Reka Reisinger is a photographer who currently resides in Burdett, New York where she works as a trail guide on a ranch. Reisinger was born in Budapest, Hungary where she travels to frequently to photograph her homeland, the central focus of her work.
Reisinger graduated from Bard College in 2004 where she studied under the guidance of Stephen Shore, An-My Le and Barbara Ess among other renowned photographers. She received her MFA in photography in 2007 from the Yale University School of Art where she studied with Tod Papageorge, Chip (Richard) Benson and Gregory Crewdson.
Reisinger was one of the youngest photographers to be included in the Greater New York exhibition at PS1/MoMA in 2005. She has been included in many group exhibitions nationally and internationally at venues such as Exit Art in New York City, The Sculpture Center in Long Island City, NY, The Center for Photography at Woodstock, NY, The Camera Club of New York, the Swiss Institute in New York City, Lisa Ruyter Gallery in Vienna, Austria, and the Midlands Art Center in Birmingham, UK. She had a solo exhibition at Real Artways in Hartford, CT.
Reisinger received the Rema Hort Mann Foundation Grant in 2013, the Light Work Grants in Photography in 2019 and was a finalist for the Capa Grand Prize in Hungary in 2015. She enjoys being part of the upstate New York community and has attended the artist residency at the Saltonstall Foundation for the Arts in Ithaca and has taught at Syracuse University.
I choose to photograph people and instances that evoke the atmosphere I experienced during my frequent childhood visits to Hungary throughout the early post-communist era. Through my photography I undertake the seemingly impossible task of documenting a moment recently passed. I use a 4×5 camera and photograph my subjects in the midst of activities so as to make the viewer unaware of my presence. I am driven by a sense of urgency to collect visual artifacts of a culture that I look to with affection and admiration before its imminent transformation.
I had the opportunity to experience Hungary at a pivotal time in its history subsequent to its opening up to the West. It was a unique period when antiquated traditions still persisted in the context of an increasingly modern world. I witnessed first hand an era when women in my grandmother’s village still wore the traditional costume, a time before telephones and extensive highway systems, a time before shopping malls and mass media. Simultaneously, I observed the influx of western culture and the Hungarian people’s varied reception and at times unusual interpretation of a lifestyle that was already familiar to me. My memories of this period shaped my interpretation of the Hungarian cultural landscape that I endeavor to portray in my photographs.
This fading version of Hungary I am nostalgic for is revealed through images of quotidian life: work and leisure, markets, agriculture and livestock, vehicles that probably wouldn’t pass inspection, household and workplace interiors. Images of the younger generation demonstrate an effort to uphold cultural traditions, such as the photograph of the archer boy. On the contrary, the image of the nail salon reveals a generational shift towards modern ideals of beauty. The photograph of the mannequins dressed in traditional costume wearing heavy make-up exemplifies a desire to describe in an enticing way a vanishing way of life. These juxtapositions are at the heart of my photographs because they create a sense of humor in the work while posing a more profound question about cultural identity during a time of change.
To view more of Reka Reisinger’s work please visit their website.