Balázs Fromm: A City Built of Steel
22 • 10 • 12Balázs Fromm
The photography grant created for commemorating the photographer, professional writer and photography teacher József Pécsi (1889–1956), was founded by the Ministry of Culture and Education in 1991. Its purpose is to help to start the career, creative work, and development of talented photographers working as independent artists, and to provide them with favorable conditions for the creation of high-quality artworks which are modern both in terms of form and content.
In 1949, after the communist takeover, the Hungarian Working People’s Party decided to implement the first five-year plan. The regional development and industry establishment plan based on the Soviet model focused primarily on the development of heavy industry. However, the new socialist cities and their gigantic factories, created for political reasons based on socialist doctrines, could only fulfill the requirements of the planned economy programs with difficulty, and only at the cost of serious shortcomings.
It is interesting to compare the historical relations of Dunaújváros, Tiszaújváros, Ajka, Ózd, and Kazincbarcika following WWII, and following the change of regime. The plan-based economic model, which had been the catalyst for the creation of Hungarian industrial towns and one pillar of the socialist economy, was no longer sustainable in the free market context after 1989.
During my work, I was concerned with visually mapping the contemporary situation
of Hungarian industrial towns, which is difficult to interpret without a socialist historical framework. With the arrival of the 1990s, industrial production of the planned economy began to decline, the role of heavy industry started to diminish, and factories began to cut back in a series of downsizing measures in the face of economic uncertainty, which had a gradual downward spiral effect on social conditions. Nearly thirty years on, the situation has subsided to a certain extent, but people living in factory towns and their industrial colonies, previously created from above, under the doctrine of the planned economy, still live in a kind of peculiar relationship with the present. This relationship is inherently ambiguous, since on the one hand it incorporates the irrevocable socialist past, and, on the other hand, the failure of the new era of neoliberal economic policy.
The various elements of the series – landscapes of the industrial towns and portraits of young people who are no longer perpetual beneficiaries of the industrial town ethos – are built on each other like a mosaic, as their present-day challenges and their vision of the future meet the ghost of empty factory halls and plants.