FORTEPAN is a collection of 23482 amateur photos, which are browsable and downloadable on the website.Using the slider at the bottom of the page, you can start a slide show from any year of the past century, or, by clicking on the arrow, you can see the photos one by one. By clicking on the name of the original owner of the photograph, you may select that person’s collection. To read the background data (if there exists any), click on the letter I in the bottom right corner of the photo, or hit the I key. As FORTEPAN continuously expands, it welcomes donations of new private or amateur photos from the past. Pictures from the collection can be published without restrictions, for whatever purpose, on the condition that FORTEPAN is credited.
FORTEPAN is an archive that does not even exist. It's got its name from the Forte factory in Vác, Hungary: Forte was the widest spread and most popular negative film after World War II. The collection has a name but has not got offices or a bank account, neither any staff. We do not know if FORTEPAN includes 30 or 40 thousand photos as we never counted them because it was not important. We started to collect photos 20 years ago, without any concept, mesmerized and intrigued by the details in the pictures. Like we were trying to collect prints of our non-existing past. The most important field of collecting – in the physical sense of the world – was household junk put out on the streets of Budapest for removal. We must have walked several hundred (thousand?) kilometers, looking for negatives, Leica, 6x6, sheet films, glass negatives, slides, anything. Sometimes we purchased them too, and over time we had our established suppliers.
Actually, we never saw most of the pictures, we didn't have the money for blow-up didn't feel like scanning; we were only shifting back and forth the cardboard, aluminum, tin and plastic boxes full of the pictures. In the summer, 2009, however, we decided it was time to do something about them. I try to explain why. When someone wants to research the past century, or to illustrate a story, an article or a paper, he/she always uses press or advertisement or art photos. The heritages of amateur photographers are basically unknown. As if there were not millions of photos made of families, friends – sometimes of the author him/herself from a tripod or in the mirror; sometimes as a silhouette, figure with a hat on his head standing on the bank of a ditch, with the sun behind him. As if only public events took place in the 20th century: inaugurated, signed, sold, cheated, arrested, welcome, buried. In FORTEPAN you won't find photos of this kind. There is very little to be known about the photos here: most of the time the author, the people in the picture and even the place is unknown. On the back of some of the paper photos you will find some information like “in a historical football match, the third grade won against the fourth, scored Lindner, Imreh and Budai", or some personal notes, a date maybe.
As for the negatives, there is practically no information at all on them. As a consequence, the collection is not searchable, there are no tags, names or places – there might be sometime if someone designs a system and does the typing. FORTEPAN has a beginning and an ending, just like a novel. The first pictures are from the turn of the past century, from indeterminable years, whereas the last ones are from the months around the time of the regime change. All in all, what you can see here is the amateur records from about 90 years in a highly selective fashion. The only criterion of selection was that we wanted to include only good quality photographs. The product of our efforts is this personal and sentimental selection of 23482 photos. With more or less success, we put the photos in chronological order to provide some system. There are four options to browse the photos: by people (father, mother, the girl next door, the vicar), by place (Vérmező, the stone bridge in Jászdózsa), by objects (high stack, dusting stand, oleander), or see can all of them, i.e. the whole collection (this is the best choice!) With the slider at the bottom you may surf in time, while using the manual button you may even travel back in time – a unique experience! By clicking on the Download button, you may download any of the photos in a high resolution version, too. Users are encouraged to use, copy, send to friends, clip or paste the photos, which are free for they are not our property. However, we would welcome a note or a link if you happen to publish one or two of the photos because we would like to keep track of them. Also, we kindly ask you to use the FOTO: FORTEPAN sign for the photos you choose to publish. Some of you may find the minimalist tools and slightly outdated style of FORTEPAN appealing. You may even decide to give us some of your own photos or negatives. Please, do so! We welcome any donation, be it in analogue or digital format. As for the rest, we cannot guarantee anything.
ÁKOS SZEPESSY AND MIKLÓS TAMÁSI