Aesthetica Art Prize Call for Entries: Interview with Anna Tihanyi

Through photography, Aesthetica Art Prize longlisted artist Anna Tihanyi creates contemporary tales about the human consciousness, which play with reality. She produces narratives that are concentrated into one single frame, frequently staging scenes as part of her practice, and using the intellectual and artistic life of the USA in the 1950s and 1960s as her inspiration. We speak to Tihanyi about her photographs that capture a moment in time.

A: In your photography, you establish fantastical, fairy-tale narratives around your characters. Why is storytelling so important to you and what first motivated you to create these stories?
AT: I was always fascinated by how deliberating fantasy could be. When I was little I skipped school to go to the movies, and I studied in drama school too. I was in love with the world of imagination, and learnt at quite a young age to create dreams and dissolve into them. Storytelling gives me the opportunity to express all things I believe in or question the ones I’m afraid of…I think this is how I try to understand how the world works. I think fantasy is a huge power.

A: What undertones pervade the series Berlin bhf., Generation S50 and Bunnylink?
AT: All these series come from different periods in my life, but none were comforting situations. I would say it’s the disturbance that interests me in these series.

A: You present the viewer with your own analogy of popular fiction in series’ such as Alice and Franny. Why did you choose to base these characters on their literary counterparts and how important to you is the relationship between literature and art?
I gain a lot of inspiration from literature and often live my life according to stories, tales, or movies. It’s probably not my characters that are based on these literary counterparts, but I personally feel connected to them, and relive my own stories through my characters. All my stories – or in these sense – characters, are related to me in the first place.   I personally love the tension between words and pictures, or to see how they form each other. I write texts too, and sometimes to accompany my photographs as well. I really like when different perceptions intertwine and they work as a puzzle together.

A: Since choreography is tantamount to your artwork, could you tell us a little bit more about how you go about staging your photographs?
It’s very similar to filmmaking in terms of preparation and production. I first come up with the story, and I start to make sketches, moodboards and search for references. I watch movies and read a lot. When it’s all coming together in my head, I start to look for locations, sets, make props and find the right characters.

It’s important to me to get all details, so planning is a must. This is usually the point where I sit down with my makeup artist friend and think about colours and moods, and we involve the rest of the people to gather everything and start the teamwork. I’m lucky having been working in the movie industry for several years now, so having the right people around me.

At the end there’s really so many people working on the project whom without I wouldn’t be able to do any of these huge works. Usually lacking of financial support these people are putting their talents, hard work and love for me into the photograph, and this makes these projects even more personal.

A: You say that reflecting on female identity and the relationship between reality and imagination fuels your creative process. How important is it for you to express your feelings towards such topics within your work and how vital is photography as a medium through which to achieve this?
AT: My female identity is very important to me and to my existence – I perceive everything through it. But I’m not separating genders, just trying to go deeper in me, and I happen to be a woman. Even though I insist on my dreams, I have found the twist I love in the surreal quality of everyday things, in reality itself.

For me photography is the perfect medium to bring magic into the real world. This is actually why it’s so important to me to create everything on set so they would exist. Photography talks about one exact moment, when there’s no before or after. This is the tension I love in images. However, putting my photos into the right context makes them even more meaningful, and that’s why I’m reflecting on paintings and novels. Everything influences everything else.

To see more of Anna Tihanyi’s photography, visit

Enter this year’s Aesthetica Art Prize here:

1. Anna Tihanyi, The Boy (2014. From the series Berlin bhf.