City of Children | Monika Merva

SIDE GALLERY: 11.5.09 – 12.12.09

Monika Merva has photographed the children in and around their home, using a Contax medium format camera and natural light. The shots are not set up or posed, to avoid sentimentality and preserve the authenticity of what she has witnessed.


As a photographer Merva has always been interested in people. As a first generation American of Hungarian descent, her interest in Gyermekkozpont is personal. She spent her childhood summers in Hungary, speaks the language and has extended family there. Her focus on Gyermekkozpont comes from understanding that one’s sense of self comes with a sense of belonging within a community. Merva believes home is where our strength lies. It’s the source of everything, where all our fears, questions, love and a sense of belonging originate.

The situations in these pictures seem common: a quiet moment alone, teenage boys lounging, and laughing with a friend. The environments are familiar: a schoolyard, a kitchen, and a teenager’s bedroom. This is the everyday at the Karloyi Istvan Gyermekkozpont, a government housing facility for children seeking help from their dysfunctional and poverty stricken families. Gyermekkozpont is in Fot, Hungary, and it is its own community. The children commute into the city to attend school. At the end of the day they return “home,” where adults supervise them, have chores, are made to do their homework, given allowance and have curfews. They call this place “The City of Children.”