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FASHION AND ACTS, KAROL KÁLLAY'S LATEST EXHIBITION, SHOWS HIS LESSER-KNOWN FOCUS

Kállay's shutter reveals all


WELL-KNOWN Slovak photographer Karol Kállay, famed at home and abroad for capturing dramatic events and city landscape, now reveals himself as a fashion photographer.

KÁLLAY'S masked nudes are metaphors for human two-facedness.
photo: Karol Kállay

WELL-KNOWN Slovak photographer Karol Kállay, famed at home and abroad for capturing dramatic events and city landscape, now reveals himself as a fashion photographer.

The exhibition Fashion and Acts, running at Bratislava's Mirbach Palace, has more than 60 photos on display, some snapped in the past two or three years, and others taken 20 or 30 years ago.

The exhibition confirms Kállay's artistic interest in women. Without women there would be no fashion, and without fashion, photography would lose an important facet of its attraction: women. Kállay presents both, fully dressed fashion models and nudes.

Kállay stirred the conservative waters of the fashion photography scene back in the 1950s. He introduced his vision in the magazine Móda, the only fashion magazine in the then Czechoslovakia. With an inclination towards dynamic photography, his fashion photos display spontaneity, humour and movement.

"In the mid-1950s fashion photography was very conservative," Kállay recalls. "Fashion photos in Czechoslovakia were taken as if fashion had nothing to do with contemporary people. Models were arranged in the studio or at best in front of a manor house: they were carried in carriages and posed with greyhounds in unnatural, rigid postures. I tried to convince the editorial office of the Móda magazine that people live in clothes and it is natural that they have a crease caused by movement."

THE PHOTOGRAPHER surrounded by his everlasting beauties.
photo: Jana Liptáková

The subject, nevertheless, stayed the same: "A beautiful woman in nice clothes."

After 30 years of taking pictures for Móda, German Saison and French Jardin des modes magazines, Kállay grew tired of fashion shoots. He accepted offers to take documentary photos for German Geo and Stern magazines. He never went back to fashion photography.

Naked women have never been the focus of interest for the photographer, who will turn 80 next year. "Acts doesn't account for even one tenth of my work," said Kállay, explaining that most of his acts originated by chance, when he addressed a beautiful girl on the street and asked her to pose for him. Only a few refused. Kállay's nudes represent a search for perfect beauty in a female body, allowing her to impress in close-ups. Many of the nude models are photographed wearing masks. The photographer explains that they are meant as metaphors for the masks we wear all the time.

"People wear masks all their lives," he said, quick to add that nobody should dig deep for a philosophical explanation for these pictures.

No matter what Kállay photographs, he remains faithful to his calling of photojournalist and his actively creative approach, in which quick reaction to a concrete situation is the key. His prints remind us that photography is a dynamic language.

The exhibition Fashion and Acts is at the Bratislava City Gallery (GMB) in Mirbach Palace at Františkánske square 11. It is open daily except Monday between 11:00 and 18:00 until June 12. Tickets cost Sk80. For more information call 02/5443-1556.

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