Growing up in the Hungarian capital of Budapest left an indelible mark upon Áron Filkey. Long-regarded as one of Europe’s most bohemian cultural hubs, Budapest provided Áron with an early exposure to the creative world.
Áron and his sister
“I grew up in the suburbs of Buda, which is more residential and quiet. My parents were always very open to let me do what I want. They wanted to see me happy. It was a very safe environment to grow up. I went to high school in Pest; that was my first exploration of the city. I had already started drawing by that time.”
Upon completing his high school studies, Áron went to a preparatory school before attending the Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design in Budapest. It was during this time that Áron began contemplating the idea of studying abroad.
Directed by Viktor Horvath Creative contributor: Aron Filkey
“I’d been to Berlin before, and I really liked the city culture. I could relate to the Eastern European side, but at the same time it had a modern western side to it. So that’s the city I picked when I applied with Erasmus.”
The move was quite intrepid, given that Áron spoke no German at the time. Nevertheless, his heart was settled on Berlin.
“There actually was no “none” option for the question ‘Do you speak German?’ The only answers were ‘a lot, some, or a little,’ so I had to put ‘a little.’ I lied, I guess, but I really wanted to go.”
Once in Berlin Áron immersed himself in a culture beyond the borders of his old home. He quickly developed a group of international friends and reveled in the exploration of the new and vibrant city. When the time came to return to Budapest, Áron felt that his urge to travel had only grown stronger. He wanted more experiences in new cities with new people, so he set to the task of applying for a host of international internships.
“I remember my mom came to the room and asked what I was doing. I told her I was looking for internships abroad and she asked, ‘Did you apply to Sagmeister?’ She knew that I had Stefan Sagmeister’s books and always followed his works, but I said I wasn’t applying because there was no way I would get accepted. She said why not at least try.”
Despite being doubtful of his prospects, Áron decided to heed his mother’s advice; he had already had his portfolio ready anyway, so it wouldn’t do any harm to send one to them. Within 2 days, Sagmeister & Walsh wrote back with an offer for a 3-month internship.
“I was by myself in the room, but I remember standing up and screaming ‘YEAH!’”
Once he arrived in New York, Áron began doing his best to adapt to the country and his new working environment. At Sagmeister & Walsh he took on a variety of small projects in graphic design, working on illustrations for clients’ Instagram campaigns. About halfway through his internship, Áron realized he would like to try his hand at more photography work.
“I realized in university that I didn’t like sitting in front of the computer, so I started doing more work with my hands and using the computer as a tool rather than the thing I created with.”
Áron reached out to Jessica Walsh with a request to be put on a photography or video project, and was soon put in contact with one of the studio’s resident filmmakers who was looking for extra help with an upcoming project. The two worked together closely over the next month on a campaign for Aizone, which was well received within the studio.As fate would have it, the end of Áron’s internship coincided with the filmmaker’s departure from the studio as well. Impressed with Áron’s work over the previous months, he suggested to Jessica and Stefan that Áron inherit his position once he had left. The two agreed, and with that Áron had secured a job and a life in New York for the foreseeable future.
In two short years, Áron has acclimated to his new life in the U.S. and now thinks of it as his second home. He explains that coming to America wasn’t all that shocking to begin with due to his frequent exposure to the country, and New York in particular, through mass media.“I feel whenever I arrive to New York, it feels like coming home because I’ve seen the imagery in so many books and films before. It’s like a visual homecoming.”
“I feel whenever I arrive to New York, it feels like coming home because I’ve seen the imagery in so many books and films before. It’s like a visual homecoming.”
Still, Áron manages to hang on to his Hungarian roots while living abroad, and has even started to take on many Hungarian projects in recent months. As the typical income from these commissions tends to be a third of what they are in the states, Áron explains that he only will take the ones that resonate with him on a deeper level.
“Right now I’m working on a renovation of an old Hungarian cartoon that was one of my favorites from when I was a child. It had been lost, but some students at university were able to save and preserve the footage. Every time I sit down for this project I’m like ‘Yeah, this is amazing!’ I’m doing something that’s meaningful for the younger generation, which preserves the values from older times.”
Though his connection to his home remains strong, Áron is aware that more and more of New York is spilling into his work with each passing day.
“I did a project for the Hungarian version of MTV. I sent the visuals from it to a Hungarian friend of mine and he immediately said, “Wow, it’s so New York.” It was funny because I had got all the props from Budapest, but I guess I borrowed the visuality from New York.”
Áron realizes the growing influence of his new home in his life, especially in those times when he returns to Hungary. But rather than balk at the changes in his personality and work, Áron has grown to cherish them as hallmarks of his increasing openness to the world. Áron speaks to this sentiment in his final piece of advice for those out there who might find themselves in a similar situation.
“Be open. Never give up. It sounds cheesy, but it’s true. Sometimes it’s really hard. People coming here from other countries look for people from their own culture. That didn’t happen for me, so I had to get out of my comfort zone. You have to find new people from new places, that’s what makes you more open. If you don’t do that, you’re missing out, because good people are everywhere.”