Daniel Kovalovszky

An Infernal Play


In 1945 Mátyás Rákosi, the leader of the Hungarian Communist Party, following the Soviet example, introduced a new Stalinist dictatorship in which human rights were severely violated.  As a result of show trials, several hundred thousands of political convicts were sent to forced labor camps, were imprisoned and hundreds were executed based on fictional charges. In most cases the charges consisted in supplying data to western powers and secretly organizing a revolt against the people’s power. Having found the memoirs of the political prisoner a very dreadful and unknown world opened up for me. I decided to start a visual collection to shed light on a segment of what was happening during these obscure years that is unknown to many but still significant: the world of prisons in Hungary between 1945 and 1963.



This world is disappearing unnoticed, and with the last old surviving witnesses and scenes. There is a time pressure for my work as there are fewer and fewer former prisoners who are still alive, and the places themselves also continuously disappear or change their function. The scenes will be holding the remembrance of the physical and mental suffering of thousands for a long time. This is the time to record what happened in the past for the next generations, because it will not be possible to do this in 3-4 years.



My work (2016-2019) is about the old survivors who spent long years in the ‘darkest’ prisons and labor camps of the dictatorship I documented. They live privately, hidden from publicity, carrying this heavy historical burden for which they no time left in their lives to process and they still haven’t received proper moral or financial compensation for their sufferings. I made long interviews with the old political prisoners which have significantly changed my personal approach to the 20th century history of Hungary. I hope my work will also become historically meaningful at one point and can show something to the future generations.



Short Bio

Daniel lives and works in Hungary. After graduating from high school, he studied portrait photography and photojournalism in Budapest and has been working as a photographer since 2001. Between 2001 and 2010, he made several documentary photography essays, mostly about aging in Hungary. Over the last few years, he has become deeply interested in landscape and portrait photography, working on long-term and conceptual projects. His works have been exhibited in several galleries and museums in Eastern Europe and the United Kingdom.

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The Emerging Photographer Fund is supported by generous donors to the Magnum Foundation

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