Sprengel Museum Hanover

Sprengel Plakat mit dünnem Rand

“Invariably photography has to point at something that can’t be seen.
And it must not show everything that is there to be seen. Because otherwise – the obvious would hide the essential.”
Zoltán Jókay, 2012

„During the past 25 years, the photographer Zoltán Jókay (born 1960) has been exploring the possibilities and limits of inter-human relationships and has forever remained faithful to his querying mind. His photography is also a self-searching process, a coming to terms with togetherness as the quintessence of human existence. The photographic genre of the portrait is the perfect medium to this end, for it presupposes the coming together of two people, an encounter, from which a virtually paradigmatic situation evolves, the ultimate expression of which is the portrait itself.

Mrs. Raab wants to go home, the photographer’s most recent work, has as its theme human sociality viewed from the perspective of absolute solitude. Since 2007 Zoltán Jókay has been working in a low-income district on the outskirts of Munich, first as a district carer and then as a carer in an old people’s home. Having been given basic retraining as a low-paid auxiliary, he was entrusted with the job of looking after after old people suffering from dementia. At first there was no thought of being able to use his photography, for earning a living was the main concern. But then the status of human life as an operand is nowhere so bluntly evident as in the brutal economy of social care and welfare. The human beings Zoltán Jókay encounters here are hardly able to care for themselves and look after their own interests. And added to this loss of personal autonomy and the loss of one’s own four walls is the loss of memory. What remains is solitude. While solitude is not of course exclusively contingent on whether one is rich or poor, it is certainly the dire fate of those who are no longer able to purchase respect and dignity.

Zoltán Jókay responded to this situation by meeting the need to give back to the people he worked with, and cared for, the very dignity and individuality their circumstances so often denied them. After two years he began to photograph them and the three years that followed saw the creation of a series of more than 60 photographs that were just as magically lyrical as they were brutally honest.

While the loss of memory may also erase its images, the colours of Zoltán Jókay’s photographs seem to store, like pent-in emotions, the richness of a life once lived. With the utmost discretion and economy of language, Zoltán Jókay affords his subjects the possibility of describing their lives anew. Not least in this regard do the frail yet powerful images from the series Mrs. Raab wants to go home generate a force that is at once discomforting and moving.“

text by
Inka Schube