Finalist 2017: Vera Torok
The pictures in this series were taken in London, Hong Kong and Tokyo with a Leica M6. However, there is nothing specifically recognisable about each city; rather the photographer has found a universal imagery to capture the complexity of everyday life in an urban setting. By using double exposures, she presents a surprising new approach to street photography.
Ms Torok, could you explain the title of your ‘Accidentally on Purpose’ series?
The explanation for the title is as complex as the pictures themselves. I once, accidentally, loaded the wrong film and, due to this lucky mistake, created the kind of picture I’d always imagined. From that moment on, I used this mistake on purpose to achieve my vision. Every picture is taken on purpose but you never know how the sensitive layer on the film will behave when you shoot the second layer: how the images will ‘accidentally’ merge. The magic happens inside the film camera without any Photoshop manipulation. If you try to make something done on purpose look natural, you’ll always have the feeling it's staged.
“I wanted to create something new, something what is unique in street photography, but that insists on the classic visual elements.”
Can you estimate in advance how many convincing double exposures will be found on one film?
My experience is one picture per roll, but that varies. You have to imagine in advance what you want to see at the end; you need to plan the colours, composition, shapes, small details, to create new spaces.
What are you trying to express with your project?
Every time I go and photograph everyday life in an urban environment, I want to capture not just street scenes, but also the complexity of the whole, how people live urban life today, in a mixture of real and virtual worlds, constantly impacted by it all. By merging the visual elements, you create complex images that ask questions and provoke reactions, while the viewer dives into a multi-layered picture and tries to understand it.
Born in Budapest in 1981, the photographer was already taking pictures with her father’s camera at a young age. At high school she worked on graphic design, then studied communication and economy. Photography has become a defining passion since she started working together with her colleague Robert Pap. They develop projects together under their Gravitatephotos collective. In addition to ‘Accidentally on Purpose’, other important long-term projects are: ‘Made in Carnival’ (London, since 2012), ‘To Follow a Dream’ (Iceland, since 2013), ‘Waterside Thoughts’ (Europe, since 2012) and ‘In The Shadow of Thaw’ (Greenland, since 2016). Vera Torok lives and works in London.