Polish photography has fast been gaining momentum for the past few years. The artists who established their presence in the Halls of Fame are constantly working on new projects and any newly released project is received with enthusiasm by their audience. However, it is worth taking a look at some photographers who, despite having only just entered the big stage, produce work that is a very successful combination of grandiosity and finesse. There is a sense of freshness and innovation about their ideas and the way they perceive their surrounding realities. Works of young Polish photographers are being noticed by members of the jury at numerous established photo contests.
Female photographers are especially worth getting familiar with, because the so-called field of “female photography” has developed greatly and has surprised everyone with new attitudes towards old and established patterns. This is why we have compiled a list of Five Female Artists to Watch for you. Each of them is leaving her mark on the international photographic scene thanks to the creation of works which are often deeply personal. This group is a mix of well-known photographers, as well as those who have only just begun their attempts to rise to the international photographic elite.
Anna Orłowska (born in 1986) is a graduate of Lodz Film School. According to her, photography is a recording of a play directed by nature – or a photographer. She often places people in a space which is seemingly empty, but is in fact abundant with mixed ideas, emotions and a great variety of feelings. The artist also likes to play a kind of game with her audience by means of presenting shots which appear realistic, but on close inspection reveal unrealistic components skilfully embedded in the picture. Many of her photos are inspired by paintings and films. Recently, the artist has been presenting specific objects which are more distinctive parts of local environments. She prepares a poetic commentary on each of her photo series. Two of her them are worth particular interest: The Day Before, which opened her the way to reGeneration2Tomorrow’s Photographers Today exhibition; and Leakage, which was nominated for a Discovery Award.
Wiktoria Wojciechowska (born in 1991) is a graduate of the Warsaw Media School, which is part of the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw. The most important aspect of her works is content. Meaningful content is what the artist strives for and where she presents her most powerful message to her audience. As she admits, she is not interested in creating simple records. She intends to present those aspects of human existence which are theoretically impossible to capture with cameras. The artist looks for and chooses the most appropriate manner of visualisation for every single topic. Her most accomplished project to date is Short Flashes, which presents photographs of people covered with raincoats and, simultaneously, with their own anonymity. Another project worth mentioning is Iskry, which translates into Sparks in English. It is composed of portraits of soldiers returning from the Ukrainian-Russian front, left with distinct stamps of war on their lives. The artist received the Oskar Barnack Leica Newcomer Award for 2015 for Short Flashes.
Ilona Szwarc (born in 1984) is a Polish-born photographer who lives and works in Los Angeles. The main focus of her works is an attempt to identify herself with a select reference group. She tries to achieve that through the determination of women’s identity within different cultural contexts. Her photographs present the various phases of the life of a woman, and the way women create their own personalities. She admits that while creating these projects, she draws on her own personal experiences – when presenting other women, she examines various aspects of her own life and her own emotions and experiences of being a woman. Through these photographs she tries to determine her own place in the world and find the group she belongs to. She strives to fully understand the women she presents. She portrays them as a part of their own world, a world composed of dreams and pursuits. Her photographs are extremely individualistic, to the point that they seem to enter the most intimate spheres of life. Her most well-known photo series are American Girls, Rodeo Girls and I am a woman and I feast on memory. She has received the Arnold Newman Prize for New Directions in Photography, and the Richard Benson Prize for Excellence in Photography.
Joanna Piotrowska (born in 1985) works with black and white photography. She utilizes the melancholy hidden in this art form perfectly to achieve her goals. The artist carefully prepares for every single shot. Despite the fact that she works with topics which are seemingly overused, each of her photo series is like a breath of fresh air. She is able to reject the fossilized manners of presentation of every topic and propose her own ways – thanks to the perfect understanding of the subject she works with. Therefore, her works are well-received by the audience, who, as if subconsciously, understand the artist’s message due to the fact that they are able to identify themselves with presented characters and find some part of their own experiences in her stories. The Frowst series, which was awarded first prize at First Book Award contest, is her best known work.
Marta Berens (born in 1982) is a student at the Institute of Creative Photography in Opava. Her photographs are characterized by very special arrangements of objects, which allows one to notice not just one, single frame, but rather the whole history of a given place, objects and, most importantly, specific people. The message carried by these photographs is intended to stimulate our inquisitiveness, which encourages us to indulge in deeper personal thinking. For Berens, photography is a vehicle thanks to which we are all able to break a spell and escape from reality for a little while. It is also a kind of therapy which allows the artist to come to terms with herself. Every single shot is the result of a “walk on the brink of dreams and reality”. The presented stories have the artist’s personal themes embedded in them, references to her past. She is interested in themes which are not important in contemporary world any more – stories from the past, tales of our predecessors, magic. Marta Berens received a LensCulture Emerging Talents award in 2014; and was a finalist in the Burn Emerging Photographer Fund in 2015.
Words: Anna Dziuba
Translation: Joanna Pietrak
Edited by: Mannika Mishra