THE RAILWAY station in Banská Štiavnica was transformed into a culture hub several years ago called Banská Štiavnica Contemporary and it has been organising residential stays for visual artists. Past residential stays mostly resulted in temporary art exhibitions but last summer’s project spawned two new photography books with text in English. Katarína Hrušková, a Slovak-born photographer living abroad, and Peter Puklus, a Hungarian photographer, met last year in this picturesque Slovak mining town and have now presented their perceptions of this historic and beautiful environment in two photo books: Green Marble by Hrušková and Handbook to the Stars by Puklus.
“I did not have any specific expectations and I just tried to do my best. I am satisfied with the residential stay and super-satisfied with the book,” Puklus told The Slovak Spectator at the launch of both books on March 30 at the PHOTOPORT Center for Visual Arts in Bratislava (his dog also took part in the launch).
“For me, it was a long and laborious process but I am very happy with the results,” Hrušková, who studied in Amsterdam, told The Slovak Spectator, adding that she now plans to study at the London Royal Academy of Arts. “In making the book I actually found it much easier to write in English than in Slovak,” she said. “It is like acting in a way – you can more easily forget your true self, who you are, and transport yourself into different stories and different dimensions. Also I like the simplicity and the need to search for specific words to express myself – I really loved writing in English.”
“It was obvious for me to choose English as it is the language of communication for artists,” Puklus stated. “If you see your market as being bigger than Slovakia, Hungary, or central Europe, then it is the only choice and for me that choice was very simple.” When asked about possible continuation of the project Puklus said “a book project does not stop with its publication, it only starts; then you have to do promotion and a lot of other things”. Hrušková told The Slovak Spectator that “this project is finished but it will continue to live on in future projects, as it has become part of the artist, somewhere in the back in the mind”.
Hrušková’s book is in the form of an album with a diary accompanied with 17 black-and-white photographs showing interiors of buildings and the countryside around Banská Štiavnica, with 50 copies in the initial press run, signed and numbered, with a price of €175. Puklus’ book is a compilation of 13 colour and 37 black-and-white photos presenting urban still lifes according to the Sme daily. The initial press run was 300 copies and it costs €28.
Sme asked Zuzana Bodnárová of Banská Štiavnica Contemproary why publishing the books was part of last year’s residential stay and she responded that “Peter Puklus was to come for three months but then stayed for almost four. We came to like him and his dog and after he left we started missing him. We wanted something that had been created here during that stay to remain in the form of book”.
The future of the Banská Štiavnica railway station and the culture centre it houses could be endangered as the Slovak railway operator announced that it plans to stop operating the route from Hronská Dúbrava to Banská Štiavnica beginning this December, claiming it is not profitable. The mayor of Banská Štiavnica, Nadežda Babiaková, told the SITA newswire that if the railway company made the route longer, for example to Zvolen or Banská Bystrica, and also made the trains more comfortable there would be many more passengers.