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Magyar Rendőr (The Hungarian Policeman)

Press Conference

Time: 3 December 2009 at 11 a.m.

Location: OSA Archivum, Budapest 1051, Arany János u. 32.

Magyar Rendőr (The Hungarian Policeman) first appeared in January 1947. Early issues of the fortnightly magazine were published with no photos at all; the first photograph was printed on the cover six months after the periodical had been launched, then in 1949 inner pages started to be illustrated too. At the same time as Magyar Rendőr started to print photographs, full-time photographers were hired, usually 3 or 4 at a time, many of whom stayed with the paper, which meanwhile became a weekly magazine, for as long as several decades.

Checking the meticulously kept records against the issues of Magyar Rendőr, it becomes clear that over two thirds of the photos that were taken were never actually used in the magazine. While the date and the topic of reports or the photographer are sometimes hard, or even impossible, to identify, basic information was usually preserved: the title, date and place of the series and the name of the photographer.

Little is known about the photographers themselves. They were mostly crime scene photographers, good professionals but not artists. Their exceptional professional skill may be the reason why there are surprisingly few failed shots.

It is evident from the photos that have been digitized so far that these reporters literally covered the whole country to document the work of the police and agents of the interior ministry, the procedures and action taken against citizens. A relatively high proportion of reports were made in the countryside, sometimes in small villages; the photographers seem to have been everywhere the police went, and, especially in the Rákosi era, the police were omnipresent: children free-riding on the trams, people signing up for Plan Loan bonds, court cases, agricultural seasonal work, delivery of farm products.

While the collection focuses mainly on life inside the police force (training, briefing, practice at the range, holidays, patrols, scene-of-crime officers at work), there are a great many intriguing photos of the city, of sporting events, of everyday life and amazing images of godforsaken lands. What thus becomes visible amidst the innumerable artificially posed and false pictures is the reality of communism, as it existed.

Between 1947 and 1989, Magyar Rendőr photographers shot over 18,000 Leica cartridges and 6x6 films, producing nearly 500,000 frames to make 20,000 reports. This enormous volume of material, highly varied in terms of both topic and quality, was nearly destroyed after the change of the regime. By a lucky chance, the negatives were acquired by the Hungarian Museum of Photography in 1992, and now these photos make up a separate and important section in the museum’s collection.

The project of processing of the Magyar Rendőr photo archive, including scanning and cataloguing the negatives, has been ongoing since spring 2008 at OSA Archivum, with financial help from the National Cultural Fund. Original negatives are digitized in chronological order so the content of this website is growing on a monthly basis. It is our intention to make the entire collection of photos taken between 1947 and 1989 available.

www.magyarrendor.hu

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