The ongoing political struggles in Poland very much reflect the broader political struggles of the late capitalist period. Whether it is a continuous struggle to combat reactionary forces, economic inequality, or contending with anti-democratic measures, Poland has found itself at ground zero for many of these issues that are shaping a Europe in the midst of an immigration crisis.
Often distilled into a simplistic political analysis, what is occurring in Poland exists on multiple, often-conflicting levels. It exists through a multiplicity of struggles, internally and externally to Poland. To have any elemental understanding of the struggles that the youth, women, migrants, or other marginalized communities in Poland are confronted with demands broad introduction to the photographers documenting differing struggles: moments of hope, the casual or deliberate acts of violence, and the occasional moments of the sublime that engender Polish photography.
In a country of Poland’s size, there’s no shortage of talent to pick from. Undoubtedly, quality photographers have been omitted from this piece only because of space limitations. However, selecting the photographers here offers some insight into the amazing talent that exists in the country. Purposely, I wanted to disproportionately include female photographers as a consequence of the continuing assault on Polish women by the ruling PiS regime. Although this list of photographers could be far longer, the photographers featured provide an insight for foreigner viewers of a Poland that is in the process of either aligning itself with a progressive future or the stagnation of reactionary politics. Please, as always, make sure to follow them on Instagram!
The Krakow based student has a remarkable ability to bring beauty out of monotony. Her work is highly textual with its subtle use of dour colours and starkness. She often utilizes weather to compliment her work to present a monochromic imagination of the world that is ambiguous and alien.
Krystian’s work has been compared to Wolfgang Tillmans through his intimate exploration of queerness in Poland by exploring many of his own relationships. Sexual, while not sexy in a generic sense, each of his tender photos exist like postcards for that brief second. Amidst the backdrop of the growing popularity of the fascist PiS government, his photos act as a destabilizing response to the hatred that the ruling party spews.
Ewa Chodzicka’s work displays a talent for embracing those brief moments of absurdity, chaos and playfulness. Working in both cinema, photography and design, you can see through her work an interest in kitschy artifacts, yet she manages to breathe a depth into her work that it is far beyond just trash photography. Her work featured at the Eastreet 4 exhibition in Lublin last year.
A diverse artist, Nadia’s work dabbles into a number of different fields. Her most recent project consisted of portraits of different sets of twins, but her work goes far beyond that limited scope. Throughout her work there is a rich display of vibrant colour and soulful images of its subjects.
I was lucky enough to catch up with Marianna for an evening of drinks that included some guy getting glassed by a girl. Speaking to her, you realize that her major interest is in cinema, which is obvious in her photography. Her photos depict a dreamlike world that is strangely realistic, in a Jonathan Glazer-like fashion, making her work extremely vivid and captivating. Although cinema might be foremost in her heart, I can’t help but love her first as a photographer.
Formerly based in Krakow, Ola now lives and works in Canada, where she continues her at times painstaking investigation of the body within society. Her project I Wanted to be Beautiful explores her own surgery and the consequence on her own body. Profound and difficult, this series was one of the ten submissions – out of 8000 initial entrants – to be included in Saatchi Gallery’s exhibition Selfie to Self-Expression.
As the Polish state continues its assault on women’s rights and democracy, Weronika Perłowska has presented a stunning critique of this oppression in her recent series Girls In Peace Time Want To Dance. Through her photography, she looks to deconstruct patriarchy. Although patriarchy is a transnational issue, she presents a particular critique of the mode of oppression and the post-socialist context of Poland.
Kinga Michalska’s queer photography of the community that surrounds her is both tender and vulnerable, yet equally political. Her work has a tremendous Nan Goldin quality, in her ability to express the warmth she feels towards her subjects. She is not photographing mere individuals she knows in Montreal, but individuals she describes as her chosen family. Her ongoing series Diary is surely one of the highlights of 2018.
The Palace of Culture and Science building dominates the skyline Warsaw, what exists and the inner workings within this monstrosity of a structure was always far less clear. American-educated photographer Jacek Fota’s project PKiN looks to open up this mystery by exploring the unremarkable and seemingly inconsequential inner workings of the building to reveal something far more human than the structure appears to hold.