Our daily bread: the swift politicisation of harvest festivals
The above is the introduction to the latest article in the English-language blog by the Fortepan online repository of Hungarian photographs. The introduction continues: “Even though it was Communist propaganda that eventually ‘hijacked’ and transformed its meaning, the New Bread celebration was not invented by the Communists, and the idea of taking political advantage of this festive day had antecedents in the Christian and conservative political tradition.
“Communist ideologues tried to appropriate and make good use of such symbols of Christian origin as wheat, sowing, and harvesting, and bread, life, and abundance. A photo of the Communist leader Mátyás Rákosi gently crumbling a head of wheat was as ingrained in Hungarian political iconography and collective memory as the passages of poetry mastered by tired schoolchildren longing to be anywhere else during the last class of the day.”
The full text of “Our daily bread: the swift politicisation of harvest festivals” with many photos can be seen here.
The Fortepan digital archive collects and shares Hungarian photographs taken from 1900 to 1990, and currently contains 156,000 pictures. The collection, which does not exist in physical form, was launched in 2010. The archive comes under a Creative Commons licence and the richly illustrated series of articles the is free for anyone to use, with due credit.
Fortepan now has an English edition of its weekly blog Heti Fortepan. The latter, in Hungarian, was launched in 2020 in professional partnership with the Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center. The English-language Weekly Fortepan will be a selection of the Heti Fortepan series. Twice a month an article in English is being published at hetifortepan.capacenter.hu/en. The earlier articles can also be seen at this link.
The archive, which is mainly supported by donations, is run by 10-15 editors working on a voluntary basis, and they try to decipher the content of the images on the FortePan megfejtések forum.
The collection is based on 5000 images collected since the 1980s from Budapest junk clearances. Over the past decade more than 700 donors have offered their photographs to the archive. At first it was mainly families but later photo documentation from companies and professional photographers also found their way onto Fortepan.
Fortepan volunteers simply digitise the images and return them to the donors. Fortepan is an edited archive, and about a third of the images received are uploaded, with editor Miklós Tamási looking for the “meaningful” ones.
The archive is named after the Fortepan negative film produced by the former Forte factory in Vác, which was very popular in Hungary. The blog is edited by Tamási and István Virágvölgyi, curator of the Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center.
If you have a family photo to share with Fortepan, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org