“1 million 656 thousand. According to 2011 census, that was how many people had been living in panel apartments for just over a decade… every sixth Hungarians living in Hungary. I was one of those sixths.” writes Balázs Somorjai.
His photo series Panelvilág (Panelworld), created from this personal motivation, is a special interweaving of portraits and interiors. The images, based on conversations and taken in a considered, then staged and lit space, visualize both the multiple sides of the personality and the private space together and their interaction. The staging and the lighting effects create an opportunity to highlight and condense the important moments. The strong color scheme thus created also play an important role in the visual expression of the statement about the person presented.
Each piece in the series can be interpreted in its own right as well, but in fact together they are able to present the strange, lovable diversity that is the aim of the series.
His portrait subjects have in common that each of them created their own home, different from everyone else’s, in an apartment in one of Budapest’s housing estates. And constructed uniformity only served as a basis for the creation of these individual worlds, which were transformed from uniform apartments into individual homes, disproving the assumption that the bleakness of housing estates is not only visible in the exterior of the buildings but also typical of the interiors of the apartments in them. The pictures clearly demonstrate that these private spaces have their own character depending on the different personalities. It is one’s need and ability to shape his immediate environment in his own image, even if he lives in this large-scale, monotonous greyness.
Somorjai’s photo series are, as the artist puts it, “inspired by reality”, and this is also evident in this case. The “one-of-the-sixths” has become curious about the reality one step beyond his personal space, about those who live their daily lives in similar circumstances, who turn the possibilities offered by the panel into their own home. And it was them he photographed for years.