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A Knock at the Door

I was a child of the Cold War. My parents escaped from Hungary in the revolution of 1956. Though I grew up in London far away from the terrors they fled, the stories I heard around the kitchen table seared my psyche and fueled my imagination. My nightmares were not of monsters under the bed but of faceless men coming to our house to take my parents away.


The rise of authoritarian governments around the world compounded by the war in Ukraine have brought to the surface many of my childhood fears. Using metaphor and association, my photographs weave personal, historical, and psychological observations with the political to confront the disturbing similarities between the last century and today. In multiple image sequences, I combine photographs of my own children and our everyday surroundings with pictures from Fortepan, a twentieth-century Hungarian community archive as well as depictions of conflict from current reportage. The images reinforce each other to create a temporally expansive, dark, and cyclical world where past and the present combine to create a sense of foreboding.


All images Katalina Simon (2020-2023) except images listed below:

Fortepan/MHSZ (Boys in gas masks) 1972
Fortepan/Lorincze (Men looking off the bridge) 1956
Fortepan/Marics Zoltan (Burnt out building) 1956
Fortepan/Bauer Sandor (Dancing man) 1956
Fotrepan/Barath Geza (Boys) 1937
Fortepan/Fortepan (Pig head) 1957
Fortepan/Lissak Tivadar (Girl at florist window) 1943
Altered from original: USA Today, March 18,2022 (soldier)
Fortepan/Konok Tamás (Slingshot kids) 1943
Fortepan/Konrad Miklos (Man on beach) 1956
Zmertych family archive (artist) 1971

"Katalina Simon’s photographs could have been taken last week or generations ago. Raised by Hungarian immigrants who escaped the Cold War, Simon sees history repeating itself. Past nightmares of menacing authoritarianism may become true. Through her work the artist seeks to wake us all to the risks."

 - Lisa Tung, Executive Director, MassArt Art Museum, April 2023

A Knock at the Door
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