Though the Hungarian Museum of Photography is not in Budapest but in Kecskemet, 86 kilometres from the capital, there is a place in Budapest that any lover of the art of photography must visit. It's not far from the city's legendary boulevard, Andrassy, in Nagymezo Street, also known as the Broadway of Budapest because of the density of cafes, galleries and theatres there. In the late 19th century this was an artists' quarter, and nearly every building bears a plaque marking the dwelling of a renowned former resident. At number 20, in the building that is now the House of Hungarian Photography. Mai Mano (1855-1917), then the court photographer, had his studio. It took 18 months to create. On the second storey is the famous Sunlight Studio, one of the great studios dating to the golden age of photography in Budapest - there were about 300 such studios, and the Sunlight Studio is still in operation. Restored in the 1990s, the original frescoes that once served as backgrounds for the portraits taken there were uncovered. The slanted ceiling has a window that appears to be chopped out of the masonry, allowing light to flood the space. After Mai Mano's death, the building had various turns of fate. For a while it held the bar and nightclub Arizona, a place that attracted many prominent persons, including King Edward VIII of Great Britain. One of the most glamorous nightspots in Budapest, it was closed in 1944 - the married couple that ran it was Jewish and the club was taken over by the Nazis. For a while the building housed the automotive club, until it was restored and reborn as the House of Hungarian Photography. There are various spaces for exhibits, a library, and a bookshop. Crossing the threshold is like entering another era. Intricate cast iron staircases, creaking parquet floors, decorative vignettes on the ceilings blend perfectly with those who work here - they seem have sprung from the walls. The gentleman in the bookshop speaks a perfect British English and somehow incarnates the spirit of the Budapest intellectual. The House of Photography also brings back memories of "goulash communism," which was in some ways a milder version of the capital "S" Socialism than in other countries in the Soviet bloc. It was easier to read books deemed dangerous in Hungarian libraries, for instance, than it was in other Socialist states. Budapest intellectuals at the time were well aware of the fact that one thing the regime could not deprive them of was what they had read. In the travel book Budapest: A Critical Guide, one of them, Andras Torok, writes that the intellectuals in the 1970s "did not care for money, power or a second home. Rather, they wanted to understand what Goethe and John Lennon wrote, in the original language."
Nagymezo utca 20
Keywords: Kecskemet, Hungary, photography, museum, museums