I just loved talking to Pinto – to see courageous people who follow their heart, who are not afraid to get out of their comfort zone, who are willing to learn all the time and feel lucky if they can do this – well, that’s a chance I’m so grateful for. Attila Soos (46 years old) in his identity card, Pinto Horse for those who love his photos, is a story himself. Old and famous photographer, he had lived in Budapest for 17 years, had his own studio in the center of the big capital and worked for famous magazines such as Elite, Playboy or Penthouse. But when he realized it was not a world he wanted to live into, he just closed the studio, moved to a small village in Hungary, and lived there for almost four years. Then he came back to Cluj, his home town, where he has a studio in the center of the town, and works as a freelance photographer – a very good one. But he spends most of his time in a camper van, rediscovering life, working there, cooking, travelling and experiencing things, in a journey to new places and to himself – making him a better man, maybe wiser and certainly happier. This is his journey – full of adventure, courage and lived life.
“If you call me Attila, I might not answer”, he says, laughing – Pinto, that’s how everyone knows him, and of course that’s a story, also. He always had an attraction for Indians – and one day he had the chance to meet in Budapest an Indian from Black Leg Tribe. He gave him the name – Pinto Horse, and he signs his photos like this from that moment on.
The love story with photography is very old – starting in childhood, when he was in the 5-th grade. They had a family friend who was a photographer and that was the beginning – with an old Smena camera and classical film. After that it was self-taught and a lot of hard work. Professionally, he does this since 1997. “I’ve caught the change from analogous to digital, I was among the last ones who got to work on digital”, he says.
Of course it wasn’t easy – and even today he is not completely convinced that it’s a better quality – but there are, of course, advantages, and the promptness is the biggest, you can process the pictures in the same day. “I started learning lighting, I’ve studied a lot, I have a studio in the center of Cluj Napoca very well equipped with lights, but very few people come to work in the studio”, he says.
Budapest. Photographer for famous fashion magazines
Pinto lived in Budapest for 17 years. Had a studio of 120 meters in the center of the town, and worked for famous fashion magazines, such as Elite, Playboy or Penthouse. “At one point, I just became saturated with all the fake media around me, and I’ve bought a house 150 kilometers away from Budapest, in a village with 350 inhabitants, under the wood, and I moved there”, he says.
And lived there for almost 4 years – and it was quite an experience! He started with the small house and a horse, not using too much money, surrounded by beautiful people. That’s something, also – when you have enough courage to leave a comfort zone you are not happy at all with, and give yourself chances, you’ll always meet right people for everything. He took them pictures and they offered him their own products – eggs, meat, cheese, everything necessary.
Every month he went to Italy, worked for a week at a photo studio and earned 300-400 dollars – enough for the whole month in the small village. “I’ve never had chickens, but I had eggs all the time. And I had three horses when I left. Many people envied me – but not because I didn’t need money and because my fridge was full all the time. They envied me because I had the courage to make this step”, he says.
From that small village, 10 years after, he moved back to Cluj.
Life in a camper van. “The Snail”
Pinto is a famous photographer – not only in Cluj. He is doing commercial photography – and very rarely weddings. He teaches in workshops and photography courses. And tries to find the best way to be as independent as possible – not to depend on a place, financially, be able to work from different places. “I put pictures on stock, also, I’m looking for ways to put as many pictures on stock as possible, to have as much freedom as I can”, he says.
And that’s the point where “The Snail” comes into the story. But before this, a small bracket. “My friends always ask me – how are you, travelling photographer? I always have my camera and a backpack. And the nomadic side has a story – there were a lot of nomadic gypsies when I was a child, walking with carts with cover, and my father used to tell me – if you are not good, I will give you to the gypsies. But I was looking at them – they were travelling, living, singing, and did not understand if that was a promise or a warning – because I saw nothing bad in their way of living”, he says.
Back to “The Snail” now, actually back to a lifetime dream. Bought 3 years ago, the camper van became the best friend, the partner of some lifetime experiences. Two years ago, they travelled together for three months through Europe, in Hungary, Slovenia and Italy. Lucky him, Pinto is not a tourist. He is looking for experiences, people, tastes and local things to learn. So he stopped in small towns and villages, ate locally, met an old man who made olive wooden spoons, spend days in a small family restaurant, talking to the owners who were so beautiful, special people, taking pictures, tasting, learning, enjoying quality time, visited an olive oil manufacturing and many more. Felt the heart of special places – fully lived experiences and special pictures, of course.
He came back richer mentally and emotionally – you are very lucky if you have this chance, to travel and learn.
From that point on, he spent in his camper van as much time as he could. When we talked, he was staying with “The Snail” in Cheile Turzii, a very picturesque area close to Cluj. The weather was getting cold and he was about to move back to his apartment in town – and he was not happy at all. “I work here, I edit, I have sunlight, the birds are singing, there are dogs, nature, fresh air – I’m already stressing thinking I have to get back to the center of the town”, he says, laughing.
He cooks with local ingredients bought from the villages around – cooking is another passion, I forgot to mention. Plays with children, washes his clothes by hand, gives himself time to breathe, think, understand, rediscover. “I have maximum comfort, I have solar panel, battery that resists, desktop, laptop, monitor, I work here”, he says.
And he is so happy – you feel this from every word. So so happy.
Out of the comfort zone
Pinto could’ve stayed in many comfort zones, having a quiet, comfortable life – but not a happy one, for him. It depends a lot what you wish for yourself – and how strong your wish is. He was never afraid to get out of that comfort zone. Left Budapest at one point just because he wanted to develop, professionally. Went to New York, shared flyers in the street, worked with a butcher – just to be able to go to photo studious and learn. He attended 80 studious and came back to Budapest after 6 months professionally and mentally richer – it’s been a valuable experience.
When he left Budapest and moved to the country also left a comfort zone. He is a Greenpeace activist for 15 years and attended some of their international missions – each was a wonderful, valuable experience, also.
Life in “The Snail” is also getting out of a comfort zone – and he is so happy for having this chance. “Living in Cheile Turzii is a quality change in my way of living, I never wanted to live in town although I was born and raised there. I love the nature and I took advantage of these three months – they helped me know myself better”, he says.
The courage to get out of it? You just have to go on from complaining to just changing things – first step is always the most difficult. But what comes after is priceless – good things, special people, chances, improvement in so many ways. “The luck is very important, but you have to open the door to let it enter. It can be around you but never touch you – you need to give him a hand”, he says.
PHOTOS FROM PERSONAL ARCHIVE
Do you know a very special person? Someone who has followed his dream, built it piece by piece, with passion, energy and lot of soul? An usual, simple person who did something in life, who you can identify with, who can be, for others, a source of inspiration? Tell me about that person and let’s tell the others his/her beautiful story. Write me at email@example.com, here, on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.