Prologue to a Tango: Photo Series by Gyorgy Englert

Marianne Stenger
24th July 2022

As one of the sponsors for Westminster University’s BA Photography Degree Show, the Bob Books team had the privilege of selecting three winners from a very talented group of up-and-coming photographers. 

We’re very pleased to announce that the third place winner of the Bob Books Student Award 2022 is portrait and fine art photographer Gyorgy Englert

His photo series Prologue to a Tango was chosen for its intriguing imagery that showcases a distinctive style of photography. The whimsical yet moody images evoke a sense of loneliness and encourage the viewer to get closer and discover the deeper meaning behind them. 

Overall, it’s a creative and cohesive body of work that inspires curiosity and reflection. We had the opportunity to ask Gyorgy a few questions about his project and the deeper meaning behind it.

Image © Gyorgy Englert

Could you tell us a little about your style of photography? 

Before studying photography, I used my camera to make memories of my travels, so I have a massive body of work related to travel photography, including architectural, nature, and street photography. 

Since I started my course at the University of Westminster, however, I started to work with concepts. Instead of just taking a picture, I was encouraged to create a picture. This transformed my view and approach entirely. 

During my studies, I also discovered the beauty of black and white photography. I enjoyed the challenge of abstraction. By subtracting colours you can turn the subject into something more interesting or significant. 

I’ve also learnt some traditional processes such as cyanotype, salt print, photopolymer and silk screen print that I found fascinating. It broadened my view in terms of using them for a possible future project. What dominated my recent photographic practice is creating atmospheric pictures by shaping light.

Image © Gyorgy Englert

Tell us about your project Prologue to Tango. How did the idea for it come about? 

For my major project, I wanted to make something personal that I’d never really done before. I wanted to choose a topic that bothers me; something that’s challenging to visualise and needs technical skills.

My series originates from the moments in my relationship(s) when I perceive a harshly changed atmosphere in interactions and find it difficult to respond to it. I connect these situations to certain scenes that cause confusion in me. 

Usually, these start with a silent act that can be either credible or obviously acted out. These moments also incorporate a sort of alienation and rejection in subtle ways. I find it frightening and sometimes amusing, or even both at the same time. 

I perceive these moments as signs or messages that I’m expected to respond to and decipher. A kind of call-to-action that will launch a tango-like interaction in which I am expected to put a certain level of effort and show a degree of commitment to be able to understand the real meaning of the act. 

My images depict a moment or an act that has yet to unfold. They are a prologue to something yet to come. It follows elements of the tango; an interaction of courting, passion, commitment, rejection, seduction and dignity.

Image © Gyorgy Englert

What’s the main thing you hope people will take away from this project? 

Personal relationships have been a source of inspiration for a tremendous amount of works in different genres in art history. A never ending story with countless layers, which therefore tells us something about humanity. We can always connect to these stories through our personal experiences. 

The delicate nature of understanding each other is a key element in human interactions. It’s especially important in a relationship in which temporary discontent can have fragile characteristics. I hope that with my series, I can convey my perspective and bring more understanding about a specific aspect of relationships.

Image © Gyorgy Englert

How did you go about shooting the images for this project? Were there aspects that you found more challenging? 

I had a long contemplation on what type of environment would best suit my project. Firstly, I had to create a certain intimacy that could suggest a bond between the ‘observer’ and the subject. 

Secondly, I wanted to make the viewer feel involved in the scenes. Thirdly, I had to create an atmosphere that could be imagined equally as a stage-like scene where a role play was acted out, and as a home where something honest and credible happens. 

I came to the conclusion that a domestic environment would best refer to a personal relationship, as a closed space could convey intimacy. I could also play with the interior to keep a narrow line between a home and a stage. 

Initially I looked for furniture shops with built sets where I could take some test shots. However, after the first review, it turned out that some additional layers on consumerism and social criticism could easily be attached to these images. This was unwanted from my point of view, so I decided to create my series in an existing Victorian house that could be viewed both as a stage and a home. 

The most challenging part of shooting this project was adapting the lighting to each scene. I had to apply basic knowledge of how light works creatively, although occasionally I used the old method of trial and error. I also had to be aware of the effect of natural light in different areas of the house. The timing was essential for some shots, although sometimes I created the mood using mainly strobes, as natural light wouldn’t have appeared in the way I imagined my scene. 

Apart from making moody images to keep the series coherent, I tried to minimise and match the colours to the surroundings in a subtle way. This low-key harmony helped to bring a certain coherence to the series, as did the square format and observational viewpoint. 

Image © Gyorgy Englert

What’s next for you? Do you have ideas for new projects you’d like to work on? 

Currently, I’m responding to enquiries that emerged from the Free Range show. I already have two opportunities to exhibit my series to the public. One relates to an art programme and the other is an international photography exhibition in China. I’ve also been contacted by two magazines in order to be featured.

The last two semesters demanded intense concentration and stamina, so I’d like to take some time off as well. I will probably plan some short trips to the British countryside this summer, as well as a longer trip back to my native home, Hungary, in the autumn.

For my next project, I’d like to go back to my black and white practice and try to use the strong expressiveness of black and white imagery. My biggest hope is that I can change my career and firmly establish myself in the photography industry.

Gyorgy Englert is an emerging portrait and fine art photographer based in London. Want to see more of his work? You can visit his website or follow him on Instagram  @egy.photography.hu