I met Michael, Monica and Alexander while photographing prostitutes in the Józsefváros neighbourhood of Budapest. They were the only ones in this isolated community with whom I became friends; over time very close friends. I photographed them for approximately 3 years, from the time they moved to the flat in the 9th district of Budapest, on Kálvária Square.
The flat where they were living was very important to this series. They received their clients and lived their lives here; the two boys (Alexander and Michael) met in this flat, and it is the place where Michael committed suicide on 24 February, 2010.
Monica became the third wheel in the family when Alexander moved in. She was the silent and patient observer; never ceasing her love of Michael and wishing that they would be together. Until Michael’s death she worked as a prostitute in the flat, giving all the money she earned to him. After Michael’s death she moved to another brothel. We kept in touch for a while, but this became too painful as she reminded me of Michael and his tragic faith. Alexander immediately found another man with whom he has lived.
Monica and Michael’s relationship was also an interesting one. Michael picked Monica up 10 years ago in a bar, out of pity. She was already a heavy drinker , making love with every man who bought her a drink. She made everything – or everyone – for a drink or a cigarette, saying she loved the sex, that her “job” didn’t bother her. At that time Michael lived with Small-Michael, another gay prostitute, and also a drunkard. Michael picked them both up in nearby bars, but after a while he did not let them out on the street, as they were too conspicuous. The three of them covered the sex market: they would receive clients with all types of need and sexual orientation. Finally, Michael could no longer cope with his own jealousy and Small-Michael’s excessive drinking and they split. Monica stayed in the flat with Michael.
Michael’s death was not because of or linked to prostitution. He loved Alexander. He loved him and wished to live happily with him. Unfortunately Alexander – the boy, who lived a majority of his life in an orphanage and as a gay prostitute – has never been capable of love, never knew intimacy. He used Michael but never loved him. Always the chaser, Alexander always wanting to escape, Michael depended on his love, all his life depended on it; but Alexander couldn’t stop playing his cruel games.
Michael’s suicide seems very logical to me now. He carefully planned this act. No one, no thing could bring him back from that decision. His death became the answer and the relief from everything – and perhaps for him it was.
The life of Monica and her family is unusual but the problem that finally led to Michael’s death is. The question I have asked after his death is: “could it happen to anybody?” And I realised that similar situations were and have been in my private and in my friends’ lives.
What I do now is to go on, and, there is no other choice than learning from Michael and his meaningless death.
Mother Michael goes to heaven
Texts by Lilla Szász (English)
Design by Francesco Mazzarella
2014, hardcover, image wrap
21 x 21 cm, 82 pages
Published by Lilla Szász
Books can be purchased at: www.szaszlilla.hu