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Sylvia Plachy

There´s No Tomorrow, Only Today

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Sylvia Plachy describes in this video her life and her photography using examples from 'Waiting', an exhibition in Berlin.

Born in 1943 in Budapest, the daughter of a Hungarian aristocrat and a Czech Jewish mother, fleeing at 17 years of age with her family from the Hungarian Revolution to New York, Sylvia’s life reflects the upheavals of the twentieth century. And her work reflects her life.  The lost homeland and the feeling of being lost in the world are tangible in her pictures.  Pictures that  are poetic and melancholy, witty and bizarre, sometimes disillusioning, always moving. Sylvia Plachy has an eye for the little but meaningful things at the edges of our perception: People, animals, places, and things. They are all subjects for her camera.

And she uses cameras of all kinds: Toy cameras, Leicas, panorama cameras, in black and white or in colour. Plachy unites diverse techniques into an organic and characteristic whole. Black and white suits her style better than colour, which she says, is good for entertaining but can detract from the real meaning of an image.

"My father”, she reflects,  “often walked ahead alone, deep in thought, his state of mind one could only guess at. I, on the other hand, have always liked to linger and watch unseen, to take my pictures without confrontation, to look at backs and imagine what's inside."

Plachy’s photographs can look at first sight like amateur snapshots, a little blurred, skewed horizons. But they are perfect in their imperfection. They work on you at a deeper level. Her  images linger hauntingly in your consciousness. It’s worthwhile trying to find out why.

You can see more Sylvia Plachy images on her website. Readers of New York’s Village Voice will have been seeing her pictures there for the last thirty years.

She has published several books of photographs that are worth looking at. Self Portrait with Cows Going Home (2005), is a personal photographic journey through Plachy's childhood in Eastern Europe. Unguided Tour won the Infinity Award for best publication in 1991. Of Signs & Relics (2000) with a foreword by Wim Wenders, Richard Avedon says, "Not since Robert Frank's The Americans have I experienced a body of work of such range and power. She makes me laugh and she breaks my heart. She's moral. She is everything a photographer should be.”