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markmilstein 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 tere.

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 problems.
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.

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