Mother Country

Katalina Simon
September 28, 2022
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When I was a child, my nightmares featured people I loved being taken from me or a nameless threat striking when I was alone and unable to find my parents. I was a child of the Cold War. My parents were refugees who escaped from Hungary in 1956 when Soviet tanks rolled into Budapest and suppressed the revolution for freedom from a Stalinist regime. Growing up in London, I would mark time until my grandparents could come to visit us or until we would be granted a visa to visit Hungary. It was terrifying knowing there was a force more powerful than my parents that could determine when and if we saw our family. Today, as a parent of three teenagers, I watch the creeping rise of authoritarian governments and hear extreme rhetoric across the world, my childhood fears that a tyrannical force will take my family’s freedoms fill me with fear. In this work, I thread the personal, historical, political, and psychological through association. I combine images from the twentieth-century Hungarian community-based archive, my parents’ archival images, photographs appropriated from current reportage, as well as photographs I make within my own family context and daily life. Placing images from different eras and sources side by side collapses the sense that time has elapsed, that political situations have changed, and emphasizes the similarities between the last century and today. “Although life has to be lived forwards, it can only be understood backwards” – Soren Kierkegaard.

Katalina Simon is a Hungarian/American photographer whose work engages with Central Europe’s fractured past. Her work focuses on the collective history, the immigrant experience and family ties. Simon’s photographs have been exhibited in galleries and museums worldwide, including PH21 Photography Gallery, Budapest; Loosen Art Gallery, Rome; The Griffin Museum of Photography, Winchester; Praxis Gallery, Minneapolis; Fountain Street Gallery, Boston. She received a B.A. in Russian from the University of Bristol (UK) in 1991 and is a graduate of the Post-Baccalaureate certificate program in Photography from the Massachusetts College of Art and Design in Boston. She is currently pursuing and MFA in Photography at MassArt and will graduate in May of 2023.
Katalina Simon
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