Laszlo Kondor, A Hungarian / American Life in Photography

  • 4 Jan 2018 11:00 AM
Laszlo Kondor, A Hungarian / American Life in Photography
I am a retired photographer living in Kapolcs, having left Hungary in 1956, eventually arriving in the City of Chicago, my home base for the next 35 years. I repatriated in 1996 with a large archive of prints and negatives from 30 years of a very diverse photographic career.

Between 1962 and 1996 my work as a Hungarian/American photographer has taken me to the Vietnam War as a combat photographer, later the personal photographer of Mayor Richard J. Daley of Chicago, and then creating fine-art photography in my Chicago Studio.

I have been very fortunate in my American career, but today, retired with my American wife, my perspective has changed from creating the work to striving to introduce the resulting images to my fellow Hungarians.

This March I will exhibit a body of vintage photographs from the 1960’s - 1980’s of Chicago public art and architecture at FUGA Center for Architecture in Budapest.

1. Where did you grow up?
Till the age of 16, I spent my childhood in the Hungarian countryside, then as a 1956 immigrant I finished my high school education in Innsbruck Austria, 1961 I immigrated to the USA, became an expat, continuing my education at the University of Chicago. The in 1996 I repatriated to Hungary with my American wife.

2. If you could be an expat anywhere in the world, where would you choose?
Well in ITALY!!! Having travelled as a photographer all over the world, I came to the personal conclusion, Italy has it all. I met the most exuberant people, listened to wonderful opera, explored the ever changing architecture and of course feasted on the most incredible food in the world! In my opinion!

3. What would you miss most if you moved away from Hungary?
Of course those most missed would be my family and friends…but who can live without the sound and the poetry of the Hungarian language – where the pedestrian” shoelace” becomes the softly melodic, “cipofűző.”

4. Friends are in Budapest for a weekend - what must they absolutely see and do?
To really SEE the beauty of the city, they must view Budapest from top of Gellert Hill – on a summer night! Walk up, close your eyes then turn and be breathless! And not to be missed, the Széchenyi Medicinal Bath in Budapest in winter, in the outside pool’s hot water with snow falling on your nose! Or a dress-up-night at the Opera House. A weekend is not enough.

5. What is your favourite food?
My sister Eva’s stuffed cabbage! I beg her once a year to cook this for me…

6. What is your favourite sport / form of exercise?
Exercise…I am allergic to it! But I wouldn’t say no to a walk with the dogs in Kapolcs Village.

7. What is your favourite place in Hungary?
The lake, the vineyards, the ruins of medieval castles, unique village gems and beautiful restored farmhouses in the Northern Lake Balaton region are my favourites. Of course, my cottage in Kapolcs Village!

8. What career other than yours would you love to pursue?
To be a lyric opera tenor! Fantasy, I cannot sing.

9. What’s a job you would definitely never want?
An accountant, I am an artist, a visual person. Thank god others have helped me stay out of debtor’s prison.

10. Where did you spend your last vacation?
We drove to Austria, spending a weeklong drive-trip with friends from Chicago to sexy Salzburg, elegant Vienna and the delightful Salzkammergut.

11. Where do you hope to spend your next one?
We are so well located for a drive trip to Croatia, to gorge ourselves on wonderful seafood.

12. What was your favourite band, film, or hobby as a teen?
In my expat years in America, Federico Fellini’s Amarcord was played in a Chicago movie house, only my brother and I laughed till we cried. We saw the humour – it was our European childhood. Later the American musical film Grease left me perplexed! The American audience however was roaring in laughter. We lamented having never owned a 57 Chevy!

13. Apart of temptation what can’t you resist?
Today I binge watch the German television production, Babylon Berlin, watching it ad-nauseam.

14. Red wine or white?
How can anyone avoid the temptation of a full bodied red, a good Villány Merlot or a good Burgundy?

15. Book or movie?
Book. Reread your youthful favourite twenty years later, the book hasn’t changed, you have.

16. Morning person or night person?
My wife wakes up running, I run at night…. Imagine!!

17. Which social issue do you feel most strongly about?
Social inequality in my country, I have no answers.

18. Buda or Pest side?
This is a question from another era, there is so much to explore and enjoy on both sides of the Duna in Budapest, how could one pick? We used to live in the hills of Buda, and were jealous of the nightlife wonders in Pest. Hmmm - is the grass always greener somewhere else?

19. Which achievement in your life are you most pleased about?
My life as a photographer took me around the world a few times. Looking over this life, I feel that I produced some of my best work the two years I spent as a combat photographer during the Vietnam War, under the most challenging conditions.

20. What would you say is your personal motto?
I once meet the famous American/Hungarian historian John Lukacs. So, with his permission, I use his motto, “Hungary is my mother, America is my wife, I love them both.”

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