Born in Budapest in 1943 during World War II, Sylvia Plachy continued to live in Hungary until she was 13 years old. She escaped with her parents, carrying only a modest suitcase and teddy bear, in the wake of the Hungarian Revolution in 1956. After two years in Vienna, her family was finally able to immigrate to the United States, and Sylvia attended St. Michaels High School in Union City, New Jersey. She later earned her BFA from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York. Instinctively visual, Sylvia sought refuge in her artistry as she struggled with the language barriers in these adopted countries. She learned a little German while living in Austria, and began to study English only when she arrived in America. For many years, she relied on her eyes to fill in where she didn’t understand the language. Eager to be an artist, Sylvia took drawing classes at the Art Students League on Saturdays during high school, and at Pratt she studied both art and graphic arts. An encounter with photography during her junior year, led to the discovery of her abiding passion and natural talent. After college, Sylvia worked as a photojournalist and portrait photographer. She was on staff for the Village Voice for almost 30 years, and her photo essays have appeared in The New York Times, New Yorker, Time, Smithsonian, Granta, Metropolis, Fortune, Geo, and Art Forum, among many publications. Being a photographer enabled her to explore other lives and cultures, and her training was “hands-on,” as she ventured around the globe taking pictures. Silvia Plachy’s style does not consciously follow a given artist or art movement, and has evolved organically over the years. She experiments with different techniques, working in black and white, as well as in color. She develops and prints most of the photographs herself. From early in her career, Sylvia has worked and traveled on assignment, while simultaneously publishing books that are a blend of written and visual memories, or a documentary on a complicated subject, such as the sex industry. She has been widely exhibited with solo shows at the Whitney Museum of American Art at Philip Morris, New York; The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minnesota; and the Queens Museum of Art, in Flushing, New York. Sylvia’s work has also been shown in galleries and photo festivals all over the world, from various cities in American to Budapest, Ljubljana, Manchester, Berlin, Vancouver, Tokyo, Perpignan, Arles and Pingyau, China. She won a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1977 and the 2005 Golden Light Award.
Courtesy (c) Salamatina Gallery, NY 2012