...continued from Part I
As I approached Utcza 61, Budapest I could see it looked exactly as Google Maps had rendered it on satellite. It was a modern looking storefront. Of course the building was old, but the front had clearly been updated with more current glass, paint, and doors. As I crossed the street to get a closer look at this historic place, the car which had been parked in the spot directly in front of the entrance backed out and pulled away. I remember feeling a bit relieved since this meant I could now stand back a bit and compose a wider image of the location. I stood in that space, grabbed a few shots, and then moved in for some more detailed images. I wanted to go inside, but the doors were locked. So after taking some of the exterior shots, closer up, I proceeded to shoot through the glass to take whatever the obstructed view would offer.
As I was doing this, feeling like a creeper with everyone watching me, a van pulled up into the parking space which had been cleared out just a few seconds earlier. A man stepped out of the van and approached me immediately. I thought I was in trouble, but actually I was not. The man clearly had an interest in the building and an even deeper interest in why I was photographing it. I explained in English that there had once been a photography studio here and I was taking pictures because of my interest in this. This is when this outing became an adventure!
The man offered to bring me into the building to see the inside. He explained that he was in charge of renovating the building into a charitable organisation that was going to aid the Jewish community with material and practical needs. As I stepped inside, there was a huge room that stretched all the way back to the other end of the building. Off to the right was a staircase and to the left, a hallway of
The room was cluttered with construction materials as well as antiquated desks, chairs, and other office type belongings. He led me down the hallway to the left and as I was photographing some of the empty white rooms, which felt a bit like something out of a mental hospital in a Hollywood movie, he asked if I wanted to proceed upstairs.
Of course I wanted to go upstairs! Not only was I getting an overview of the first floor, I was about to see the 2nd floor! As I went up to the second floor, the stairway was pitch black offering not even a tiny bit of light to outline the steps. We passed through a door at the top of the steps and the darkness opened up into a well lit conference room. It was just one of the most fascinating places I had seen. My tour guide explained that this room had previously been used during WWII as a meeting place for the Nazi party. Imagine that! This room, untouched for decades, with original sound equipment, seating, and materials.
The ceiling appeared to have some water damage and I could see the paint peeling away from the board. I paused for a moment, to consider the magnitude of what I was witnessing here. This was not a museum exhibition, nor was it an insignificant board room where seemingly unimportant decisions were made. This was a room where evil men gathered, perhaps even Adolf Hitler himself, to plot destruction and death. I had a moment of fleeting curiosity, wondering if this meeting room had been here since the construction of the building so long ago.
I spent a minute taking pictures of the room and the equipment that still called this place home, and then was asked if I wanted to see the roof. How could a photographer ever pass up the opportunity to see the roof of an antiquated building overlooking one of the most beautiful architectural cities ever built? My generous host passed me off to one of his colleagues who took me up three floors of an elevator that I wasn't sure could make the journey.
(Interjection: I noticed a little clue concerning this historic building, a coat of arms emblem displayed inside the elevator. I grabbed the shot and am posting a link to a website describing a little about it. It's not so relevant to my post, but interesting never-the-less, just for fun!
I was praying the whole time the cables wouldn't break! Upon exiting the elevator, I noticed a small room to the left which had two tiny little windows shining a very beautiful light onto the adjacent wall. It had nothing to do with the history of this building, but I thought it was so haunting I had to shoot it.
My host spoke no English so I felt no need to ask permission to take my spontaneous detours. He was a quiet man, seemingly annoyed that he had been given the task of chaperoning me, yet cooperative and undemanding. I was glad. He took me to the roof where I honestly wasn't sure if I was going to fall through the floor or not. I spent a few breaths gasping for air at the beauty of this urban decay against the backdrop of the Budapest's skyline. It was breathtaking and I was succumbing to its power.
Once I gathered and recomposed myself, I snapped as many pictures as I could before returning to the first floor where my adventure would end. Upon exiting, I thanked my host profusely, grabbed his email so I could share my images, and walked out the door completely elated at the opportunity providence had just granted me. It isn't often adventure seeks me out. I usually have to create it, grabbing ahold of every opportunity to excite my senses. Today was different, though. Today, adventure found me. My imagination containing so many details was met with reality where the two could create a beautiful harmony of imagery and it was mine and mine alone. I have only one sadness in this experience. I regret that I cannot personally thank these beautiful Hungarian people for having one portrait taken inside one Hungarian studio, one hundred years ago so that I could have this adventure.
Link to more images taken by this photographer, Bela Brunhuber, Schmidt Ede utoda: https://www.flickr.com/photos/tags/brunhuber%20béla
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