Fotograf Magazine

Mari Mahr

interview with Duncan Forbes

You once described yourself as a ‘curious amalgam’ of different cultures, a modest way of invoking a life story that has been crossed by some of the great fault lines of the twentieth century. Your mother’s history, and latterly that of your father, are crucial influences in your work; how did they meet?

They met in Paris in 1938. At that time Paris was much favoured by Eastern European artists and intellectuals. My mother was twenty and was planning to settle in the city. She was chaperoned – from a polite distance – by my grandmother, a Hungarian socialite. They were, like so many others, frequently travelling from Budapest to Berlin, from Berlin to Paris, and back.
My father was an architect, also a Hungarian – a left-wing Hungarian – who, having been educated at the Bauhaus, first travelled to Moscow with Hannes Meyer, then to Paris to work for Grete Schütte-Lihotzky designing furniture and he also worked for a time at Le Corbusier’s office.
I am not sure about the exact course of events, but there is a lovely suite of photographs by Brassaï – to prove my mother’s and father’s coming together in front of Notre-Dame Cathedral. My grandmother knew Brassaï. So many famous names….

However, this was Europe fearing the War and Jewish persecution. My parents took the only boat that would take them and headed for Chile together. They settled in Santiago, where my father became professor of architecture. I was born there.

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