Monday, July 25, 2011

Photographer Zoltan Hajtmanszki explores the world of the "flaneur"

Croatian refugee child with gun, Makiagyud, Hungary Photograph by Hajtmanszki Zoltan (1992)
"I am just a photographer who thinks with pictures. I don't make campaigns for changing the social landscape.

"I want to show what it is, what's happening; my profession is about thinking....making the public think about humanity."

--Zoltan Hajtmanszki (23 July 2011, Szentendre, Hungary)

Hajtmanszki Zoltan Photograph by Stefan van Drake (2011)
Until I experienced Hungarian photographer Hajtmanszki Zoltan (proper Hungarian word order) in Budapest and Szentendre--and a plethora of his works--I never realized I, too, was a flaneur.

Zoltan, age 49 and self-taught, an internationally known and exhibited documentary art photographer for more than 31 years, knows life and commercial success as a flaneur

On the back cover of his second book of black and white photographs--"Downtown Flaneur----the Hungarian documentary art photographer crafted his own definition of the French word. 

Both the term and its deeper meaning had eluded me.

But not Zoltan.

Hajtmanszki Zoltan in his studio, Szentendre, Hungary
Photograph by Stefan van Drake (2011)
Here is Hajtmanszki Zoltan's artist's statement, his definition of a flaneur:

"Flaneur" is the French term for a roamer, a wanderer, a common Parisian figure at the turn of the last century, but flaneurs are everywhere in every giant modern city, for the flaneur is a professional walker who spends his days walking the streets of the capital.

The flaneur is a Bohemian, independent, generally an artist, but surely the most sensitive kind, one who looks at the whole of life as art.

These people have a feeling for their city, and they are standard elements of the cityscapes.

The flaneur observes the details of the landscape and makes notes of the city. 

Flaneurs are symbols of personal freedom. They are not pieces of the big machine, but somehow they can exist and be creative in it.

The flaneur is a lucky chosen one, living by improbably simple rules.

But the flaneur doesn't ask why he wanders so easily while everything else is so hard. 

The flaneur practices an uncertain profession and embraces it with an open heart. 

A student of human life, the flaneur sees reality in atmosphere.

The flaneur is a researcher of human views.

The flaneur's self-assigned task is not to understand or explain reality, but to display it, to record as many views of it as possible. 

These multiple views offer the flaneur a still but solid space for meditation, inspiring him to work.

What is this work for? Who knows? 

I don't know. I've never known. I'm a flaneur. I take my walks.

By Hajtmanszki Zoltan appearing on the back cover of "Downtown Flaneur," Exposed Books, Budapest, Hungary 2003 with English consultant, Arthur Phillips; hardcover edition of 200 of the artist's black and white images.

The Hajtmanszki Zoltan and Katona Betti (also a professional phtoographer)  studio
Photograph by Stefan van Drake (2011)

Works of Zoltan and Betti ready for sale
Photograph by Stefan van Drake (2011)
Zoltan told me:

"I always wanted to be a documentary photographer on an art level, wanted to show human feelings and facts at the same time.

"This art level was always very important for me; as you see, i am trying to make my pictures in classic style with classic aestheticism. 

"Freedom is the key, the liberty of thinking is the key to understanding my life.

 "I didn't want lo step on other people's footprints. I wanted to make my own while observing others."

This post introduces Hajtmanszki Zoltan, who from age 18 has earned a living and a made a life as a photographer and flaneur.

More stories and images are headed our way, visual chapters in his life, each imbedded in ethos and pathos and context I shall attempt providing through our serial interviews.

Venice frame maker in workshop Photograph by Hajtmanszki Zoltan (2003)
Zoltan's works are in nine Hungarian public collections, including the Hungarian National Museum, Museum of Hungarian Theatre History, Budapest Historical Museum, Ministry of Interior, Refugee Department, Hungarian Museum of Photography.

He enjoys many private collectors. Five Budapest galleries represent him. 

He has participated in 12 group shows since 1964 and 14 solo exhibitions since 1966, five of them in France, two of those in Paris. 

He's an ArtTraveler extraordinaire, recording facts and human feelings in France, the United States, Italy, India, the Netherlands, Portugal, Brazil, Greece, Germany and extensively in Hungary.

He has published two additional books of his works, one of street life in Paris, the other about Balkan refugees in Hungary. He has also published two electronic/digital books of his works.

Zoltan recently signed a contract for a third print book with Sterling Publishing Co. of New York. His images shall complement prose by various writers on the subject of reading. No publishing date has been set.

Here are a few representative images of Zoltan's work:

Walking on the Chain Bridge, Budapest Photograph by Hajtmanszki Zoltan (2005)

Woman walking Photograph by Hajtmanszki Zoltan (1996) Castle district of Budapest

Metropolitan Ervin Szabo (Budapest library) Photograph by Hajtmanszki Zoltan (2008)

"The Teller" Photograph by Hajtmanszki Zoltan, Varanasi, India (2009)

Religious service of refugees in Nagyatad, Hungary Photograph by Hajtmanszki Zoltan (1992)

Rock on and practice peace and love.
Stefan, the ArtTraveler ™

ArtTraveler note:

After living at the Hotel Queen Mary in Budapest (3.5 stars), I heartily recommend it: old on the outside, otherwise totally modern (23 rooms); it's an extremely excellent value. (I'm not getting a discount for's my idea because it is what it is.)

The owner and staff are affable and speak English and German. Tel: 0036-1-413-3510;;

There's a generous buffet breakfast that comes with the room, and everything in Budapest is close to you.

Visit Andalusia for a walking holiday or week-long sculpture or mosaics workshop. See: and

"Spanish life stilled," photograph by Stefan van Drake (2009)

ArtTraveler´s video: an interview with Scottish illustrator and painter, Gordon Wilson, about his "I Love Fish" exhibition, inspired by a commissioned mural he did 13 years ago for a West Glasgow gangster, who loved supporting writers and artists as well as organized crime.

You may reach me at or by calling (34) 915 067 703 or from the UK at BT landline rates, 0844 774 8349

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