Photo exhibition blends past and present of Hungarian Jewish life Tue, 10 Mar 2015

The exhibition 'Tree of life – The Jews of Hungary, 1981-2004' at Beit Hatfutsot in Tel Aviv displays a selection of 40 photographs taken by Andres Lacko. It reflect the changes in the lives of Hungarian Jews  from the 1980s to the early 2000s.
The exhibition 'Tree of life – The Jews of Hungary, 1981-2004' displays a selection of 40 photographs by Andres Lacko, which reflect the changes in the lives of Hungarian Jews in the two decades of 1980s and the early 2000s.

The exhibition blends past and present. Lacko’s first visual documentation dates back to 1981-1988, when Hungary was under Communist rule, and Jewish life was relatively meager. He took photographs throughout Hungary and Czechoslovakia mainly in places where Jewish communities no longer existed or were dying out. In that period he mostly focused on cemeteries, gravestones and synagogues converted into storehouses, as well as the elderly Jews in the towns and villages – all bearing witness to Jewish life which had vanished.

Andres Lacko has returned to Hungary and Slovakia during the past few years, and the photographs taken between 2000 and 2004 draw a different picture of Jewish life since the fall of Communism (1989). They depict the dynamic life of the Jewish community and reflect the participation of young people in communal life.

This photographic project by Lacko, an Israeli of Hungarian origin, began after a visit he paid in 1978 with his father to the village where his grandfather was born, Dunaszerdahely, Czechoslovakia (now Dunajská Streda, Slovakia). The visit aroused his interest in Jewish history and culture. “For me, taking these pictures was a journey into my family’s past, about which I knew very little” he says. “It may have been my way of finding my roots.”

The exhibition is being displayed in conjunction with the Hungarian Embassy in Israel. It will be exhibited in Hungary at the Photography Museum in Budapest and will then tour other galleries throughout Hungary. It has benefitted from the support of the World Jewish Congress, among other institutions.

Andres Lacko was born in Argentina in 1947 into an assimilated Jewish family of Hungarian origin. His parents moved to Peru in 1966, where he studied sociology at the Catholic University of Lima.

Between 1975 and 1986 he lived in Budapest, where he studied at the Film Academy. One of his teachers was the renowned film director István Szabó. In 1986 Lacko settled in Israel.

Beit Hatfutsot - The Museum of the Jewish People is located on the campus of Tel Aviv University. The museum opened in 1978. At the time, it was considered as one of the most innovative museums in the world. The idea to establish Beit Hatfutsot was proposed by Nahum Goldmann, co-founder and president of the World Jewish Congress, who sought to create a monument to worldwide Jewish communities, past and present.