Behind the camera: Sándor Bauer

Who is a photographer? An artist, who creates a new reality, or the one who documents it? Maybe the one, who modifies it according to their or others’ tastes? Probably all of them a little bit. This week, we have selected Sándor Bauer’s photos, whose life-work is exciting not only because he was a professional photographer, but also because he worked during the soft dictatorship of the Kádár era. Did he take propaganda photos? Naturally! Besides that, he shot many curiosities too. Café waitresses serving finely roasted cream coffee, a Fabulon-girl posing on the Fishermen’s Bastion and Mátyás Rákosi.

Revolution and ars poetica

128292.jpgHe was only sixteen, when in 1946 he was among the first ones who joined the Hungarian Film Office that operated in the MTI (Hungarian Telegraphic Office) as an employee of the Press Photo Department. He did not stay long at the Office, because he was deported in 1950. He returned in Budapest in 1953 and worked as a freelancer until 1956. He took more than two hundred photos on the revolution; he was there at the Radio Station event and when the Stalin statue was pulled down. According to his memoirs, a part of his photos is in the White book, the others were hidden by his mother-in-law.

Bauer cannot be regarded as an event photographer literally, though you can find many May Day processions, football matches and exhibition openings in his legacy. He is considered as a design photographer primarily; he took photos of Home exhibitions, newly opened shops, he documented Budapest expos and shot fashion photos.

This is how the archive of Catering was made


His career changed course in 1957, when he became the press photographer of the magazine Vendéglátás (Catering) launched by the Ministry of Interior Trade. His legacy, which consists of about twenty thousand photos (half of them are coloured and half black and white), is the archive of this magazine and are mainly negatives. Besides that, the Bauer collection of our database also consists of these photos mainly. Not only coffee bars, self-service restaurants can be found, but also photos of confectioners’ and waiters’ competitions.

127960.jpgThe aim of the propaganda magazine was to introduce the spectacular development in the country; especially the development within the commercial and catering industry. The magazine had a permanent column for experts who attended the catering units in Hungary and ranked their experiences. It is interesting, how often they mentioned the ways of coffee making, especially the coffee made of grounds was resented by them. Poor shopkeeper of Espresso Marika in Kőbánya did not know that she would be remembered due to her dirty apron and not her coffee. Although the real faces of the always-smiling waiters and waitresses remain hidden for us, we hope that their smiles did not owe only to the camera.

‘If there was football, I forgot to take photos when they shot a goal’


We have already mentioned that he was not regarded as an event photographer primarily, but he also reported on sports events, football matches, equestrian sports and even running events. In addition, he shot tractor races, though they can be included in the definition of sports events only with a great favour. He took dozens of photos about the May Day procession of Prague. In the photo titled as ‘Workers of the world, unite!’ (below) you can see a moment of a slightly gloomy event - with Marx, Engels and Lenin portraits above the molino – contrasting a happily marching crowd.


127493.jpgNevertheless, it is proper to talk about the top catering units and products of the Kádár era, the so-called goulash communism. The dazzling red faux leather seats cannot be perceived in the black and white photos unfortunately, but the ceramic decorations can be still found on the walls. What is more, the arrangement of the shop is still the same as it was in the photo taken in the sixties. Yes, this is the famous Espresso Bambi; probably only the lace tablecloth has changed since its opening.

Famous-infamous, beloved-hated - without comment





If you lack something, we recommend you to scan the Bauer collection in our database, and if you can recognize an unidentified location, please do not hesitate to inform us about it.

Translated by Zita Aknai


Susan Sontag, A fényképezésről. Európa, Bp., 1981.

Vendéglátás magazin, 1958 - 1961 y.


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