe, where he produces his documentary work. Most of it is strongly based on his own background and experiences.

He is the winner of 2012 Flash Forward UK, and his work has been published in GQ Magazine, The Mail on Sunday, and Finch’s Quarterly Review.


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Michal Solarski


56 Responses to “michal solarski – hungarian sea”

  • Speaking of iphone 5’s….I need one too!

  • David :)) I think I am slowing down, buying less, working with bigger cameras and film, and will likely be left in the dust as unemployable. But this has always been my goal.


    first, Congratulations Michal on being one of the Magenta Flash Forward awardees! I was at the opening/book launch last night and 3 of your photographs from this series were there! :))…They looked gorgeous…and were the first series that was shown at the entrace. They are also among the strongest of all the work shown in the exhibition/book! :))…So happy, and surprised, to see your work there after having seen it here and written about it a few days ago.

    those in toronto who wish to see how strong Michal’s pics are in the flesh, I highly recommend!


  • Bob:

    Sorry I didn’t see you last night…you probably arrived fashionably late. I saw Michal’s series at the end of my tour (must have gone through the exhibit backwards), and I felt like telling everyone around me the BURN discussion about his work.

    Through all of that, there arose questions about the other images in the exhibit, and how far beyond me the photographers’ intent was. Ironic, because if you recall, it was the Magenta talk with Soth (2,3 years ago?)that began the inquiry for me between intent and delivery, and the awareness – if not the understanding – of such that was key to the viewer’s reception and perception. Michal’s artist statement here added to my reception of his work last night; not privy to the other’s may have lessened my appreciation. But that is not the point, is it?

    Further, since my current focus of inquiry is how the photograph is limited by the frame, and how the image can be compressed within or exploded beyond the rectangle, it was the images in the show dealing with the latter dynamic that took my time. There were two photographs that went that route and sang for me; Brett’s contribution to the book addressed it as well.

    All of this leads me to conclude that if it is of little concern to the artist that their intention is caught or lost on the viewer, it is equally of little concern to me as viewer if the work-at-hand addresses my aesthetic checklist. It’s a happy co-incidence in space/time when the two meet; maybe the good stuff, be it an essay or a single image, can bridge all the intentions and understanding of the artist and viewer at once.

  • hey jeff! :))

    wow, sorry i missed you. Actually, i’m never late to anything, actually the opposite…:))…i was there from 6:00 pm — 7:30 (free wine prior to 7!!!!)…i looked at the book 2x’s (it is a great book, but am cash broke at the moment, as u can imagine)…gorgeous book, gorgeous production as always :))…yes, Michal’s series were a stand out…also, thrilled to see to of Zhe Chen’s pics…and the Award winner’s work was great…there were also some other (more art oriented stuff I like very much)..

    i agree completely…frankly I HATE HATE HATE group shows…and though i’ve participated in quite a few years ago, i never do it now…doesnt make sense…for the reasons you’ve sighted (about artist statements and intention being available) but even like last’s night show, they just look messy and actually uninteresting…a mess really, almost all group shows, unless the curator is doing something thematically or stylistically or something…this was just an award show and so, actually, iw as pretty bored…but yes, there was strong work and i wanted to see more…though the book, for a ‘group book’ is quite beautiful..never as good as a singular book….

    actually, i think most people who exhibit in group shows (at least once they mature as authors) actually do it for either 1) some kind of award thing or some gallery) or 2) just to show somethign…i dont thing they really care (i never did) if viewer’s like/get the work shown…because you at least need that dialog and fuller sequence…most of the stuff left me indifferent, but i also understand these are primarily ‘young’ photographers (though jenn ackerman was included)..andyes, i agree…as you will see soon ;))…i am also interested in the tension between what is in the frame and what lay outside…or also, destroying what is in the frame to such a point that it asks, what possible lay outside to have collapsed this,e tc….yea, i remember Alec’s talk (you should have her Jack Burman’s, the best talk of that show) 2 years ago…totally…

    time to catch up…:))..

    must run

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