Emotions. Stories. Sexuality.
The striking photos of Peter ERZVO Zvonár
Slovakian artist Peter ERZVO Zvonár is a photographer whose work focuses on the human figure, Christian images, or self-portraits.
Ahead of the opening of his first solo exhibition in New York, I spoke with Zvonár for a behind-the-scenes look at his latest series of work.
What was the inspiration for the series of photos included in the exhibition?
The inspiration behind all my artwork is life itself — emotions, stories, sexuality. I haven’t prepared anything special for the New York exhibition. It’s all my work from 2013 up to present-day, presented as large format photographs on high quality paper, with mount and frame.
Your work has caused controversy in Slovakia and the Czech Republic — what is it about your photographs that people have found controversial?
Art has to be controversial. Art should be stirring. It’s a kind of rebellion that comes from the heart and soul of the artist.
When I create art, I don’t think about the consequences of it, but the specific message of the piece — how I captured the story. It doesn’t matter if it’s a romantic story, a story of one person, a terrifying story, or whether it shows one’s hidden desires and urges. I like to portray these in particular. Maybe that’s why there’s a lot of sexuality in my artwork, as well as Christian symbolism.
That’s why I’m not so popular in my homeland, Slovakia, which has a very traditional Christian society.
When did you start to develop your passion for photography?
During my childhood. My father took pictures for himself — back then it was all analogue photographs, I used to help him develop the films on the photographic paper, and help with lighting in the darkroom.
I studied photography for two years at the College of Applied Art in Bratislava, where I studied to become an art restorer. But my passion for photography exploded when I was 44 years old, after my relationship of 13 years ended.
I’ve been dedicated to photography ever since — it is my life.
I met someone special a year ago, so they have overtaken photography as my biggest love. I never thought I’d put photography in second place in my life.
Why is photography a good way to explore challenging themes?
I see photography as a painting. If I didn’t take photos I would definitely paint instead. I have a need to create pictures. It’s a kind of impulse, like a drug you need to have otherwise you’d go crazy. I take photos in my sleep too. I often dream of pictures and compositions and when I wake up I write it all down. Also, when I travel I see things that inspire me.
You can say a lot with a photograph. Capture a thought or a scene in a way that it draws the audience into the picture or the story itself, so they think, get inspired, offended, excited, and simply show their emotion. That’s my main goal.
What’s life like in Slovakia?
I live in a small town surrounded by mountains called Ruzomberok. There’s beautiful nature everywhere, and I love to relax by cycling or running. The people there are mostly very conservative, but I’ve never had any issues as a gay man.
What do you hope that people feel when looking at these photographs?
It’s all about emotion. I’m happy when people give me feedback, when they write to me that my photograph helped them, or that my photographs help them to awaken themselves. I’m also happy when men and women get themselves off on my porn-art photographs.
What next for Peter ERZVO Zvonár?
New York is my main focus — being exhibited at MoMa is one of my dreams.
In my personal life, I’d love to settle down with my boyfriend and live together. There’s nothing more beautiful than sharing your life, your world, with the other half of your soul.