Interview with Mark H. Milstein, visiting
lecturer of photojounalism at ELTE University
Could you sum up your work and professional life briefly?
I began my carreer as a journalist 18 years ago in a graduated state
university of New York, with a degree of cultural antropology and a minor
in journalism, then I worked for different newspapers both in Washington
and New York. In 1991 I came to Europe for my first assignment to cover
the war in the former Yugoslavia and was made chief photographer in Europe
for a major American news photo agency remained in Yugoslavia from 1991
until 1994. I returned briefly to Washington and then I went to work to
Africa. Late in 1994 early 1995 I arrived here in Hungary where my company
had an office and I continued my work with them until the year 2000. In
2000 I left my job as a chief photographer in Europe and I started Central
Europe’s first news photo agency company called Red Dot, which is headquartered
here, in Október sixth street in the fifth district. Last year I
started Central Europe’s second news photo agency company called Northfoto,
which is headquartered in the 16th district, near Örs Vezér
Why and how did you come to Hungary?
I came to Hungary, as I said, in 1994-1995 as a chief photographer
in Europe. We had an office here, in Budapest and I was asked whether or
not I would be interested in directing the office and I said yes. I had
been in Hungary a number of times before that, and I had thought that it
would be a great place to set up a center, meaning that from Budapest one
could go to the Middle East in two hours, you could be in Moscow in two
hours, you could be in Sarajevo in a number of hours, and it proved to
be a great location. Budapest has a fantastic business infastucture, so
it allows for news agencies to set up shops and work here with very little
So I direct Central Europe’s second photo agency, the Northfoto company
(it is online at www.northfoto.com).
We supply news photography for newspapers and magazines throughout Central
Europe and Russia and we have photographers in nine countries, and have
partnership agreements meaning that we have access to photos in nine different
archives throughout the world so far very-very successful.
How did you get the idea to teach here?
I got the idea to teach here at the ELTE actually from a colleague
of mine, who worked for an NGO in Washington D.C. that provides journalism
and photojornalism training. He suggested that I contact dr. Hammer Ferenc
about teaching here. I sent an email, and we sent emails back and forth
for about two months and finally we agreed upon a sort of a test project
which would be this nine- week class in photojournalism and we had the
first class last week
You teach photojournalism. What is it exactly? What is the difference
between a phot-essay, journalism and photojornalism?
Just to describe you basically what photojournalism is, photojournalism
is the use of photography to describe a news. In other words, it is using
photography to tell what is going on. The difference between a photographer
and a photojournalist is quite simple, I mean it goes like this, anybody
can be a photographer, photography is basically a hobby, but a photojournalist
is both a technician, in other words, he or she knows how to use the camera
very well and also understands what is news. The difference between photo
essay journalism and photojournalism is a little bit more difficult to
differentiate The difference between the photo essay and journalism is
that journalism is a macro term to describe the telling of news, a photo
essay is just a way of doing it. You use photography to tell a story using
more than one photograph and as I said, photojournalism is the putting-
together of photography and journalism. And telling a story using photography
instead of words.
What would you say about your first lesson?
The first lesson at ELTE was quite surprising due to the students.
I was surprised at their level of interest, I was surprised at the inteligent
questions that were being asked. I was also surprised at how many students
wrote emails to me immediately afterwards indicating their interests in
continuing further. It is the first class in skills-based photojournalism
that ELTE Média Center has ever had. Hopefully we will continue
at next semester
What do you enjoy the most at this university/department and in Budapest?
I was thinking about what I enjoy the most about the university and
that is the students. I mean, look, classrooms are classrooms you could
be anywhere in the world, a room is a room and really what makes up a good
class is the students themselves, the interest that the student have. If
they show serious interest and they ask lots of great questions that makes
a fantastic teaching experience.
As for Budapest, well, my family is living here, they loved that Budapest
is a great city to live in, it is a lot of fun, it is getting better and
better every day. You know ten years ago Budapest was a very difficult
city to live in, it was not of European standard. Now, you can find everything
that you want. Everything is as easy as it would be anywhere in the world.
The standard of living here is, I think, very high. More importantly, as
a photgrapher the level of business infrastucture is as good here as it
is anywhere else in the world. You can have an ADSL line or you could create
a kft in one day
As a photographer what kind of subject matter are you looking for
in Budapest and in Hungary?
As a photographer the kind of material that I am looking for here,
in Budapest and in Hungary in general is material that is interesting,
compelling, diiferent. I am looking to tell a story about what is going
on in modern-day Hungary in a way that nobody else has ever done, whether
it be looking at the Chinese community here at Budapest, whether it be
talking about Islam, whether it be talking about the the new trams that
are coming in on number 47 tram line, whether it be the exploison of shopping
malls or people building new houses or whatever it be, whatever subject.
You know, Hungary is not a desert when it comes to news, it is a lively,
compelling country, one has only to look very-very closely what is going
on and decide what types of stories would be interseting. It just takes
a little bit of effort.