Gabor Szilasi is a documentary photographer renowned for his humanitarian vision. His fascination with daily life has led him to search for images that show the traces of man’s presence – be it photos of people, interiors, vernacular architecture and urban landscapes.
Largely self-taught, Gabor Szilasi started to photograph in Hungary in 1952 when he purchased his first camera—a Zorkij. In 1956 he documented the Hungarian Revolution in Budapest and shortly afterwards fled the country, eventually immigrating to Canada in 1957. From 1959 until 1971, Szilasi worked as a photographer at the present Office du Film du Québec, photographing a wide range of subjects including Expo ’67. During these years, Szilasi’s technical and practical experience, and extensive travel in Quebec grew through a wide range of assignments. The photographer Sam Tata introduced him to the work of the French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson and encouraged him to abandon pictorialism for social-documentary photography. In 1966, he was introduced to the work of the American documentary tradition as practised by Paul Strand and Walker Evans while taking a course at the Thomas More Institute. Parallel to his artistic practice, Szilasi was also a dedicated teacher: from 1971-1980, he taught at the Collège du Vieux Montréal and from 1980-1995, at Concordia University.
Szilasi’s personal work during the 1960’s includes a rich mixture of street scenes in Montreal, portraits of friends and family and images taken at exhibition openings. In the 70’s, Szilasi embarked on an extended series of projects documenting life and cultural change in rural Quebec. He first focused on the Île aux Coudres and the Charlevoix region, then the Lotbinière region from 1976 to 1977 and the Abitibi-Temiscaming and Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region between 1976 and 1979. From the 19080’s onward, Szilasi did much of his work abroad, undertaking projects in Hungary, Italy, Poland and France. In 1980, Szilasi returned for the first time to Hungary, and visited again in 1994 and 1995 to specifically photograph the city, places and people he had known.