Photographer and Journalist Lajos Erdélyi’s Legacy at the Archivum

(Photo: Lajos Erdélyi)


Lajos Erdélyi’s unique legacy has been donated to the Blinken OSA Archivum. Its backbone is a collection of some 20,000 photographs documenting everyday life and art in Transylvania between 1950 and 1990.


The photographic negatives, sound recordings, and manuscripts found their way to the Archivum thanks to the family and the intermediaries who worked to preserve the legacy.


Lajos Erdélyi (1929–2020) worked as photojournalist for newspapers in Transylvania, the longest being the illustrated biweekly magazine Új Élet (New life). His task was to document and present how, after nationalization, the Socialist people’s economy worked. His photographs and articles depicted everyday life in Romania, especially in Transylvania; factory and farm workers, artists and actors, villagers and townspeople. With his series “The Best Photos of Two Weeks” in Új Élet, he sought to promote photographers looking for ways of artistic expression. The winning photos were published and reviewed. Instead of what he referred to as “souvenir photos,” he rewarded creative, artistic works; perhaps in order to counteract the documentary practice that provided him with his livelihood.

In another, more personal and artistic part of his life’s work, he explored and documented the Jewish heritage of Transylvania. His sensitive portraits captured Hungarian intellectuals—writers, artists, musicians—from the 1950s to the late 1980s, iconic figures of the time like Pál Bodor, István Csovássy, Pál Dragomán, Ferenc Elekes, Blanka Erőss, József Éltető, László Földes, Ernő Gál, Győző Hajdú, Gizella Hervai, Sándor Kányádi, Miklós Kallós, János Kemény, Károly Koós, Ildikó Marosi, József Marx, Pál Nagy, László Nussbaum, András Sütő, T. Szabó, P. Attila Szabó, Júlia Szilágyi, János Székely, Béla Szász, Lilla Szépréti, Domokos Szilágyi, Gáspár Tamás, Zádor Tordai, and many others.

Visiting internationally renowned artists of Hungarian origin, he took portraits that deserve special attention. He photographed André Kertész, Brassaï, Anna Mark, Lucien Hervé, and Étienne Hajdu. His street art photographs taken across Europe and the United States, as well as his historic photos (e.g., the last photos of Bözödújfalu before the flooding), may prove to have historical value.

Under the guidance of Senior Audiovisual Archivist Zsuzsa Zádori, the Archivum has started the digitization of the collection. After archival processing, the Lajos Erdélyi collection will be accessible in the Research Room.
To explore and promote the oeuvre of Lajos Erdélyi, the Blinken OSA Archivum is preparing an exhibition in the summer of 2024, curated by Zsuzsa Zádori and Lenke Szilágyi!

(Photo: Lenke Szilágyi)