Franciska Legát: Hellish Eden series

What was the Hungary my parents grew up in like? Cruel compared to the West, humane compared to its neighbours, absurd from today’s perspective, and somehow charming when seen in old pictures.

My parents grew up in the socialist Hungary. Many people from their and my grandparents’ generation look back to this era with nostalgia, claiming that everything used to be better. My mother told me stories about her idyllic childhood, her hometown, Salgótarján, and then, when we first learnt about the great dictatorships in primary school in history class and she said that she also lived in a dictatorship, I couldn’t understand that. 

My father grew up in Budapest, he had an underground music band, rebelled against the system, and had conflict with the police several times when he was young. He looks back on the era with some bad feelings and pity.

In my series, Hellish Eden, I attempt to remember a time I haven’t lived in, yet, what plays an important role in my identity, as well as our current society. Taking an unusual documentary approach and using the aesthetics of communist propaganda posters I capture fictional situations that never happened, but could have been possible in the past.

I use my parents’ stories as a starting point for my visual research and I try to express the absurdity of the era they grew up in. However, these are personal stories, they can represent how subjective the past is and how generations coming after each other can shape the history.

However, my generation was born after the collapse of communist regime, I recognise the traces of this era in our culture. When I spent a semester in the Netherlands with Erasmus scholarship I realised that the mindset of young people living there is different, I feel that we in the Eastern bloc have more drama and anxiety which maybe comes from our parents’ and grandparents’ past. I want to emphasize that talking about past is really important in order to accept our present and create a better future. In a way it’s the responsibility of my generation because unfortunately I often see that in my parents’ and grandparents’ generation the past is a taboo. With recreating the past I want to figure out where’s my place in those stories, and what is my narrative.


Franciska Legát was born in 1997, she is living and working in Budapest, Hungary. 

In 2017 after high school she started studying photography at Art School of Buda where she could prepare for the university application procedure. In 2018 she got admission to Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design, Photography. In 2020 she got the opportunity to spend a semester in Utrecht, The Netherlands and study photography at HKU with Erasmus scholarship. In 2021 she got her BA degree, now she is studying on Photography MA.

Photo: Franciska Legát: Hellish Eden series