Zoltán Jókay

Article Bio Works Projects Images
children & youth, everyday life, love
Visual Arts (photography)
Europe, Western
created on:
May 8, 2003
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"Where thought becomes speechless and falters, feeling must look for a language"

Born in Munich in 1960, Zoltán Jókay, is a photographer concerned with artistic documentation and makes psychological portraits of the young in public places.
With a batman T-shirt and grubby knees under shorts, the plump boy is holding a smaller boy in jogging-trousers by the hand and looking firmly and earnestly at the ground. He has accepted responsibility for his friend and is showing it through his pose, while his friend looks rather shyly, almost anxiously, up at the camera. Behind them lies a suburb with a road and few pedestrians and some houses built about 1900 in front of some high blocks. They appear on one of a set of photographs from 1999 for which Jókay received the promotional award of the city Munich.

A photograph from the series ´he, she, it´ from 2001 shows a boy, about 9 years old, in a sports´ shirt. Awkwardly he raises his left shoulder with a private smile. The girl from the same series on the catalogue cover reveals her navel below a short shirt. She is nearing puberty and looks frankly and almost defiantly into the camera, under no obligation to smile.

´Zoltán Jókay works without alienation effects, mainly with young folk whom he evidently likes,´ wrote Ivo Kranzfelder in the catalogue to the exhibition ´I and others: photographs and video-works´. The presentation was shown in 2000 in the Munich city museum with works from Jókay and seven other photographic artists, including Boris Mikhailov.

Kranzfelder hit the nail on the head. Jókay likes his models, as viewers can sense. He seldom turns to older folk, and his pictures of children and youths seem to be prompted by sympathy. One feels that, behind the camera, someone has waited for a certain moment of grace and then shown the relationship of trust between himself and the people photographed singly or in pairs. If it is possible to show the sparks which kindle friendship and love, then here. Zoltán Jňkay says: ´Each of my pictures can be referred back to three authors: to me, to the folk shown and to the viewer.´

The secret of the works is that Jókay lets his subjects be themselves. In reciprocation they open up before him. Which 16 or 17 year-old youth would otherwise dally at ease like the one in front of a lake with one hand in his trouser-pocket and the other hand holding a cigarette? His shoulders are rather narrow, and his hips rather wide, but he shuts his eyes, smiles and blows smoke out of his nose. Only at this, most intimate moment does the photographer press the button. Jókay´s models are free to be themselves in front of the camera and to show their body language and physical presence. Often they still have the soft and unfinished bodies of children, not final trained bodies on show. Jókay has a clear preference for children and youths who become serious sooner than others.

Zoltán Jókay was born of Hungarian parents in 1960 in Munich. From 1984 he studied communication design at the university in Essen, where he took his diploma in 1993. Since 1990 he has received a number of grants and prizes for artistic photography.

His photographs are small with subdued colour and have no blue sky and sharp shadows. The focus is on people, leaving streets, bridges and squares fairly fuzzy behind them. The settings, like their inhabitants, often communicate rather sadly. Thanks to this muted background, the photographs rise above the purely individual and transient.
Author: Cornelia Gerner


Zoltán Jókay was born in Munich in 1960 as the son of Hungarian parents. From 1984-93 he studied communication design, specialising in photography, at the university in Essen and gained a diploma in 1993. In 1990 he received the grant for contemporary German photography from the Alfred Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach Foundation, and in 1994 the art-promotion prize of the city Munich. In 1995 he received the artist in residence Foto-Feis of the city Edinburg as well as the Aenne Biermann Prize for German contemporary photography. In 1999 he received the photography-promotion prize of the city Munich, and in 2000 a grant as town-photographer in Ravensburg.


Group Exhibitions (Choice)

Exhibition / Installation
2005 "Die Kunst Deutsche(r) zu sein", 7. Internationale Fototage, Mannheim, Germany "Bildprojekt Theresienhöhe", Wäcker & Jordanow - Galerie für Fotografie, Munich, Germany 2001 "Privatepublic", Aspekte Galerie Gasteig, Munich, Germany 2003 "Contemporary German Photography”, Contemporary Art Center, Vilnius, Lithuania "Verheißung des Individuellen“, Städtische Galerie Filderhalle, Echterdingen, Germany 2002 "Erwerbungen seit 1995“, Museum Folkwang, Essen, Germany 2000 "Kinder des 20. Jahrhunderts", Städtische Galerie Jesuitenkirche, Aschaffenburg, Germany "Heimat Kunst", Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin, Germany 1999 "Ich und die anderen - Positionen zeitgenössischer Fotografie aus Europa", Ursula Blickle Stiftung, Kraichtal, Germany 1997 "Fotografie als Geste - Positionen zeitgenössischer Fotografie", Kunstsammlungen, Staatliches Museum, Schwerin, Germany 1993 "Photographers with grants from the von Bohlen und Halbach-Stiftung“, Museum Folkwang, Essen, Germany

Solo Exhibitions (Choice)

Exhibition / Installation
2005 "Zoltán Jókay, Frauke Eigen", Galerie Sabine Knust, Munich, Germany 2004 "Zoltán Jókay - Portraits 1989-2003", Sprengel Museum, Hanover, Germany 2000 "Sich begegnen", Galerie Bodo Niemann, Berlin, Germany 1996 "Zoltán Jókay, Andreas Mader", Galerie Lichtblick, Cologne, Germany


This artist took part in the following project(s) organized/funded by the culturebase.net partner institutions.

Homeland Art (HeimatKunst)

Cultural Diversity in Germany

(01 April 00 - 02 July 00)
"Growing up"
"Growing up"
"Growing up"
"Growing up"
"Growing up"