lunes, 27 de marzo de 2023


Introduction Text : José Manuel Serrano Esparza / Interview : Péter Baki. 

Zoltan Fejer shaking hands with Eszter Vitályos, Hungarian Deputy Minister of Culture and Innovation, just before beng given the prize by her, while Magdolda Závogyán (Secretary at the Ministry of Culture and Innovation) waits for her turn to give him the medal. © Press Office of the Hungarian Ministry of Culture and Innovation.  

Fejér Zoltán, one of the greatest experts in the world on photo technique history, cameras and lenses in different formats ( particularly in the scope of 35 mm and large format )                                                            

Magdolda Závogyán (Secretary at the Ministry of Culture and Innovation) shaking hands with Fejér Zoltán a few seconds after being presented with the award by Eszter Vitályos. © Press Office of the Hungarian Ministry of Culture and Innovation. 

has been granted the Balogh Rudolf Prize, the most important Hungarian accolade given to photographers, on March 14, 2023.                                                            

This is an exceedingly deserved and prestigious recognition for a man who has devoted roughly half a century of his life to photography and the study of its history and the cameras, lenses and accessories that made it possible, specially in the golden era of analogue photography throughout which Hungary was always one of the foremost powers on earth, with photographers like André Kertész, Brassaï, László Moholy-Nagy, Eva Besnyo, Martin Munkácsi, Robert Capa, Károly Escher, Sylvia Plachy, György Kepes, Ferenc Berkó (one of the pioneers in the use of colour as a photographic means along with William Egglestone and Joel Meyerowitz), József Pécsi and many others. 

Display of traditional Hungarian dances accompanied by a top-notch string quartet to pay homage to Fejér Zoltán on the Ministry of Culture and Innovation stage after receiving the Ballogh Rudolf Prize. © Press Office of the Hungarian Ministry of Culture and Innovation. 

Fejér Zoltán with his beloved wife Ibolya Szuchy inside the gorgeous building of the Hungarian Ministry of Culture and Innovation on March 14, 2023. 

Ibolya Szuchy has always been the most important mainstay throughout Fejér Zoltán´s lifetime, to such an extent that the amazing career of this internationally acclaimed Hungarian pundit on the history of phototechnique, cameras and lenses hadn´t been possible without this great woman´s unconditional support and unswerving love that resulted in the birth of Noemí Fejér and Adam Féjer, their daughter and son.  

Zoltán Fejér in front of the very beautiful stage of the Hungarian Ministry of Culture and Innovation, holding his Ballogh Rudolf Award, the pinnacle of his more than fifty years career as a world-class historian of photography and phototechnique, who has proudly taken the Hungarian flag all over the world during his whole lifetime. Fifty-seven years have elapsed since being a five years and a half old child, he was direct witness of the Budapest Uprising against the invading Soviet Army between November 4 and 10 of 1956, which was covered by Magnum photographer Erich Lessing with a 24 x 36 mm format Leica M3 rangefinder camera and Summicron-M 50 mm f/2 Type 2. © Ibolya Szuchy 

Fejér Zoltán has been one of the most knowledgeable photo technique historians in the world for more than thirty years, along with Jim McKeown, Jason Schneider, Lars Netopil, Peter Coeln, Valentín Sama, James E. Cornwall, Roger W. Hicks, Dan Havlik, Ryuichi Watanabe, Igor Reznik and others, and had already been bestowed one year ago, on March 15, 2022 the Hungarian Golden Cross of Merit Award by the Prime Minister and the President of Hungary as a Photo Technique Historian, another milestone in his extensive and very brilliant career as a reference-class expert in his domain.                                                     

He has also been for twenty-three years a member of the panel of experts of Westlicht Photographica Auction Wien and Leica Shop along with Dr Bahman Bawendi, James E. Cornwall, Peter Göllner, Larry Gubas, Mayumi Kobayashi, Uli Koch, Jim McKeown, Ottmar Michaely, Dr. Milos Mladek, Dr. Wolfgang Netolitzky, Lars Netopil, Bernd K. Otto, Dieter Scheiba, and others. 

But above all, Fejer Zoltán Györgi has steadily been an unflinching lover and admirer of the amazing Hungarian phototechnique, cameras and lenses that were created with tons of ingenuity and very few means by Magyaroszag genius roughly between 1945 and late eighties, some of them really being masterpieces of top-notch mechanics, as proved by his landmark book                                                         

Féjer Zoltán inside the main exhibition hall of Westlicht Photographica in Vienna (Austria) in April 2016, showing his extraordinary book " Hungarian Cameras " , featuring a fairly lavish information on the incredible story of the Hungarian photographic industry after the Second World War, which was able among many other things to create the stunning Duflex photographic camera, first reflex one in the world sporting 24 x 32 mm format, designed by the Hungarian photographer Dulovits Jeno, and whose pioneering working prototypes were manufactured by Gamma Works in Budapest in 1944, two years before the original design of the Nikon I 24 x 32 mm format rangefinder which was completed in September of 1946 (though the camera was launched by Nippon Kogaku in 1948). 

" Hungarian Cameras ", featuring a 21 x 29 cm size, 180 pages, 254 pictures in black and white and 22 in colour, published by both Hogyf Editio Budapest (Hungary) and Lindemanns Verlag Stuttgart (Germany) in 2001 with text in German and English, and fruit of 20 years of very hard work and research by the author who proved that since immediately after the end of the Second World War, in an incredible and praiseworthy way, Hungary was able to develop its own photographic industry with a number of very interesting and high quality cameras and lenses made through sheer ingenuity and knowledge.                                                                  

In addition, he is a historian of photography featuring tremendous insight and experience, having written scores of books on photographic technique hitherto like  " A Magyar Foto Technika Tervezoi Termékei Gyártói " , " Fototechnika : Törtenet, Petzval József, Riszdorfer Ödön, Dulovits Jenö " (1997) with Muszaki Könyvkiadó publisher, " Magyar Fényképezogépek 1856-1966 (Budapest, 1997) published by Soós Kereskedes, " Fotogram " (a scientific profile work published in  2008 by Arcus Gallery, making up a very interesting work including black and white pictures made with LF cameras and black & white chemical emulsions)" Tudós Fotós " (a remarkable work on scientific photography, published in 2010 by the Hungarian Museum of Photography) and many others.  

Between 1985 and 1993 he was the editor of the Képzőművészeti Kiadó, a top-notch Hungarian magazine, focused on high quality black and white photography. 

Fejér Zoltán showing the coveted Balogh Rudolph Award 2023 bestowed to him inside the Hungarian Ministry of Culture and Innovation in an unforgettable ceremony presided by Eszter Vitályos (Hungarian Deputy Minister of Culture and Innovation) and Magdolda Závogyán (Secretary at the Ministry of Culture and Innovation ) on March 14, 2023. 

Since early nineties started the international projection of Zoltán Fejer, consolidating a brilliant career as a photojournalist working for the Városi Fotó Vállalat (Budapest Photography Co. Agency) and becoming a well-known photo art collector and photo artist member of the Photo Artist Association, participating in exhibitions all over Europe, and from around mid nineties he is recognized as a world-class expert both in the field of large cameras, lenses and accessories and in the 35 mm cameras and lenses domain, becoming a phototechnical columnist of Fotóművészet, one of the best photography magazines in the world, and publishing articles on a number of cameras and lenses, also including in-depth researches on the Hungarian Bilux exposure meter, patented in 1938 and of which the Hungarian Optical Works made thousands in 1941. 

Some of his large format pictures of architecture appear in the book Building the State: Architecture, Politics and State Formation in Post-War Central Europe, written by Virág Molnár in 2013 and published in United States and Canada by Routledge. 

Fejér Zoltán posing with his Ballogh Rudolf Award  on March 14, 2023 beside the statues " Girls with Umbrellas ", made by the Hungarian sculptor Imre Varga and placed in Fö Square of Óbuda (District III of Budapest) on March 14, 2023. © Ibolya Szuchy. 

In addition, Zoltan Fejer is a member of the European Photo Historical Society and in 2011 he was bestowed the Hungarian Photographers Association Lifetime Achievement Award.  

On the other hand, Zoltán Fejér has always had a great penchant fort creative photography, which began in 1967. 

And his works have been exhibited in Hungary since 1968, and in international exhibitions since 1970, having received 25 awards until now.  

Fejér Zoltán with his Balogh Rudolf Prize on March 14, 2023 next to the statue of the famous Hungarian writer Gyula Krudy in Fo Ter, Óbuda (Budapest), made in 2013, on the 80th anniversary of his death, by the artist Péter Szanyi. Féjer Zoltán, a man featuring a very comprehensive culture, has always had a great passion and knowledge on the Hungarian history and traditions. © Ibolya Szuchy. 

Between 1972 and 2009 he organized 17 solo exhibitions of his works, and served as a curator of a number of exhibitions on the history of photography. 

From 1969 to 1982 he worked as a photojournalist at FŐFOTÓ, from 1982 to 1984 as the head of the advertising photography studio at Fény-Szöv in Budapest, and from 1984 to 1985 again as a photojournalist. 

Fejér Zoltán standing with his Balogh Rudolf Award on March 14, 2023 beside a famous small building in the area of Óbuda (Budapest). © Ibolya Szuchy.  

He has published his researches and deep studies on the history of photography in more than 400 articles and 11 books, as well as being a member of the Hungarian Art Foundation since 1988, and of the Association of Hungarian Photographers since 1989, where he received the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2011. 

His works can be found in 15 public collections in Hungary, in 14 museums in seven different countries, and in private collections.

Some of his large format pictures of architecture appear in the book " Building the State: Architecture, Politics and State Formation in Post-War Central Europe ", written by Virág Molnár in 2013 and published in United States and Canada by Routledge.

In addition, Zoltan Fejer is a member of the European Photo Historical Society and in 2011 he was bestowed the Hungarian Photographers Association Lifetime Achievement Award.  

On the other hand, Zoltán Fejér has always had a great penchant for creative photography, which began in 1967. 

Balogh Rudolf Medal beside the Magyaroszag Badge that Fejer Zoltán has always taken very proudly with him all over the world, utterly aware of the huge significance of Hungary in the History of Photography and Photo Technique. © Ibolya Szuchy. 

And his works have been exhibited in Hungary since 1968, and in international exhibitions since 1970, having received 25 awards until now. 

From 1969 to 1982 he worked as a photojournalist at FŐFOTÓ, from 1982 to 1984 as the head of the advertising photography studio at Fény-Szöv in Budapest, from 1984 to 1985 again as a photojournalist. 

He is also one of the most important experts in the world on large format cameras and lenses, a scope on which he has imparted a lot of lectures in Hungary and other countries. 


Péter Baki, Phd., historian of photography, Director of the Hungarian Museum of Photography and the Hungarian House of Photography, Deputy Director of the Rippi-Rónai Institute of Art at MATE University, Associate Professor, curator of more than eighty photographic exhibitions in more than twenty countries all over the world, having published hitherto more than a hundred books, book chapters and studies on photography, in addition to being the editor-in-chief of the online Hungarian photographic magazine Punkt and probably the greatest expert in the world on André Kertész at the moment, made the following interview to Féjer Zoltán a few hours after being bestowed the Balogh Rudolf Award :  

" The Concept of Collecting Has Changed in Its Classic Meaning " , a Conversation with Zoltán Fejér " 

Zoltán György Fejér, a photographer and historian of photographic technique through the ages, started his career as a photographer more than fifty years ago. His twelve books and a raft of articles in this scope are indispensable and essentials regarding the Hungarian photographic cameras and their creators. He was 72 years old some days ago, and today he has been granted the Rudolf Balogh Award, the greatest professional recognition in his long career. 

Péter Baki : You have delved into the history of photographic cameras and photo technique for more than thirty years and your in depth researches on the subject are well-known because of the well grounded investigations you have carried out, including a detailed research in archives. Looking back to your career of more than fifty years as a photographer. In which domain do you deem that you´ve been more successful and have achieved more accomplishments ? 

Zoltán Féjér  : My pictures have been published for more than 55 years and my writings throughout 37. In mid fifties, my family and me lived at Király street of Pest. One of our neighbours was a photographer and the other one a writer. I looked at them with admiration when I was a child. Today I feel his two trades as mine and I´m happy that this is feasible. If I have to choose, I would say that writing about the history of phototechnique, cameras and lenses is the field in which I´ve been more thriving, to such an extent that I feel that the books and articles that I have published have turned into my hallmark. 

Péter Baki

Yor name has always been particularly associated to first-class books and writings on Hungarian cameras and the description and assessment of exhibitions and auctions. Why did you focus in these two areas ?

Zoltán Fejér

If I had to briefly answer in a laconic way, I would say that I wanted to fill a gap and I found some gaps that I managed to cover with strenuous effort. 

My maternal grandfather took me to the first auction organized by the Gift Shop Company in 1957, when I was six years old. 

When he died in 1974, I felt that I had to somehow keep on his approach as a collector.

At that time, the aforementioned BÁV held auctions of pictures, and the Books Distribution State Company arranged auctions of books.

My grandfather was a BÁV customer, but my economical means were much more modest.

My wife´s uncle helped me to know the ins and outs of the BÁV books auctions. 

In 1982, still sponsored by Ofotért, András Soós set up the first auction of old cameras, and BÁV answered immediately with a similar one.

Soós was the winner of the contest.

And though the auctions proved that there was a lot of money in the market of old technical photographic devices, BÁV went away. 

I impatiently waited for each Soós auction and often criticized the incomplete descriptions of the catalogues. And it was specially strange that there weren´t more detailed reports as to the photographic gadgets protected by the Ministry of technology.

Therefore, although it wasn´t my work at all, I decided to write up the descriptions of some of the lots of Soós Auctions Catalogue. 

With the help of his brother-in-law in Germany, Ferenc Gyozo Horváth´s wife met Werner Götze, a bookseller and publisher based in Stuttgart, who offered to sell the Western Europe photographic literature at a lowered price in Hungary. 

This way, it became apparent that there was already a full-fledged literature on the history of photographic technique, so it was evident that Hungarian writers were bound to catch up with the quality of the specialized books written in foreign languages.

Gyozo Ferenc Horváth offered to publish the history of Hungarian cameras, irrespective of who was the author of a book like that.

It was a bold utterance for the time being, because he perfectly grasped that nobody had any finished book on that subject in his desk drawer. 

Perhaps Dr. József Hefelle would have been the most suitable for it, but he devoted himself to the history of soft focus photography. He had a good relationship with the Editorial of Technical Books, but they had differences in views and broke away. 

Dr Hefelle and Endre Schwanner were in a way mi bosses in Budapest Photo in 1981. 

Though it was my first job related to photography, I left after twelve years and a half and went to work to Light-Web as a department head.

Notwithstanding, during the spring of 1982, Bandi Schwanner invited me to a lecture of the TIT on the history of Leica cameras, and leter on, he helped me very much, for example in 1994, when he invited me to be part of the editorial board of Fotómuvészet magazine. 

Péter Baki : What do you think about the future chances for the development of the history of Hungarian photographic technique ? Is it possible to fulfill a more exhaustive research on this topic ? I ask you this bearing in mind that the Hungarian Museum of Photography published its book on this subject in 2019 and most of the factory workers who were interviewed are already demised. Where are still interesting areas to complete the information that has been gleaned until now ? 

Zoltán Fejér : I investigated in two different departments of the National Archives of Hungary, the Archives of the City of Budapest, the Archives of the Budapest Technology and Economy and the Archives of the Institute and Museum of Military History of the Defense Ministry. 

One month ago, one of the chief archivists of the Budapest City Archives told me that he was writing a book on Hungarian inventors. My volume has got 428 pages, but his seems to have reached the figure of 600. I eagerly wait for his volume ! 

Besides, there is always the possibility that any provate collector has collected data that weren´t available when Im wrote my book. 

However, it is important to thoroughly checked any kind of information coming from internet, because the web can be a source of both good and bad information. That´s why one of my top priorities with my books and articles on phototechnique and so forth, has always been to offer lavish information that doesn´t exist in the web.

And of course, there´s the chance of reaserching abroad. I regret not having been able to go to the George Eastman House in Rochester, where there might be records of Joe Michael. 

It would likewise be good to see the original study on Szabad Szilárd made by the Swedish historian of photography Par Rittsel, who is now 76 years old.  

Péter Baki

From the very beginning, you were one of the photographic technique experts of Westlicht Photograhica auctions in Vienna. In your opinion, where is the collecting of these classic analogue cameras, lenses and acessories going to and why the value of vintage Leica stuff has increased so hugely higher than those from other brands? What advice would you give to a young person who wants to start a camera collection ? Will the made investment pay off ? 

Zoltán Fejér

On February 9, 1986, I gave a lecture at the Váci Madách Imre Cultural Center on how to get pictures nowadays with old cameras as Leicas. 

I organized some exhibitions on this subject, the first one in September of 1989 at the MTESz headquarters in Vác, and then at the Goethe Institute of Budapest in April 1990. I also gave a lecture in German there on May 8, 1990. 

The series of exhibitions continued in Gödöllo, and subsequently returned to Pest, to the new building of the Goethe Institute, with my co-creators (typographer István Fekete and painter András Orvos), holding there a new exhbition on the subject.

Shortly before, in early 1990, I had met Peter Coeln, the CEO and owner of Leicashop and Westlicht in Vienna (Austria), we made a good friendship and from then on I was chosen member of  the Westlicht Photographica international panel of experts.  

Regarding your question of the very high prices of classic analogue Leica cameras, there is a vast amount of reasons for it : 

First of all, the collection of products manufactured at the Leitz Factory in Wetzlar (Germany) during the XX Century is based on a tradition that can be traced back to many decades in the United States, Western Europe and the Far East.

In these countries, many books were published in the language of each country, and particularly in English and German, containing data on the production and distribution of Leica cameras, lenses and accessories.

Obviously, this had a positive effect on commercial sales, since every buyer could search for a collector´s item in the very abundant existing literature and find not only the number of copies made, but also a lot of information on a myriad of other aspects. 

On the other hand, classic Leica cameras and lenses are very often in good working condition, 

because they were made with top-of-the-line methods for its time, without any programmed obsolescence, are entirely made with noble metals and top-notch glasses featuring great optical properties, and work flawlessly many decades after their constructions, so collectors can also use them to make pictures and get amazing and very nice image quality in their photographs, with a vintage image aesthetics that can´t be emulated by any modern software or computer. 

To get pictures shooting handheld with analogue Leica rangefinder 24 x 36 mm format classic cameras is a relish for any lover of photography, thanks to their smooth operation, very small dimensions, exceedingly light weight and incredibly silent operation of their superb utterly mechanic horizontally travelling focal-plane shutters with rubberized silk curtains. 

That´s why however amazing it may seem in full digital era, Leica classic analogue cameras and lenses are increasingly more expensive, with the added benefit that using modern chemical films in both black and white and colour yield much better results that during the halcyon days of these vintage photographic tools, simultaneously preserving the unique vintage aesthetics of image. 

Coming back to the topic of collectors, the traditional method of doing things had been to check items in printed reference price lists and catalogues which were published and consulted, but from late nineties with the arrival of intenet, things changed because of the global market and now each collector has a wide assortment of possibilities to buy Leica products from shops all over the world, ebay, auctions, etc. 

But the key factor for any good collector is striving upon becoming knowledgeable about the products, because cosmetic and woking condition of the items can significally change from one option to other, so in my opinionevery purchase needs serious attention to detail, wisdom and as much previous information as possible. 

Zoltan Fejer´s professional career as a photographer and photo technique historian has always been full of toil to acquire the deep knowledge he has on the devices that shaped the photographic evolution during XX Century, handcrafted products made with remarkable infatuation and passion for the creation of images, many of which go on working flawlessly in a praiseworthy way. Here we can see the Hungarian maestro with an English Thornton Pickard Imperial Perfecta 24 x 30 cm large format camera with a Petzval Tupe Voigtländer portrait lens. 

Interview made by Péter Baki and originally appeared in Hungarian in Punkt photographic online magazine. Translated into English by José Manuel Serrano Esparza, Member of the Leica Historical Society of America.