City guide

Children the focus of Ata Kandó’s unique photos, now on show in Budapest

Photo : Ata Kandó

“Wherever I went in the world, if I wasn’t taking any photographs I felt like I was there for no reason.” Ata Kandó’s life was never dull. She traveled everywhere, constantly capturing people and places. She took photos of refugees during Hungary’s 1956 Revolution, lived among the natives in the forests of Venezuela and created dream-like images of her own children. Last September, she passed away, three days before her 104th birthday. Now the Deák Ferenc Gallery is presenting a selection of her best work, on view until June 2nd.

Born in Hungary in 1913, as a girl Etelka Görög could not pronounce her own name and simply called herself Ata. The nickname stuck for a lifetime. Ata Kandó started her photography practice in 1930, mostly taking images of children. Later she married painter Gyula Kandó – nephew of Hungarian inventor Kálmán Kandó, father of the electric train – and the ambitious pair moved to Paris. There Ata pursued photography, but had to return to Budapest when World War II broke out. The couple had three children during the war and saved the lives of dozens of Jews, for which Ata later received the Righteous Among the Nations award by the State of Israel.

Photo: Ata Kandó

After the war, the family returned to Paris and Ata Kandó continued with her career. She was given a camera by Robert Capa himself, who also got her hired at Magnum, where she met her second husband, Dutch photographer Ed van der Elsken. After that marriage ended in divorce, she found herself alone in a foreign country with three children. To make a living, she turned to fashion photography and shot for well known Dutch and French fashion housesShe also kept taking dream-like photos of her own children.

Ed van der Elsken and Ata's son, Tamás KandóPhoto: Ata Kandó

During the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, Kandó traveled to the border and photographed refugee children. The photos were later published in The Red Book, earning Ata worldwide recognition. The proceeds helped support fleeing families.


Later she published Dream in the Forest, a book illustrating the holidays she had taken in Switzerland and Austria with her children. Ata then traveled around South America and spent two months in the forests of Venezuela capturing indigenous people. Kandó’s work was increasingly acclaimed, earning her various awards. At the age of 88, she moved back to the Netherlands, where she passed away three days before her 104th birthday.

YecuanaPhoto: Ata Kandó

Within the framework of the Budapest Spring Festival, the Deák Ferenc Gallery is showcasing a selection of photographs by Ata Kandó  taken of children. These captivating images can still be considered revolutionary today, as they demonstrate the unique bond between the adult photographer and the children. The kids are not only subjects of the photographs, but are treated as equals by the artist creating these compositions, demonstrating the humanity characteristic of Kandó’s wonderful oeuvre.


Tales of Ata

Deák17 Gallery

Address: District V, Deák Ferenc utca 17 (1st floor)

March 30th-June 2nd

Free admission.