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Tuesday, April 23

Poles Apart

Is it possible to characterise a nation by its photography? I'm beginning to wonder if that is indeed the case. I think I can identify American landscape photographs and street photography. Likewise, there's a sort of  European look to some photographs and sometimes I see a certain "Britishness". For whatever reason (I've never really thought a lot about it) I've always seemed to prefer European photography to work from American or the Far East. I prefer browsing the photographs on Ipernity rather than Flickr. Obviously, there are plenty of exceptions that would blow this tentative theory apart.

I started to think about this after realising that I love Polish photography. Even just making a statement like that is a little weird but there are times when I see a type of photography I really like, do a bit of digging and then realise that the photographer is Polish. Unless you see the world the same way I do it's unlikely you would have reacted the same way. It's more to do with the fact that I seem to take the same sort of photographs as some Polish black and white workers, and vice-versa.

Just recently, reader Gracjan Ziółek left a comment on one of my posts and, since there was a link in his profile to his website, I decided to take a look, as I always try to do. Well, he's Polish and, true to form, I loved the stuff he was producing. Of course, it helps that he uses a lot of film. I asked if it was OK to show some of his pics here and that prompted this post.

Turns out that Gracjan has a bit of a track record. He was a university photography teacher for three years and his photographs have featured in solo and group exhibitions in Poland, Germany, Holland, Belgium, Austria, Spain, Slovenia and Japan. He has also had a lot of photographs published and is a past-president of the Lublin Branch of the Polish Nature Photographers' Union.

When I said how much I liked his work and asked for his permission to post some pics here he said, "I'm very happy to read such words and they motivate me to get back to photography. For last 2-3 years because of some family/personal reasons I gave up a little, but now I'm starting to build a darkroom in my new house and planning to come back. So I hope there will be much more new posts in my blog this year."

Gracjan moved into a new house in the New Year and has obviously been busy but he's pushing ahead with the darkroom plan. He added, "I have an idea how the darkroom should look like (I was teaching darkroom techniques at the university for few years and had my own darkroom there), so as soon as my wife is more or less satisfied with the progress of work, I hope to find some time to buy materials and assemble sinks, tables, cabinets etc."

I asked him if he could document his darkroom build but I think he might have enough on his plate already!


John Carter said...

I have thought about photos from different cultures, my favorites are British (although, my favorites have passed on), and Mexican. Maybe now I will add Poles.

stefan Czemerys said...

I like European street photography. I read a book about surreal photography in France between the wars. Changed my life. Seriously. My father was Polish but have never looked at Polish photography. Maybe I should. The Diane Arbus exhibition in Edinburgh moved me greatly. So did the Cartier-Bresson exhibition. I also love Berenice Abbot's work.

Gracjan Ziółek said...

Bruce, to be honest, I though you forgot about our conversation. :) Thanks for a nice article. However, seeing me as a way to go into Polish photography is a really a gross exaggeration. I'm just one of millions of amateurs. There were (and are) many amazing artists in Poland. On the other hand, I am very happy if I can contribute to increasing popularity of Polish art in the world. :)

Regarding my darkroom - no change since that time, Bruce. But I will document the progress, when it comes. :)


Hi Gracjan,

My memory is OK. it's laziness that gets the better of me sometimes. :-)

Look forward to seeing your darkroom when you get the chance.