MY FIRST COMPLETELY SOLO ADVENTURE.
A 3 DAY TRIP TO THE HEART OF HUNGARY ON A MISSION TO CAPTURE THE EVERY DAY HUSTLE AND BUSTLE OF THIS AMAZING CITY.
I CAPTURED SOME WORK THAT MADE ME INCREDIBLY HAPPY.
I HAD TIME TO REFLECT ON MY WORK AND BE COMPLETELY IN THE ZONE.
I ALSO SHOT A FILM DOCUMENTING THE WHOLE EXPERIENCE WHICH I'VE INCLUDED AT THE BOTTOM.
A FRIENDLY STRANGER
The pinnacle of an innocent interaction. As I roamed 'The Great Market Hall' in Budapest on my first morning, my senses were crashing out and my eyes darted frantically around at the sheer density of opportunity that lay before me.
I knew I was in the right spot to be finding people. The whole reason I travelled to Budapest in the first place. Initially, I was feeling rusty, like the build-up for the adventure had given me the photographers equivalent of stage fright.
Amidst these fleeting thoughts, I passed one of the meat stalls. I noticed this young guy standing behind the counter, watching the world go by.
As I brought up my camera, he threw up a peace sign. I had been quick to assume he was signalling for me to piss off, but when I took a second to register his smile, I encouraged him to do it again and be apart of my photo.
After a swift reassuring laugh and a confident, grateful handshake, I had well and truly began my adventure. I was now 'in the zone'.
SWIPE FOR MORE
THE GREAT MARKET HALL
The air was thick. Spices, fruits, fish, meat, leather and wood. Each had their spotlight in my nostrils as I made my rounds, twice. On the hunt for moments.
This place is incredible. It was like shooting fish in a barrel.
Imagine every market you've ever been too. Every European tourist trap you've ever stumbled upon. I think this is where they breed them...
Perhaps though, to relate it to a junk shop is rather unfair. The Central Market Hall was crammed with everything you could ever want, of all qualities.
To my very pleasant surprise, overpriced souvenirs and gimmicky snacks had their own place out of the way on the 2nd floor. While locals and tourists alike roamed the ground level, exploring the finer goods and produce.
I honestly didn't know where to look. I was having too much fun. I had to compose myself and focus on getting enough photos to try and do the unapologetically chaotic nature of this space some resemblance of justice.
To be honest, though I love the images I captured here. You really have to visit this place to understand the energy I'm trying to convey.
Truly an awesome spot. I went back every day I was there, sometimes just to spectate.
SWIPE FOR MORE
En route to St Stephen's Basilica, I walked passed two taxi drivers, standing talking to each other. One was dressed confidently in a neat all-grey suit.
For some reason I wasn't as drawn to capturing him as I was his friend (pictured) I originally stopped and pretended to take a photo of the building behind them, trying to figure out how to approach this.
As with most of my photos, contemplation and doubt are quickly followed by 'fuck it'. I walked over and asked the suited taxi driver if I may take their photo. He gestured 'of course' but pointed to his friend here.
He rolled his eyes, presumably cussed out his friend, and then smirked right down the lens. Hands in pockets, perched on a Ballard outside his taxi.
I showed him the back of the camera. His friend too. They both laughed and patted my back and shook my hand. I had no idea what anybody was saying but it all felt very positive.
I'm quite chuffed with this! I wish I had an explanation for my strange draw to interesting characters. I knew I wanted to capture the bright yellow, New York-style taxis, but I had no plans to embody them with their drivers.
Nevertheless, little interactions with strangers like these are what I love most about travelling to new places. I feel it's through moments like this I'm actually getting to experience new cultures.
I'd put out a little 'Does anybody speak Hungarian' on my Instagram prior to visiting Budapest. @mate_lengyel_ came to my rescue.
Not only did he tell me how to pronounce 'May I take your photo?" He sent me a bunch of recommendations of places to check out and things to do. Including jumping on Tram 2.
Apparently, It's one of the best ways to see the city! It passes by the riverside of Danube, through iconic buildings from Jászai Mari Square to the National Theatre.
I was sold on it already when my all-day ticket price was less than £4. I let it live up to its reputation as it took me throughout the city, where I hung out the window filming. Which I DO NOT ADVISE. I totally had tuned out to there being another tram line. Once nearly decapitated I reigned in the daredevil filming.
Budapest's public transport system was among some of the most impressive I've used so far. Every service ran regularly within 10 or 20 minutes of each other and none seemed to cost more than a few pounds. Even the 30-minute airport transfer return ticket I bought came to less than £5!
I had a lot of fun exploring the accessibility Budapest's transport options had to offer as I freely flowed between trams and undergrounds. In every direction at almost anywhere in the city, with practically no downtime in waiting.
VOTIVE CANDLES, ST STEPHENS BASILICA
I was looking for something special aside from the obvious marble galore in this massive church.
I'd originally set my bag down to swing a lens and film some slo-mo of the candles when I noticed this girl step into the shot.
I watched as she lit her second candle and place it down. She paused, her eyes glistening. She brought her hands up to her face to take her glasses off and wipe away her tears.
I wasn't intrusive to her quiet moment. I shot from the hip, in silent mode. My body was turned away from her. When she was wiping away her tears, I dropped my camera to my side and disappeared.
This girl coincidently foreshadowed a similar experience I'd have later in my own solo venture. Her authentic moment of silent reflection and prayer was so genuine it inspired me to be more comfortable being alone with my own thoughts.
I love this photo. It's actually one of my favourites from my trip. After a couple of European cities, I feel like I've seen every grand church there is. I went into St Stephens looking for something different. Aside from capturing just that, St Stephens is actually incredible. Easy top 3 of all the god houses I've visited
SWIPE FOR MORE
DOHÁNY STREET SYNAGOGUE
The largest synagogue in Europe. Built between 1854 and 1859.
I never did make it in. I did, however, spend a lot of time floating around the outside in awe. It's impressive, to say the least. But the more I looked at it the better it got, and one night at sunset as I was on my way home, I just had to snap this photo.
Stretching across the Danube River, Liberty bridge connects Buda and Pest.
I'd just came out of the Great Market Hall. I hadn't intended to capture the bridge, but I spotted at least four other people with their cameras standing or kneeling to get their shots. I shot it just to challenge myself to make something a little different.
To be fair, as far as bridges go, It's pretty good looking. An art nouveau design, a couple of sculptures and the country’s coat of arms adorned on its side.
The Holy Trinity Statue. It was erected to commemorate the people of Buda who died from two outbreaks of the Black Plague.
This was atop Buda castle hill behind Matthias Church and the Old City Hall at fisherman's bastion. A spectacle completely in its own right. But I didn't get any photos from there that I felt something with as much as I do this one.
Fisherman's Bastion is a terrace in neo-Gothic and neo-Romanesque style. It really is, stunning, every inch of this whole place was. I didn't know where to give my attention.
Though I seemed to have settled on this particular frame. I wish I had more of an arty tongue to spin you some romanticised breakdown. But in all transparency and blatant truth. Sometimes, my eye just knows what it wants.
BOY ON TRAM
Patience paid off after standing for the best part of forty minutes, waiting, then shooting, then waiting again.
An opportunity manifested itself in the literal form of an open window, as this young kid looks out toward me, with a magnificently perplexed expression, as I stood with my camera about three feet from the passing tram.
I'd written down at the beginning of the day I wanted to document people on the trams. Initially, I'd set to be on the tram, maybe capture somebody looking outward, lost in thought.
However, as I meandered down behind the incredible Parliament Building, I noticed where the trams passed there was a narrow walkway between the tram and bike lane. I then watched the first Tram pass, to study where I needed to be.
I then decided upon trying to get a shot of somebody interesting looking out, framed by the tram window. After many, many failed attempts, I caught this little guy.
A WORK IN PROGRESS
Working hard or hardly working eh? I was on my way to the 'House of Terror' when I happened to spot an opening in this soon to be restaurants door.
The light coming in was too nice not to shoot. When I realised this guy had no clue I was there, I took an extra second to compose my shot and get in a little closer.
I took my photo, chuffed as anything I'd stumbled upon this gem. I walked around the side to an open window and now he spotted me. Smiling, he waved and came up to me. I told him I was just photographing him sitting, I showed him the photo, he laughed and returned to his chair.
Harsh light used to be my worst nightmare when shooting street photos. These days I beg for it.
Shooting predominately in the UK presents, more often than not, shit lighting conditions. Which is no excuse not to shoot. But having spent enough time now shooting in the sun, I've fallen in love with the shapes harsh light can make. The deep shadows I can find, bounced light and just the wider options it presents in general.
Here, I've exposed majorly for my highlights to spotlight this man coming down the stairs. I wanted to give juxtaposition to the light from the world above and the shadows below that the underground introduces.
I love the transition between atmospheres.
I'd prepared for 3 days of thunderstorms. Instead, I got nothing but blue skies and sunshine.
With the exception of one single ten-minute torrential downpour that caught me unprepared. I'd left all my waterproof kit back in the apartment. So I waited it out under the canopy of a theatre.
The clouds opened up and a ray of sunshine shot through to where I was standing. As the sun was now backlighting the rain, making it visible, I made the best of the situation and brought my camera up and waited.
Along came these three girls. Their friend leading the charge seemed to be loving life. Running through the rain she laughed aloud and jumped from puddle to puddle. Her friends follow behind, sharing an umbrella.
There was no premeditated thought process behind this moment. I was just crossing the street. I saw this lady standing opposite, waiting patiently, vibrant head to toe. Bearing slippers.
When I saw the way she moved, I repositioned to capture her presence. Slightly off tilt, swinging her cane accentuating her stride, and at her own pace. Everybody on my side shot off and overtook, while myself and this lady had a much slower dance in the middle.
I've enjoyed making up stories to go with this photo. The contrast between the younger generation with their backs turned, darting into the distance works beautifully against the older lady on her way back. It's as if she's been there and done it all. No bells and whistles for her. She radiated confidence.
SWIPE FOR MORE
BENJAMIN KOVACS, MAÎTRE D′
My second visit to the New York Café. Pulled back by a self-made promise of another 'coffee smoothie’. So much better than it sounds.
The cafés relaxed setting was the perfect den for collecting thoughts at the end of a busy day. I sat and wrote quick notes on the places I'd been and the photos I'd taken.
On my last night, I had grand plans to shoot the tram at golden hour. My final mission of the trip. My great idea on how to encapsulate Budapest in a single image. However, I never got my photo of the tram.
As I waited to pay my bill, I was approached by a Maître D'. He said he'd noticed me writing, and as a little gift from the café, he wanted to give me two postcards. To send anywhere in the world. "If you like to write, perhaps you can say something".
My initial reaction was “WooHoo! Free stuff!” But being left with these 2 blank canvas’ I questioned: “What do I want to say?”. There was something about being challenged to say something that made me dig deeper for maybe what I don’t say enough.
I sat and poured everything out onto these two tiny postcards, my writing growing smaller and more illegible as my mind ran away with itself. To my surprise, I began to tear up at the release of bottled emotions. I had a sigh of relief. I needed it. Not the heavy eye sweating in a prestigious and public space, but I needed to reflect on my own story. I needed to process what I'm grateful for, who I'm grateful for.
Having these two postcards thrust in front of me, presented an unexpectedly perfect format to do just that.
I found exactly what I was looking for. A moment of kindness from a stranger followed by an unapologetic release of emotions. No filter, no bullshit moment.
I wiped away my tears. I wanted this man to be a part of my story. I waited, the golden sun fading into blue hue’s. I didn’t care. This was now my priority.
He returned. I stood to shake his hand and thank him. Almost confused at my reaction, he said “It’s the least we can do. Sometimes, words are priceless,” nearly sending me back into a hot mess.
Benjamin. Thanks for making my ridiculous sunburn, the blisters on my feet, and the stupid amount of money spent on strawberry coffee smoothies worth it.
You wrote the perfect ending to my time in Budapest.
SWIPE FOR MORE
AFTER AN EXHAUSTING THREE DAYS, WALKING OVER TEN MILES EACH DAY, I SAT AND BEGAN TO EDIT THIS BODY OF WORK.
I CAN SAFELY SAY THE JUMP TO SOLO TRAVEL WAS WORTH ALL THE UNCERTAINTY.
IT'S SPARKED A GREATER TRAVEL BUG WITHIN ME, AND NOW I SPEND MORE TIME SEEKING THIS SELF INFLICTED ISOLATION WHERE I IRONICALLY FEEL SO MUCH MORE CONNECTED.
I HOPE YOU ENJOYED THE IMAGES AND STORIES FROM MY SHORT TIME IN THIS AWESOME CITY.
FOR A FULL LOOK AT THE WHOLE EXPERIENCE, CHECK OUT THE SHORT FILM I MADE WHEN I WAS OUT THERE BELOW.
THANKS FOR YOUR TIME!