Lilla Szász was born 1977 in Budapest, lives and works in Lisbon and Budapest. Her sensitive, diary-like series of photos explores social taboos and different forms of otherness. Her works portray human vulnerability and give an insight into the lives of marginalized social groups, prostitutes, young criminals living in institutions, or even an HIV-positive elderly woman. Her projects have been exhibited at the Photo España in Madrid, the National Gallery in Warsaw and the Fotohof in Salzburg, among others. In 2018 and 2019, she conducted researches in Lisbon, at Hangar Artist Residency, and New York as a Fellow of the Asylum Arts Grant.
In her career, she has worked on many of her series of works for months and years, growing close with her portrait subjects and telling very personal stories. Her sensitive-emphatic and poetic images are careful observation of details to explore human relationships. During the process of photographing, she does not obtrude in front of her protagonists, the author’s own personality does not suppress the figures, but let them in front of the stories.
With a deep interest in human destinies, she is documenting and interpreting contemporary post-communist conditions, which extend far beyond her native Hungary. In Saint Petersburg, she captured Sunbathers, a group of poor people spending every day, from February until late November, at the wall of Peter-Paul Fortress. Her portraits of Russian Jewish Veterans of the Second World War living in New York prompt us to questions where does a person’s ideology come from and what forms our identity?
Lilla Szász has always been impressed with how people under most miserable circumstances try to find goals in their lives and survive with the help of simple joys, with which they can forget about their misery for a while. She searches for stories that are very personal and universal at the same time to reveal the socio-political contradictions in contemporary society.
Beyond her artistic work, Lilla Szász teaches art and photography (2018- Budapest Metropolitan University, guest lecturer; 2015-2017 International Business School, Budapest, guest lecturer; 2011 ICP- New York, Saul Robbins’ workshop ‘Regarding Intimacy’ – guest lecturer, among others), curates and has won several international awards (2022 Rosti Pál Award for the Best Photo Book of The Year (nomination); 2021 Art Defies Violence, Salzburg, First Prize; 2020 Fotohof Calling Award, Fotohof, Salzburg; 2019 Asylum Arts, Research Grant, Lisbon (2020 March – September); 2019 La Junquiera Artist Residency, Lisbon; 2019 Hangar Artist Residency, Lisbon; 2018 Budapest Gallery Artist Exchange Fellowship, Lisbon (2018 June-July); 2010-2011 Hungarian Eötvös Fellowship, New York, ICP; 2008: Descubrimientos PHE08, Madrid; 2005 ECB Photography award – Hungary today (third price).
She has taught children with mental and physical challenges (at “Smile Foundation”), and children of drug user parents (at “Sober Babies”), on a voluntary basis. She has visited numerous workshops, with, among others, Sylvia Plachy, and Steidl and Aperture Publishing Houses. She was guest lecturer at Saul Robbins workshop “Regarding Intimacy” at International Center of Photography, New York. Her work has been exhibited and published internationally, including recently, Photo España, Aqui Estamos (Here we are) with Richard Avedon, Richard Billingham and Paz Errazuriz; Shanghai World Expo, LIVE SYNC. Contemporary Photography from Hungary; and Laboratory East Swiss Photo Award. Aqui Estamos (Here we are) was curated by Gerardo Mosquera and Monica Portillo, received 640,000 visitors and won the prize of the public at Photo España.