Name: Arthur Burming
Arthur is a professional photographer and former ballet dancer. Considered a regular ornament on Budapest’s gay scene and doyen of the karaoke bars, he has traveled extensively for photographic commissions to places like the Amazon rain forest, Uganda, New York and Ireland. His friends in Budapest range from the sublime to the ridiculous. In fact, he once described a young gay friend of his, who had never heard of either Grindr or GayRomeo, as “a preserved UNESCO world heritage site”. He rejects Andy Warhol’s notion of “fifteen minutes of fame” and has opted instead to be immortalized in oil paint by the distinguished American painter William Theodoracopulos. Check Arthur out for yourself.
HUMEN: What made you come to Budapest?
Someone once said that Budapest is a great city to dream in, because it is the East’s vision of the West and the West’s hallucination of the East. As Bram Stoker put it in Dracula, “the Orient begins in Budapest”. With all that exoticism on offer and a chance to dream, I thought I would see if at least some of it was true. So far, I have not been disappointed.
HUMEN: How long have you been here?
Well, it is rather like life. I am here for a good time, not a long time. I arrived in Budapest six years ago; however, I am determined to stay long enough to master the Hungarian language. I was once told that it is the only language the devil has any respect for, and given that, I am likely to be spending a lot of time with him in the coming years. I hope to impress him with fluent Hungarian on our first encounter. Kezét csókolom!
HUMEN: Why Budapest and what are your impressions of the city?
The Irish writer Brendan Behan once said, “A city is a place where you stand the least likely chance of being run over by a sheep!” I have always favored living in big cities. This view was confirmed during a recent trip I took to the Amazon (the rain forest, not the website). So why Budapest. Well the best road out of Vilnius was the one to Budapest, so I took that one. Dr. Johnson said that if you are tired of London, you are tired of life. I feel the same way about Budapest. So far, I am not even remotely tired. On the contrary, even after six years, I am still discovering new places and new people.
HUMEN: Do you miss the ballet? Have you seen or been around Budapest’s dance scene? If yes, which is your favorite dance company or troupe?
I do miss the ballet very much. However, a real dancer never hangs up their ballet shoes – even if they only engage in the occasional pax de deux in a Budapest gay bar. I once danced on the bar counter of The Crazy House Bar, one of Budapest’s hidden gay treasures in 14 Rökk Szilárd street in the 8th district. Now seriously, I think Tamas Solymosi, Artistic Director of the Hungarian National Ballet is doing some wonderful work here in Budapest. My only real regret is that the Hungarian National Ballet is no longer housed across the road from the Opera House in that marvelous building, which was the home to the Ballet Academy for decades until 2002. It was designed by the great Hungarian architects Ödön Lechner and Gyula Pártos. The composers Puccini and Mahler were guests there. Now they want to turn it into a five star hotel. We have enough five star hotels in Budapest. This is the rightful home of the Hungarian ballet. Bring back the ballet to Andrassy út, that’s what I say!
HUMEN: As a professional photographer and world traveler, besides Budapest what other cities of Hungary would you encourage readers to visit and look for good photo opportunities?
Some of the most interesting photo opportunities outside Budapest are, in fact, very near the capital, which you can easily access by a quick train ride or car journey. Forty kilometers southwest of Budapest lays a charming village called Rackeve. The untouched 15th century orthodox church has very early frescoes and the palace of Prince Eugene of Savoy provides some wonderful photo opportunities. Just outside Budapest you can find the charming village of Fot, where the Karolyi castle is one of the few still inhabited by an old Hungarian aristocratic family. Esztergom, just 46 km southwest of Budapest has the dramatic Maria Valeria Bridge over the Danube. English visitors will be interested to know that the 19-year-old English boy, who became one of the world’s most famous travel writers, Patrick Leigh-Fermor, entered Hungary at this spot in 1934 on his journey from England to Constantinople, on foot.
HUMEN: How does the gay scene in Budapest compare to Vilnius?
Comparing the gay scene in Vilnius to the gay scene in Budapest is like comparing science with black magic, chalk with cheese or Paris with Ulan Bator.
HUMEN: What do you think of Magyar boys?
Budapest women are rather like the city’s buildings, they are either over-restored or sadly neglected. Budapest boys are also like these buildings, somewhat eclectic, but none the worse for that. In fact, I can picture them in Hussars uniforms or heading off to the officers club to gamble and drink. There is still something cruddy gallant about the youth of Budapest. They can be short on stoicism and long on nostalgia but I don’t find that a burden. I can say truthfully that it works for me!
HUMEN: Have you ever either suffered or felt any prejudice in Budapest?
I am immune to prejudice. Whenever I meet a racist person I just think to myself “well, there is another good reason for birth control”. Mahatma Gandhi said, “Never let anyone walk through your mind with dirty feet”. That is how I deal with prejudice of any kind.