I spent four days in the spa just snapping away… I began at 6 am, when the pools were still empty, then later when there were many tourists. Meanwhile, I rested and drew, planning the following pairs of portraits.

That is how I created the following series, which has decorated the walls of the Gellért ever since in prints that are 6.5 feet high.

Here is a full story:

Budapest, the capital of Hungary, has a long association with water. It has been the “City of Spas” since 1934, because it has more thermal and medicinal water springs than any other capital city in the world.

The most unique destination and a favorite among foreigners are the Gellért Thermal Bath and Hotel. It opened gates in 1918. That means this world-famous site is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.

More info: Instagram

Where to find inspiration…?

When asked to create an exciting photo series about Budapest’s iconic thermal bath for World Water Day, I was initially stumped. The complex is very photogenic. Consequently, it has been captured on film numerous times, in pictures by the best photographers. Recently, even world-famous Gucci produced an ad campaign here. Uh-oh, I am in trouble. How am I to create something new and exciting, something never seen before?

As a photographer, I always seek out the most unique settings and then trust my vision. I know that I can create extraordinary spectacles, but this task now weighed on me. For hours I sat in the atrium of the bath complex, crushing a series of disposable coffee cups, struggling to draw inspiration from the building’s ornate Secession-Era interior.

Then comes the spark!

I sat there for days. At night, I observed the building from the outside… And suddenly I felt the spark of inspiration! It is a Thermal Bath and Hotel in one. There are separate, totally symmetric parts for men and women. There are pools both inside and outside, available in both winter and summer… Since I enjoy producing both aerial and traditional photos, a novel approach presented itself:

Not just interesting pictures, but pairs of pictures!

From outside-inside, above-below, from rooftop and basement, from water, land, and air… Pictures that expose distinct parts of the complex, but have colours and forms in common, or simply complement one another. Picture-pairs that uncovers the diversity and dichotomy of the Gellért, and then — after the initial shock of recognition — create a virtual third picture, a composite, in the viewer’s mind.

I had not made my assignment any easier. In fact, I had set the bar high. Still, I knew my aim, and I had my inspiration!

I spent four days in the spa just snapping away… I began at 6 am, when the pools were still empty, then later when there were many tourists. Meanwhile, I rested and drew, planning the following pairs of portraits.

That is how I created the following series, which has decorated the walls of the Gellért ever since in prints that are 6.5 feet high.

Not just interesting pictures, but pairs of pictures!

The building’s cupola below the scurrying nighttime clouds and a unique ceramic bench, a detail from the men’s section of the baths.

The water-spitting lion and the first swimmer at dawn

The water-spitting lion created by the Zsolnay Porcelain Factory and the first swimmer at dawn, seen from above in the inner pool.

The Liberty Statue and swimming pool clouded with steam

Only the Liberty Statue and the Gellért Spa complex, at the foot of Gellért Hill in the right third of the picture, emerge from the winter fog that gradually envelopes the city.
Below, another aerial shot, this time of the inner swimming pool clouded with steam.

Daytime and nightime from above

The symmetric complex of the Gellért Spa and Hotel as seen from above at daytime in winter and at nighttime in spring.

Outdoor – indoor

The shape of the outdoor pool harmonises with the inner swimming pool, which features masterpieces of the Zsolnay Porcelain Factory.

The women’s green section

The women’s section, damaged in World War Two bombing, could not be restored to its original state, since the porcelain factory had stopped producing its unique ceramics. As a result, it was decorated with green mosaic tile.

Cupolas

The hall’s decorative cupola from inside below and outside above.

The men’s section

The men’s section is just as splendid today as 100 years ago.

Goose girl and lions

Guardians of the swimming pools: the goose girl statue and, in the men’s section, the water-spitting lions, whose beards grow bigger with the years.

Master achievements by Zsolnay Porcelain Factory

The interior decoration boasts master achievements by both architects and the Zsolnay Porcelain Factory.

Guardian angels

Details of the supporting pillar and the guardian angels watching over the splashers.

Bathing in moon- and sunlight

The cupola above the entrance at night and the pool with the skylight, open to allow sunlight to bathe the interior.

The lions of water

The beards on the lion water-spitters grow increasingly large thanks to carbonate mineral deposits left by the flowing water.

Atriums

The atrium’s sun-filled dome (below) and the arch entrance to the men’s shower (above).

Venus above the ancient source

Statue of Venus and the Gellért Spa’s ancient source, the cellar, four storeys deep, where the healing thermal water bubbles up from deep within the Earth.

Photographer on location

Work in progress