Istvan Kadar came to the Club last week to hear George Kouronis's speak, and figured he'd be a pretty tough act to follow. "I’m kind of afraid of tornadoes, so I’ll just show you my tranquil, pretty pictures," he said modestly, and then he blew us straight out of the water with work that was magic on a memory card.
His work is often described as 'fantasy' or 'dreamlike.' Kadar says he can live with that. In fact every image is based on reality, but through his eyes there's a magic behind the monotone of everyday life, and he makes it visible through a little post work. Sometimes a lot of post work.
Kadar was born in Sepsiszentgyorgy, Transylvania where, he says, "The unfortunate lack of vampires makes it less romantic and mysterious than you might think." At 22 he came to Toronto and studied graphic design. He was an Art Director in many notable advertising agencies in Budapest and in Toronto, and now focuses entirely on his own art, which has won many awards including the National Geographic first prize award in Nature Category (2008). His work covers all genres, which he roughly classifies as Travel, People, Animals, Plants, Still life and Composite.
He looks for the underlying magic in the heart of nature, and through enhancement of that almost secret beauty, creates intoxicating images that are at once realistic and otherworldly. 'Overly shot locations and subjects don't bother me much. My aim is to capture a feeling, an atmosphere, not just to document a moment. Sometimes you just have to take the same standard shot from the same position where millions of people have done it before, because it's just so gorgeous." There is after all only one Taj Mahal, and everyone knows it's there and has a pretty good idea what it looks like. His images are distinguished from the herd when he adds his own touch – a bump to the saturation, contrast, accentuated colours, and suddenly an old familiar sight becomes one you're seeing for the very first time.
The heart of Istvan's work is his courage and integrity. It takes cojones to put out into the world concrete representation of your own vision of life — the reality behind the reality that everyone else sees. He follows an inner vision, and pursues it without compromise. The degree of post work, much or little, doesn't matter. What does matter is that the secret beauty is outed, where everyone can see it. Where you can see it. Where it can inform your understanding of what's what. The final result matters more than the process, because his point is always and consistently to make visible the invisible, by any means possible.
His portraits, in contrast with his bright landscapes, tend to be dark and mysterious, accentuated by added texture, but still maintaining the ethereal quality that is distinctively his own.
His many and beautiful animal images are technically brilliant, but they're never pictures you would use to illustrate a dictionary; they're more like pictures of ideas.
This beautiful picture of a bird in flight would never show up under B for Bird.
It's called 'Spread your Wings' for a reason: these are all pictures of ideas. That's why they look so tangible and intangible at the same time.
And they also look like pictures of our own lives, and the things we've known and know: 'Precious mother's milk': no one needs to tell you.
He showed only one picture of an animal in captivity, a wild cat in the Toronto Zoo: "I prefer to photograph animals in their natural environment; it hurts my feelings to see them in jail."
Still life and plants "are the easiest: They sit still and they're good-looking. They take direction well."
Kadar's work has culminated in photo-books. "As soon as I had enough pictures, I wanted to see how they looked printed on good quality paper." There are several good online publishers out there. His favourite is Blurb, and he brought examples of his books to show us the really excellent results that are possible. Kadar prefers not to advertise his work, and because of Blurb, he doesn't need to: "They have an easy-to-navigate and visually appealing bookstore where you can preview and buy other author's books." Some of his books are featured on Blurb's website under Staff Pick.
Another attractive feature is that Blurb's book-making module is built right into LightRoom, making book creation just another step in your photo management and editing workflow. You can customize any of 100+ available layouts, and add text. There are 7 different soft- and hardcover book sizes and 5 paper types to choose from. Altogether you can end up with an enviably glossy and professional-looking finished product.
You need to be ready before you go in. The elements Kadar considers before starting are the cover, table of contents (if you need one), intro, sections with section cover pages, section title, subtitles, graphic elements, image layouts, white space, body copy and pagination.
He favours covers where the title is subordinate to a big, bold image, but the possibilities are endless. Kadar colour-codes his locations in travel books, incorporating the legend into a map at the beginning of the book, and distinguishing the locations by using those colours in his section division titles. Each section opens with a strong silhouette, distinctively related to section content while providing visual continuity throughout the book. Pagination is unobtrusive, with white space used like the rests in music — a constructive presence.
THE THREE QUESTIONS FROM TCC
1: How does photography speak to people differently from other art forms?
A: Today, Photography is "instant gratification." It is the "Folk Art" of the 21st Century. Now anyone who can click a camera can make art. It’s accessible to everyone and they can all relate to it.
2: What is your biggest challenge?
A: This lecture! Talking in front of a big audience!
3: What is your most memorable moment?
A: I’ve seen a lot of beautiful places, but I think the most memorable is when I see an animal I’ve never seen before.
Q&A from the audience:
Q: What editing software do you use?
A: Only Photoshop.
Q: What textures do you use?
A: I make my own.
Q: How long do you spend in editing?
A: Sometimes too long! 2-3 hours. Or years – because I’ll come back to old pictures and start again at the beginning and re-work them.
Q: Where does your photo-book text come from?
A: Credited text from Wikipedia and Animal Diversity Web for butterflies, animals etc., because obviously these are details that I won’t just know off the top of my head.
Q: How did your time in advertising/graphic design field influence your photography?
A: I really learned Photoshop! It gave me so much good experience in post work.
Q: What's your camera?
A: Canon 5D Mark II.
Q: How do you know when to stop editing?
A: Sometimes I don’t know. The next day tells me. Then sometimes I start again.
Q: Are your composites made with a preconceived idea in mind, or do they just grow?
A: I always know what I want to make before I start.
Q: How did your square format pictures come about? Did you have a camera that shot square?
A: No, I just went through a square phase, a square-composing square-cropping phase. Then I got bored with it and moved on.
Q: How do you choose your paper?
A: Trial and error. It’s personal taste and choice. Coated paper works best for my usual level of saturation.
Istvan's presentation ended with a bang: He came, we saw, and he brought us a present! No one can hear about Blurb without wanting to try it. Mr. Kadar brought us a special offer from the publisher: Members of the Toronto Camera Club using the promotional code TCC327 at checkout before midnight June 30th, 2014 will be given a discount of 20% on their final product total.
If you would like to follow Istvan's work, you can visit him at his Website or Facebook page.
~ Geraldine Watson - Membership Chair Toronto Camera Club