Péter Korniss – Attachment 1967 – 2008

If you open the photo albums ”Inventory” and ”Attachement”, you enter immediately into the magic world of the Transylvanian village. Even if it is not a collection of ethographic pictures, you will find noumerous elements of the old bucolic culture, of the practices, costumes, songs and dances. If at the beginning of his journey in Romania, Korniss tried to imortalise the customs and the extravagant costumes, later he fills the everyday life , creating an inventory of the slow mutation of the Romanian and the Hungarian villages in Ardeal.

Certainly Péter Korniss puts your brain in movement when you watch his pictures such as the schoolgirls heading to shool during the autumn or during the winter, facing the cold or sinking into the fields’ mud, or when you find the picture showing the clothes’washing into an ice hole, the hemp’s cleaning, the weaving lady or the shepard with the cows and not at least the woman working with the buff.

If Péter Korniss’ pictures published in ”Inventory” and ” Attachement” between 1967 and 2008, would not be dated, you would belive they have been taken 50-100 years ago. You can even feel the rural comunity’s force and energy; the habitants of the Transylvanian villages are always together, when they join the army, they spend their holidays, go to a wedding and even to a funeral. During the holidays the streets are invaded by these tireless men and women wearing their traditional costumes. If you enter into the beautiful rooms inside book you are amazed by the huge amount of time needed for making the dowrya, by the testiness proved in the arrangements of objects, by the hand-painted furniture, by the beds that seem prepared for a parade or by the ornamental fabrics and ceramics.

Unfortunately after 1989 the rural comunities lost their specificity and they started changing different elements of daily life. Houses became more roomy and more cosy, but they are permanently overran by the western influences, by Coca-cola publicities and Michael Jackson, by Laurel and Hardy ceramic figurines, by serial-made blankets showing palms and lions, by trinkets bought from the market and, of course, the TV became the jewel of the house.
Péter Korniss sought for decades the destiny of several people and he made up an inventory of the world’s villages. Unfortunately he could not stop the changes that the village has undergone.

“To preserve a way of life that will soon disappear! As a photographer I couldn’t have found a better task for myself. The gift of photography is that we can preserve even the most ephemeral subject: man – in the world that he created and in which he lives.”(Péter Korniss)

Péter Korniss – Atașament 1967 – 2008

Dacă deschizi albumele de fotografie „Inventar” și „Atașament”, intri imediat în lumea magică a satului transilvănean. Deși nu sunt culegeri de fotografii etnografice, vei găsi numeroase elemente ale culturii țărănești vechi, ale obiceiurilor, portului, muzicii și dansului. Dacă la începutul călătoriilor sale în România, Korniss a căutat să imortalizeze obiceiurile și costumele extravagante, mai apoi s-a ocupat de viața de zi cu zi, alcătuind un invetar al transformărilor lente ale satului românesc și maghiar din Ardeal.

Cu siguranță Péter Korniss a reușit să te pună pe gânduri când ai dat de fotografia cu școlărițele care mergeau la școală toamna sau iarna, înfruntând nămeții sau scufundându-se în noroiul de pe câmp, sau de fotografiile cu spălatul rufelor în copcă, cu curățatul cânepii, cu țesătoarea sau păstorii cu vitele și femeia la întorsul fânului.

Despre fotografiile lui Péter Korniss, publicate în “Inventar” și “Atașament”, din perioada 1967-2008, ai putea crede că sunt făcute acum 50-100 de ani, dacă n-ar fi datate. Simți forța comunității din lumea satului; oamenii din satele ardelenști sunt împreună când merg la cătănie, nuntă, sărbători, decese. Străzile sunt invadate de oameni în frumoasele lor costume populare din zilele de sărbătoare. Dacă pătrunzi în camerele frumoase din album ești mirat de miile de ore de muncă depuse pentru a crea zestrea, de bunul gust în aranjarea obiectelor, de mobila pictată de mână, paturile de paradă, vechile scoarțe și farfuriile ornamentale.

Din păcate, după 1989 comunitatea satului slăbește și oamenii încep să schimbe diferite elemente ale vieții cotidiene. Casele devin mai încăpătoare și mai confortabile, dar sunt invadate de influențe din vest, de postere cu reclame la Coca-cola și Michael Jackson, de Stan și Bran din ceramică, cuverturi făcute în serie cu palmieri și lei, bibelouri cumpărate de la târg, televizorul devenind bijuteria casei.
Péter Korniss a urmărit timp de decenii destinul mai multor oameni, a alcătuit un inventar al lumii satului. Din păcate, nu a putut stopa transformările pe care le-a suferit satul

Photographs from the book “Attachment” by Péter Korniss

Mother rocking her cradle
Lészped (Lespezi, Romania)

Anna Bálint and her child are the subject of the first
and last picture in this book. In their tiny room there
is only a cradle hanging from the beam and two
beds, but the woven Csángó rugs are everywhere.

Szék (Sic, Romania)

After school the boys go sledging and sliding on
the frozen meadow — just as we did in my childhood
in Transylvania.

Girl with pearl
Girl with pearl headdress
Magyarvista (Vistea, Romania)
In the Kalotaszeg region the prettiest part of the
girls’ costume was the pearl headdress which they
only wore on special occasions.

Shepherd boy
Grosi (Romania)

That winter my son Gyuri joined me on my travels.
The 14 year old shepherd boy, whom we met on
the snowy pastures, wasn’t much older than him,
and he was called Gyuri too — Gheorghiu.


Girls walking down the main street
Sugatag (Sugatag, Romania)

In spite of the growing traffic the Sunday afternoon
promenade still took place on the main road in the
nineteen-nineties. That they walk arm in arm is a
demonstration of their attachment to each other.
Only their clothes show that times have changed.

Couple singing
Györgyfalva (Gheorgheni, Romania)

During the interval at the dance young couples sing
in pairs for pleasure. The camera doesn’t worry
them at all.

Man fooling around at a wedding
Méra (Mera, Romania)

In Kalotaszeg the wedding parade is fraught with
practical jokes. The locals close off the street and
the wedding party can only proceed by paying
a ransom — one or two bottles of schnapps.


Wedding room
Méra (Mera, Romania)

When I entered this “Kalotaszeg” room for the first
time I thought I was in a museum. It was then I
learnt that in the house of every family worth its
salt there is a richly decorated room like this. In the
photo the cake made for the wedding is the only
temporary thing.

Woman expecting guests
Szék (Sic, Romania)

In the 1990s huge mass-produced wall hangings
coming from Turkey by some means or another and
spreading throughout East European villages took
over from the usual hand-woven folk hangings. In
Transylvania by the turn of the century the passion
for them was beginning to wane.

Dawn with a scythe
Szék (Sic, Romania)

The men set out at dawn to scythe the grass which
is easier to cut with the dew on it.
I set out at the same time with my camera and
waited for the shadowy figures to appear silently
out of the mist.

“Between 1978 and 1986 I photographed the life
and work of a commuting worker and I decided
that in a series of photos entitled The Guest Worker
I would relate through the life of Andras Skarbit
what I know about the commuters and what
I consider important about his life.”


The commuter trains were known colloquially as
“black trains”. First of all because of the dreadful
conditions on them, and secondly because a good
deal of the passengers were gypsies. At the beginning
of the seventies film director Pál Schiffer made
a memorable documentary about the black trains.
There was even a pop song on the subject which
went, “Dear, oh dear, the black train/took away my
love again…”


The “shed” — that’s what they called one of the
most important places in András’s life, the indispensable
caravan which was always towed to the
place where the navvy brigade happened to be
working. The shed served several purposes: it was
where they rested, washed and changed clothes;
they could keep warm here in winter, and it was
where they ate.


András Skarbit, with five other men from the village,
organized themselves into a navvy brigade
and worked for the Municipal Gas Works. The
work took them all over Budapest from the most
elegant parts of the centre to the outer suburbs,
and András got to know the city like the back of
his hand.


Behind the Skarbits’ house there was an extensive
garden. Apart from maize, beans and potatoes,
they grew fruit and vegetables, and kept animals
too. Between the summer kitchen and the house
there was a little vine trellis. András was happy to
spray it with insecticide because he was proud of
his own wine.


His balanced
personality had a great role in the family.
His daughters married husbands from Miskolc
and Nyíregyháza, and not long after András had
three grandchildren to play with. They came
home often and the family almost always got together
in the little house in Tiszaeszlár for special

Funeral processing with flag
Szék (Sic, Romania)

Funerals, probably more than anything else, have
preserved the traditional strict order of ceremony.
There is even a rule that determines the order of
those who head the funeral procession. The close
relatives of the deceased carry the flag which up
till then announced the mourning at the house of
the dead.

At the grave
Szék (Sic, Romania)

I often saw widows in the cemetery in Szék throwing
themselves on the gravestones of their husbands. I
came across this sincere expression of mourning in
other villages too — but never in towns.


Girl on roller skates in her home
Lészped (Lespezi, Romania)

I caught sight of Júlia Bálint in a village street
where she was roller skating with her friends.
On her mobile phone she called her mother
— who was on her way home from hoeing
in the fields — to ask whether I could take photographs
in their home. Later it turned out that
Júlia was the grandchild of Anna Bálint, whom I
photographed 35 years before with her babe-inarms
and whom I had come to photograph again.

Village museum
Szék (Sic, Romania)

Published in Hungary by Helikon Publishing House,
Budapest; distributed by
Fresco Fine Art Publications
in cooperation with the University of New Mexico Press.
Managing director Tamás Okolicsányi. Editorial director Éva Ambrus.
English translation Elizabeth Szász
Picture editor Mária Sívó
Design by Zsuzsa Murányi
Printed by Folpress Nyomdaipari Kft., Hungary, 2008.
HE 1207 / ISBN 978 963 227 166 8

Personal site of Péter Korniss:

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