Empty Streets: Surreal Photos of Budapest, Hungary by Dániel Horváth

The coronavirus pandemic has had a huge impact on the work of professional photographers around the world. For many, the pandemic has led to a sudden drop in clients and work. At the very least, they’ve had to change their workflow or focus, pivoting to a different genre or approach to their career.

For Dániel Horváth, a freelance photographer based in Budapest, Hungary, the pandemic has led to both hardship and opportunities. All his jobs and work trips have been cancelled, so that his schedule is suddenly wide open.

“I mostly work for restaurants and hotels,” he says. “I also do Fashion Week, shooting the street as a street style photographer. I got my first gig to Santorini for shooting a video, but it was also cancelled. It is sad, but it is what it is.”

Horváth Dániel - Empty Budapest

He’s been able to find a silver lining to this time of hardship, though. Because he now has more “free time,” he’s been able to edit all his personal projects and videos he’s been wanting to finish. He’s also been doing more photo and video challenges and growing his Youtube channel with photo ideas and tutorials. “Now I have time to be creative,” he says.

He’s also taken advantage of the empty streets in Budapest to get surreal urban shots. With no tourists and a lot of telecommuting, there’s hardly any traffic and few pedestrians. Budapest has become almost unrecognizable from the bustling city it usually is.

Horváth Dániel - Empty Budapest

Horváth Dániel - Budapest empty street

Horváth Dániel - Anker köz

As a street fashion enthusiast, Horváth has often focused on people in his photos. While he does still photograph people at a distance, his focus has shifted to capturing the urban environment, its buildings, streets, and stairs.

He’s visited famous landmarks and spent a lot of time in the Budapest Metro, experiencing the strange emptiness of places usually packed with people. The majority of his shots have a dark, moody atmosphere, particularly in the Metro, but some of them have a bright beauty, as if the buildings now have room to breathe with no tourists crowding them.

Horváth Dániel - St. Stephen's Basilica

Horváth Dániel - Heroes' Square Budapest

Horváth Dániel - Empty Budapest

Every country has handled the coronavirus pandemic differently. In Hungary, the government reacted quickly with strict measures to prevent the spread of the virus. That’s why the streets are so empty.

“The government closed almost everything. Weddings and festivals are not allowed. After 3pm only the grocery markets and pharmacies can be opened. Restaurants are closed. So almost everybody tries to work from home.”

But not everyone can work from home; many people (like Horváth) have lost their jobs and freelance work. Moreover, “our country doesn’t have money, so we don’t get anything from the government,” he says.

Nevertheless, he thinks Hungary and Budapest are handing the situation well. The infection curve has flattened, and the death rate is going down. “People didn’t understand at first, but now I think everybody is thankful for it.”

Horváth Dániel - Budapest empty cafe

Horváth Dániel - Man Cleaning in Budapest

Horváth Dániel - Empty Budapest

Although Horváth appreciates this time to be creative and photograph Budapest, he’s looking forward to getting his regular work routine back, too, and traveling once again. “I am a workaholic,” he admits.

But since it may be a while before traveling and “normal life” return, he’s finding ways to build his brand and continue his work through his Youtube channel. He wants to share his knowledge and push the importance of creativity over photography gear.

“You have to find your vision and passion, and if you have that, it won’t matter what gear you have because you will stand out!”

He’s also still taking food photos – the subject that first inspired his love for photography – and despite all the limitations of lockdown, he hasn’t run out of ideas yet. “I never worry about what is coming next, even with work or photography, because I love challenges. It pushes me forward.”

To see more of Horváth’s work, visit his website or Instagram accounts for food, travel, street style, and self portraits.

Horváth Dániel - Empty Budapest

Horváth Dániel - Empty Budapest

Horváth Dániel - Empty Budapest

Horváth Dániel - Empty Budapest

Horváth Dániel - Empty Budapest

Horváth Dániel - Empty Budapest

Horváth Dániel - Empty Budapest

Horváth Dániel - Empty Budapest

Horváth Dániel - Empty Budapest

Horváth Dániel - Szépművészeti Múzeum