Somewhere in Eastern Europe, children gather every summer to wear military uniforms, camp in tents under harsh conditions and practice firing guns. For an outsider, the idea itself seems scary. For them, it’s the time of their life. The Hungarian NGO Honvédsuli (Home Defense School) is committed to teaching discipline, patriotism and camaraderie to children between 10 and 18 years old, in a society that they believe is becoming slothful and disconnected. The kids camp under the sky, guard a fire, hike, sing together. They teach the usage of air-soft weapons (replicas of real-life guns) to each other and spend weeks living according to strict military discipline. As they enter puberty, it is their first time to face expectations, responsibility, and the other gender. Friendships and a strong community are being formed as they get a few bruises, or have a hard time doing push-ups as a punishment. They’re determined, sometimes lazy, or in love. And for many of them, these adventures provide the only solid ground in life, a framework to understand the world and their position in it. While reporting from military-themed summer camps for kids, the series observes our attitude towards strict discipline, weapons, and war, and raises questions about their place in our society.
Máté Bartha (based in Budapest) works in the fields of photography and documentary film. After receiving the National Scholarship of Hungary for photographers, he self-published his first book, titled Common Nature, in 2014. For his most recent photography project, Kontakt, he received the Capa Grand Prize Fellowship in 2017, the Robert Capa Grand Prize Hungary in 2018, and the Louis Roederer Discovery Award at Rencontres d’Arles in 2019. His first short documentary film Downstream received the Best Student and First Film Prize at the 16th Verzió International Human Rights Documentary Film Festival, 2019, Budapest.
Máté Bartha’s photographs will be displayed during the upcoming 19th edition of Fotofestiwal. For more information about the Open Call finalists and the event programme: www.fotofestiwal.com