Monika Merva is not only talented in her photography, but in showing the ease in the face of all her subjects. The relaxation shown in their eyes forms a common thread between Merva’s viewers and those within her pieces. The City of Children is no exception, bringing the tough lives of children and teens in Hungary to the forefront as an examination to how this is relatable in any country and living situation. Merva, having spent much of her time with the children has found multiple ways to relate and see the commonality. With every story and image that is printed and every page turn made, anyone anywhere can point out a similarity in their own lives from the reality of these children.
Set in Karolyi Istvan Gyermekkozpont in Fót, Hungary, Merva has made special trips to the housing to meld with these children. As you begin to understand the subjects in The City of Children, you feel at peace while scanning the pages. You can sense the connection Merva created between herself and all the children living in the development. Between a reunion after a suicide attempt, a girl holding a loaf a bread when you learn her mother abandoned her and her siblings, and whispers shared between a pet owner and her dog, these intimate moments could not feel more inviting. Our first meeting with these individuals is a strange encounter, and yet, no nervous feeling is stuck in the pit of your stomach the more we become acquainted with them. The years Merva has spent with them is shown through the photographs, making it feel as though we have spent those same years with the children.
When you read through the stories that Merva provides for the children in book, it brings on a sense of comfort. These teens go through similar experiences that everyone goes through. Whether you have been through a similar situation or know of someone; it makes viewing the gaze of their hard lives a little more easy to sit through. Being able to create an empathetic bond with groups that live in poverty versus those that live comfortably is not an easy task. The divide that once was there is now blurred, uniting groups together as one that feels pain, love, hurt, and hope as a whole.
Merva has given a new life to the children and teens living in Karolyi Istvan Gyermekkozpont. The City of Children is a celebration of these young beings, a triumph of what they have overcome and what their strength will conquer in the future. At a young age, they grow quickly and lose their adolescence, but these images have given some of that back. The time Merva has given to these kids is much more than what she is able to photograph and probably more than we will ever know as viewers reading snippets of their stories. The City of Children is a personal bond between Merva and the children that she opened up and shared for the viewers on purpose so everyone can amalgamate as one.
If you are interested in purchasing The City of Children, you can purchase it on Photo-Eye’s website. Signed copies available.
Written by Madison Rich
Photographs by Madison Rich