Zoltán Balogh’s sun-drenched photography is a visual feast for the eyes. The Hungarian photojournalist has an innate talent for capturing people and places in their most natural and unaffected state and transforming the everyday and otherwise unremarkable into images that do nothing short of stopping you in your tracks. In the last few years, his work has racked up over 100 awards and has been exhibited across the globe, including London, New York, and Bangalore, India.
Sharp-eyed MINI Space fans may remember Zoltán as the winner of our recent "All Together Now" design competition. Thanks to his shutter-savvy prowess, Zoltán won the trip of a lifetime to MINI United in the South of France. But it wasn’t just fun in the sun on this trip, we sent him on assignment to capture the event through his unique lens. MINI Space got to know the man behind the camera and, we’re proud to present the toils of Balogh's Côte d'Azur travels.
First of all, tell us about your trip to MINI United? Had you been to a MINI event before?
The trip to MINI United 2012 was awesome, I was so grateful to have been invited. I traveled with my girlfriend from Hungary and arrived late at night in Marseille. We had just got on the train when it stopped completely and went back to the station! We lucked out though when another passenger's dad drove us home from the station. MINI hired us a moped to fix the transportation problem and the next day we were ready to explore the MINI United festival and the beautiful surrounding area.
The drive to Circuit Paul Ricard at Le Castellet took us along this maze-like, winding mountain road, which we enjoyed so much. Nina from MINI was our personal guide for the festival, and we were taken to meet The Rifles backstage giving us a little taste of the V.I.P. treatment! I had never been to a MINI event before, and it was fascinating to see the infinite variations of MINI cars.
After making a photographic “mini-series” of all these MINI, we traveled back to the coast, where I got a lot of good shots of the French Riviera. You can see the whole story of my travels through pictures of the trip on my photoblog.
Your photoblog highlights a distinct, high contrast style, and you seem to revel in natural light. Yet direct sunlight is one of the most difficult mediums to work with – is this a conscious decision?
Yes it is difficult, but I’m used to it by now. I love to work with this kind of light and show silhouettes of people, and capture the way they move. I use gradient optical filters to counterbalance the strength of the sunlight; it’s the only way to handle this level of contrast between intense light and shade.
What projects are you currently working on?
I take photographs every single day, so it’s less of a hobby and more the main part of my life. Currently I’m working on four or five documentary projects in parallel with my everyday, commercial work. “Expired Time” is a documentary about the life of the homeless in the outskirts of Budapest. Another project deals with the hardships of everyday life for a young couple living in the slums. These works are more socio-political documentary photography. In the last few days I have just began two new projects; one is set in a girl’s reformatory and the other looks at intravenous drug users. But not at all my work deals with such heavy themes — there are light-hearted projects too, like my photographs from a retirement home for former nuns. These are all long-term projects, but a good story can be photographed in a single day too — you never know.
The debate rages today between analogue vs. digital. Which side of the photographic ‘great divide’ do you fall on?
I do both, actually. I love working with film and waiting patiently for the results. It’s a completely different feeling from having control over everything immediately. I use both 35mm film and 6x6 medium format too. Most of my personal work is shot on film but it varies and largely depends on my first impressions from the place I am photographing. But digital technology has the benefit of making post-processing much easier and gives me wider range. I prefer to use digital when I encounter unexpected themes, in my daily photographs. But when I am serious about a project I shoot film.
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Looking for a little exposure of your own? Follow in Zoltán’s tracks and enter MINI Space’s background competition, Strength in Numbers. There’s always a new chance to score valuable prizes and get your name out. Submit now!