In Japanese aesthetics, the "floating world" refers to the vague world of beauty and transient feelings found in a picture. Such is with the photography of Sarolta Gyoker, whose images seem to be all too surreal to be ever found in gritty reality.
Here's our interview with Sarolta.
Hey there, Sarolta! Welcome to Lomography Magazine! Firstly, when you were first introduced to the camera, do you remember the first subjects you loved to photograph?
It's an honor to be here in Lomography Magazine. It was my father who first introduced me to the camera; I must have been around 14-15 years old. He was an architect and had a passion for photography. The camera I used in my teens was a ZEISS vintage folding 6x6 format Ikonta and I enjoyed using it a great deal—the quality of the photos it took was stunning. I loved taking photos of my surroundings, as well as of people, especially the downtrodden, and also of the natural world. The 6x6 format allowed me to learn about composition which came quite naturally, for I had a love of fine arts from as far as I can remember—again, my father had taken me to art exhibits nearly every weekend at the National Gallery, Museum of Fine Arts in Budapest, and other venues since I was little, and that passion has been with me ever since. I also did my B.A. and M.A. studies in art history much later.
Can you describe to us your personal style?
While I am constantly drawn to new ways of expression, perhaps it is a fusion of two components: one is, of course, the subject at hand, and the other is my inner response towards it, which emerges based on the resonances and predilections that have manifested within me throughout the years. The subject often guides me to the way I would like to represent it. I adore abstracted shapes and forms, hence my love of the interplay between objects and their shadows; I am moved by nuances of nature, be it a single weed or the curvature of a branch, a ray of light caught by a leaf in a forest, or the ephemeral quality that informs this floating world. I can’t fail to be stirred by the power of light shining in the darkness, and try to bring that sense into my photos as best I can—perhaps this is also tied in with a metaphorical, spiritual quest. And this is where photography and spirituality can also meet—photography literally means “drawing with light”.
Your images have a nice blend of pictorialism and minimalism. And rightfully poetic. Nature plays a huge part, so what is it about nature that draws you in?
To me, nature in its transience, paradoxically, is capable of expressing what I’d refer to as the Noumenon, the one that is real and is not subject to ever-present changes. There is a resilient, enormously powerful, yet also vulnerable beauty that keeps manifesting in nature.
The Japanese call it _“Mono no aware”_—literally "the pathos of things”—which is also translated as "an empathy toward things", or "a sensitivity to ephemera”.
It is a term for the awareness of the transience of things, of the inevitable impermanence, as it may. In solitary walks, I can get physically moved by what people might consider very simple things such as a curvature in a branch, the way light falls on a treetop or some weeds, or how a brittle fallen leaf is carried by a current in a body of water—and, not the least, by the silence of the falling snow that gradually envelops and ultimately petrifies our surroundings in winter. Living in Ottawa, it is a very long season, of course…
Nature can be found everywhere -- but where's your favorite spot? Is it in the meadows, forests, prairies, etc?
It is hard to say. Inspiration, for me, stems less from a geographical place than from the relationship of particular elements within space and subjected to a source of light. I am not able to make long and extensive travels to places that I would be excited to see and be inspired by—so I photograph what is in front of me, and it can be in subjects considered by many the most ordinary. I can safely say those vast expanses do take my breath away (also because they draw attention to the sky). Also water—it’d be fascinating to take some abstract under-water shots one day! I should also add that I would be thrilled to have the opportunity to live in an urban milieu and just wander around aimlessly, as I often do when I go home to the city of my birth and youth, Budapest, or during my visits to San Francisco, for instance.
Where do you draw inspiration from?
Having studied art history for many years, it’s mostly art, particularly painting, that inspires me—not only the Great Masters (especially the inimitable luminosity and tenderness in Rembrandt’s canvases) and the still less-than-perfect yet wonderfully impactful, spiritual pre-Renaissance artists, but also the avant-garde of the twentieth century, Bauhaus, Suprematism and, last but not least, Japanese aesthetics both old and new. I draw inspiration from nature, of course, from poetry, dance…and of course, photography. I admire the work of a lot of photographers.
If you could work, collaborate or meet with any photographer or artist, who would it be, and what would you two be doing?
How incredible that would be! I would be thrilled to meet Masao Yamamoto or Gregory Pinkhassov, two giants whose works are very different yet so incredibly beautiful and fresh. And Michael Kenna. I feel a kind of friendship with him without ever having met him, and without any arrogance, I feel I would get along with him easily—his philosophy, his likes are similar to how I feel. I would think any walk together, with or without a camera, would be enormously enriching. Even in silence! I would also like to add a Spanish photographer duo, Anna Cabrera and Angel Albarrán, whose sensitive works keep leaving me speechless. It would be wonderful to wander around with them, anywhere, at any time. But there are many spellbinding photographers whose works leave me speechless—the scope of this interview might not be enough to mention all!
Describe to us -- what's a day in the life of Sasa Gyoker?
I check the weather forecast to see the morning conditions and, should everything conspire to shoot the dawn, whether fused with mist, fog, frost, or a gathering storm, I try to wake very early to run out catch some of it before starting my workday as a graphic designer. After work, my beloved and I are going out a bit, I meet friends, or I throw myself into some of the photos I had taken, read, or wind down in whichever way seems most inviting—physical or spiritual.
What do you usually do during your downtime? Any on-going project, or other plans in the future?
I need to print photos soon for a juried show with a photographer friend this winter and have to submit some others to online publications. I hope I’ll have the time to spend meditatively on my winter photography!