Zsófia Pályi (HU) "Penitents" - Helphoto 2022




Pilgrimage is a retreat from everyday life, from our home environment where everything reminds us of our chores and jobs. It is one of the most ancient forms of penance and devotion in the Catholic faith. Once a purely religious tradition, it has now become a colorful bustle, a fair, and a fun-filled experience where the sacred mixes with the profane. This series of photographs captures this often contradictory, vanishing, traditional, yet constantly renewing scene in the Carpathian Basin, in Eastern Europe. The documentary snapshots and portraits create a colorful image of the pilgrimage sites frequently visited by Hungarians from inside and outside the borders of Hungary, in Eastern Europe. These festive rituals are indispensable to carry on the identity, beliefs, rich cultural heritage, customs and clothes of these people. Religious kitsch is also one of the most widespread forms of kitsch, as can be seen in the world of fairing. It brings the believer closer to God. Religious sentiment is often expressed in objects with a profane purpose, such as a plastic bottle depicting the Virgin Mary, but we also find products that, in contrast to the traditional ideal of craftsmanship, obey the command of mass production via their simplicity and shallowness. The photographs were made in several places throughout the Carpathian Basin – Andocs, Balassagyarmat, Csatka, Csíksomlyó, Gyöngyös, Vecsés, and Mátraverebély-Szentkút – each of them as a  couple stations of this series, which has been expanding for four years now.


Zsófia Pályi (b. 1982) is a photographer based in Budapest, Hungary. She received her BA degree in photography from the Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design Budapest in 2010, and has completed an MA at the Department of Media and Communication and Department of Portuguese Language at ELTE University. Between 2005 and 2014, she worked as a photojournalist for Origo, one of the leading online news sites in Hungary. In the last few years she became a freelance photographer and works mainly for magazines, in addition to her focus on personal projects. Her series Balaton, the Hungarian Sea was nominated for the Coeup de Coeur ANI 2014 at Perpignan Photo Festival, and was a finalist at LensCulture Portrait Awards. She received several prizes in the Hungarian Press Photo Competition and won the Pécsi József Fine Art Photography Grant, a Hungarian state scholarship, three times. She was a Grand Prize winner at Fotóporta International Portfolio Review in 2013. In 2018, she won a 3-year-long art scholarship of the Hungarian Academy of Arts to create her series about pilgrims. She is a member of the Studio of Young Photographers Hungary, and was a member of its Leadership Committee between 2013 and 2015. Her photos have been purchased internationally by the National Geographic, Marie Claire, New York Times, CNN Photo Blog, Vice Uk, Al Jazeera, Chinese Blog Magazine, The Sunday Guardian, Le Monde, UNHCR and Nők Lapja among many others.


Zsófia Pályi (HU) "Penitents" - Helphoto 2022
Zsófia Pályi (HU) "Penitents" - Helphoto 2022