Aeromodeling is a longstanding but little-known hobby, a real curiosity for those who get into it today without a modeling ancestor in their family. Although the practice, which can be a recreational hobby as well as a competitive sport, seems to be fading, there are still modeling communities that ambitiously carry on the tradition at a professional level. Photographer Ádám Földi portrays their stories and their unique world in his latest series.
In modeling, even a few extra grams on a part can make a big difference—models that are scale replicas of existing aircraft are born out of pinpoint precision, months, or years of work. However, the images of Ádám Földi are not just photographs of objects that capture the carefully crafted machines—they also document the interdependent relationship between creator and creation. The professional background of Ádám as a portrait and fashion photographer could easily have led him to tell a story in his series by depicting the characters of the community. Still, instead, he sought to achieve a delicate balance between the presence of man and object in each image. All the places and situations that define the life of a community that receives undeservedly little attention are revealed.
Alongside the promotion of recreational modeling, the modelers, organized in associations and clubs, also have the critical task of organizing competitions and events in their respective disciplines and educating young people. Organized modeling has a centuries-old history in the country, but transferring knowledge and preserving tradition is increasingly challenging nowadays. Földi has sought to capture and visualize the timelessness of the hobby with a series he started in April this year, which he hopes to expand over the year and eventually publish as a book. We asked him about the beginning of the project and the research process.
Why did you get involved in the practice of modeling?
I have always been interested in different forms of leisure in adult life, especially when a hobby involves some kind of creative process, manual work, and engagement. Airplane modeling happens to be just like that. I have no personal attachment to the hobby itself, but I am impressed that some people do it professionally in their spare time. It is amazing how they create a kind of micro-world, compressing reality into small models.
Without a previous connection to the activity, how did you start learning about this world?
The first time I saw a car modeler in the sand mine in Fót, I started thinking about the subject under his influence, but cars are not my thing, yet I have always been interested in airplanes. It started slowly; I first began to look for Facebook groups, but the situation with the virus didn’t make it easy to meet in person, and many people don’t even live in the Budapest area. Meanwhile, I was collecting and organizing visual inspirations from paintings and old photos. Finally, I got to the president of the Magyar Modellező Szövetség (Hungarian Modelling Association), László Török, who invited me to a modeling flight. He was the first person I photographed. I was then put in touch with a master aeromodeller, Károly Augusztin, in whose workshop I got to know a little better the details of the painstaking work that took months, even years.
What is your impression of the community and the hobby? What was interesting about them that you did not know before?
For me, it was pretty interesting that the larger counties have their own official modeling societies. There is a long history of this activity in Hungary because of Ernő Rubik (the father of the inventor of the Rubik’s cube—the Ed.), and they are trying to maintain the tradition. Back then, more attention was paid to these modeling exercises in education and even in technology classes, but not anymore. I feel a little sad for those who model but can no longer pass on the knowledge to their grandchildren. Their situation is not easier because model flying has been brought under the Drone Act, making it impossible to use them freely. It seems as if this hobby activity is in danger of disappearing, which is why I wanted to capture it and raise awareness of this community.
How have you been received by members of the modeling community?
They were incredibly open, grateful that someone is interested in their practice and wants to document it. It is an extraordinary, closed world, but in the nicest way. For example, they have a model airport, but it is far from the city, and anyone who is not part of the community can not see the process, but I want more people to learn about their stories through my pictures.