April 5: Domestic

Date #5April 5: Photography forms much of our concept of the domestic life.

On this date also, Dominique Darbois, was born in Paris in 1925 (†2014), and Olga Máté (*1878, Szigetvár) died in 1965. Both women produced, amongst other subjects, images of domesticity and the family. Neither was a stay-at-home, Máté being amongst Hungary’s first women in professional photography, while Darbois travelled to remote regions in her photojournalism.

Displacement was an experience familiar to Dominique Darbois. After internment during the war as a Jew, and awarded for her role in the French resistance, Darbois learned photography as an assistant to Pierre Jahan before she set out to travel the world from 1946.


On her return she exhibited her work in Paris and published her photographs in twenty books of the series Children of the World (Fernand Nathan group) between 1952 and 1978. She was a committed anti-colonialist, horrified by what the West had wrought where she traveled in Africa, Indochina, in Algeria or Cuba.  In the late 1990s, she was honoured with a major exhibition Regards de Femmes.

Dominique Darbois (1951-52) Expedition Tumuc-Humac, Guyane

Olga Máté was born into a creative family with five siblings who all went into the arts. She moved with her family to Budapest where her father operated a sewing factory. In Hungary in 1899 after studying photography in Budapest, she opened a studio there at 21 Fő utca, metres from the banks of the Danube.

Olga Máté (c.1920) Landing on the Danube in Budapest at Elizabeth Bridge with Szabadság-híddal (Liberty Bridge) behind.

In 1907-08 having made some capital, she moved to Berlin to study photography in more depth with Nicola Perscheid (1864–1930) who invented the soft-focus Perscheid lens for portraiture.  Máté opened a comfortably furnished studio in the palace district of Budapest, the heart of the city at Veres Pálné utca 12, and from that year, 1912, it became an important meeting place for writers, artists, philosophers, and aestheticians including sociologist Mannheim Károlyt (1893–1947), art historian Arnold Hauser (1892–1978), writer Balázs Bélát (1894–1949) and Marxist philosopher György Lukács (1885–1971).

From 1910 she exhibited in the International Photo Exhibitions in Hamburg, winning a gold medal in 1912 at the Museum of Applied Arts, Budapest, exhibited at The London Salon of Photography in 1914 and with the Professional Photographers Society, New York in 1922.

Aside from her photography Máté fought for women’s emancipation as a supporter and organizer for the Hungarian feminist movement and through her contact with the group around Róza Schwimmer (1877–1948) Hungarian-born pacifist, feminist and female suffragist who invited her to photograph the Seventh Conference of the International Womens Suffrage Alliance.

She had married philosopher Zalai Béla (1882–1915), a widower with two children, in 1912. He supported her enlightened views. However, their marriage was short; Béla was drafted to serve in World War I and made prisoner-of-war in a camp in Omsk, Siberia, dying of typhus on 2 February 1915. Máté struggled to raise his two children, and she clearly cared for them, mourning the later death of his daughter deeply.

Olga Mate (c.1917) Postcard of the Sunday Circle. From left: Karl Mannheim, Fogarasi Béla, Lorsy Ernő, unknown, Elza Stephani, Hamvassy Anna, Hajós Edit, Balázs Béla.

She continued to be politically active, risking fines or jail to hide in her own home the Hungarian Marxist philosopher György Lukács and Jewish Communist politician Jenő Hamburger, who were forced into hiding to avoid the communist purge after the failure of the Hungarian Soviet Republic. From 1934 she shared Veres Pálné Street studio with her disciple, Haár Ferenc, and from 1938 worked with Marian Reismann, both  specialising in photography of dance and of children.

It is in her pictures of women with children that one can sense the warmth and strength of this photographer who died in obscurity despite her remarkable life.

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