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Tamas Revesz and the Hungary Eye
By LOUIS TEMPLADO, International Herald Tribune/Asahi Shimbu, July 31,2004

" It's amazing to me that people make no reaction when you point a camera at them. I always try to capture emotion, but here people are very reserved."

TAMAS REVESZ Photographer, talking about Tokyo

What do first-time visitors see when they visit Tokyo? The skyscrapers? The crowds? The paper lanterns and the uniforms?

For Tamas Revesz, it's none of these things.

One of the leading photographers to come from Hungary, Revesz visited Tokyo last week for the opening of his exhibition "New York", running at the UMU exhibition space in Roppongi Hills through Aug. 5. The show is a major production, involving both the U.S and Hungarian embassies, as well as TV Asahi and The Asahi Shimbun.

Nevertheless, Revesz found time to sneak away to explore other parts of Tokyo with his lens. The images that appear on this page are the result.

Revesz, a tireless wanderer with a mad professor mane, has a knack for capturing those brief moments that define the life of a city. In 1997 he won a Pulitzer Memorial Award for his photo book "Budapest: A City Before the Millenium". Filled with subtle gestures and moments, the book is a visual ode to a city he knows intimately: A native, Revesz lived there for nearly five decades.

"I am usually attracted by people, emotions, tradition, architecture new and old, and people interacting with that architecture", Revesz says. "I aim for architecturally correct but documentary style images. As usual, most of the time the theory is left behind when I go out and shoot".

Life was good when Hungary was part of the Soviet bloc, says Revesz, who traveled freely and published a dozen books before "Budapest". Yet in the same year that book came out, he left the city he loves.

The reason was simple luck: Revesz and his family won permanent residence visas to the United States in a lottery, which the photographer saw as a personal midlife challenge.

"New York is not bashful, it hides nothing, it offers itself to you. Here I am. Want me? Buy me. Its openness is frightening", says Revesz. He shot for three years before putting out "New York" the year before 9/11.

Tokyo, says Revesz, has proven to be a more difficult subject than New York or the cities of Europe.

" It's amazing to me that people make no reaction when you point a camera at them", he says, strolling through the Akihabara electronics district congested with shoppers. "I always try to capture emotion, but here people are very reserved. In Italy, for example, there is always the grand gestures and over-acting," Revesz says. "The traditional architecture is also understated. In Europe the churches and basilica have been built to immediately astound you with their presence. The temples here draw you through their modesty".

Yet Tokyo is also a whirlpool of colors and frenetic motion, another challenge for a shooter who prefers an old-fashioned Leica packed with black-and-white film.

"Everywhere you go there are so many people shopping, buying. How could they want so much?" he says, sounding like a true child of the old socialist Hungary. "But I guess that is the condition of the world-it's the same now wherever you go in the world."

Still, that's not all he sees. Carried along with the crowd, he looks left and right and then lifts his camera to his eye to capture scenes unnoticed by others: The frail hand of an old man reaches for his wife's; a young man and women look at each other and share a smile that seems to throw everything around them out of focus.