Ibolya Feh is a visual story teller based in Bristol, UK.
Her main interest is telling people’s stories and depicting the life of different communities. Her work is concerned with the boundaries and bonds within communities, their environment and the everyday life of the individuals.
She has won and been nominated for a number of awards, most recently she has been shortlisted for the Magnum & Hiive, Faces of a Vibrant Economy Portraiture Award and the IdeasTap, Photography Award with Magnum. Her work has been published internationally. Her latest exhibition has been installed on the street where she took the images and turned the shop fronts and the architecture into her gallery walls.
Let me paint the picture for you:
Meet Iris, with her carefully powdered cheeks and stylish hat, sitting on her favourite bench. Everybody knows her. People are chatting outside shops, having coffees or just breaking the toil of the weekly shop. Of course the forgotten are here too.
This is the land of Asda and Cash for Gold. This is East Street, my local high street.
My project is a celebration of life here and now. I am passionate about showing the wider community the charm of the place and its characters.
East Street Tales is a project about a traditional British urban community dispersing into the shadow of newly built luxury flats. Through documenting the everyday life of one street, the project aims to research what makes a community, the important places where people get together and the characters who form it. East Street is not only a segment of contemporary Britain, but it is an example of the global trend, where profit is put before the needs of local residents.
Below, Ibolya answered a few questions about her series and photography practice!
Why did you choose photography over other artistic mediums?
My parents are ceramicists and, although I enjoyed working with clay, I was always frustrated by not being able to show what I see. I don’t have special skills for drawing or writing so photography is the perfect medium for me to show everything that I found interesting.
How did this series start for you creatively?
This project is about a high street. When I first moved to the area I noticed the interesting characters and situations of the street and started to take my camera with me for my shopping trips. I got a lot of positive feedback and encouragement for my pictures and started to focus on the photography more and more and ditch the shopping.
What reflections have you come to after finishing this series? If you are still working on the series, what revelations have come up while creating the series?
It is a long-term project that has started more than five years ago and probably won’t be completely finished before another five years. At the beginning my work was more of a street photography series with many candid images. In time I have got more interested in the people, who they are and what this place means to them and my photography has started to slow down.
Working on this project made me realize how small has the world become and how exposed and vulnerable we are once moved from the physical world to online territory. I have become much more concerned about people’s privacy even in a public space.
East Street has a bad name in the city and originally I wanted to break down the negative stereotypes and show the uniqueness of the place and it’s great community. I have tried to avoid being sensationalist about the proposed gentrification and focus on the people. However because of the large scale of the redevelopment and the unfairness way it is planned I can no longer ignore it and I feel I have to include this angle in the project too.
Who is your favorite photographer and why?
I don’t have a favourite photographer. I am not very good with favourites and never had favourite bands or favourite colours. Recently I spend a lot of time with Daniel Meadows’s work. I really admire the honesty of his photographs, his passion for photography and the people he photographed.
Are there any books, movies, magazines or podcasts that you would recommend people to check out?
Unfortunately I can’t afford photobooks so I try to keep myself away from the ‘sweet shop’. A sacrilege I know, and I am just I hoping that I won’t be shunned by the Photography World.
I am an avid fun of Ben Smith, A Small Voice podcast. Every two weeks he interviews a famous photographer. They always have something interesting to say and find it very inspiring.
From the magazines I would recommend Loup magazine above all. It is very rare to have a high-quality photography magazine with great content for free for the reader. I also really like Splash & Grab, Private and Huck magazine.
I would definitely recommend watching Nebraska although it has been a few years since it came out and probably everybody has seen it already. It is so beautifully shot and has such a nice slow story telling. It made me realise how much I miss black and white photography.
Lastly, what artists are currently inspiring you?
I am very lucky to live in Bristol a city with many talented women photographers who are extremely passionate about their work. We have regular meet ups where we can discuss our life and work. It is very interesting to see peoples’ projects to grow, to learn about each other and to know that we share the same struggles most of the time. I always find our meet ups very inspiring.
I volunteer once a week in the Bristol Archives, British Empire and Commonwealth Collection and work with an incredible amount of photographs from different ages and from all around the world. It is very interesting to see how photography has changed or hasn’t in many cases. You can obviously learn this from books, but it is very different when you can closely study thousands of negatives, somebody’s lifetime work. I think working in there in the last couple of years has been the most influential for me.