Natalia Podgorska is a London-based photographer, whose practice focuses on everyday objects. Amongst portraits and still-lives, she photographs products which are sold by a builders merchant she works for. As she says, this is a purely functional office job, which at the very beginning made her a ‘hostage’ of her own occupation. Everything changed when she discovered the aesthetic potential hidden within the products she works with.
In a “Stockholm Syndrome” series, which is a project she started working on four years ago, Natalia captures wires, cables and first-aid phantoms, sold by the company. There is something almost resembling a fetish in the way she pictures things she works with. Every detail is exposed. Dust, serial numbers and scratches, they were all photographed with great precision. Nothing seems to be accidental here. Even colours inside the cable, when it is branching into smaller ones, seem not to be accidental. The same is with the glossy finish of the screws, which makes them shine almost like diamonds or pearls sold in a luxury jewellery shop.
Her photographs give an oneiric, almost fairy-tale feeling. By making objects of everyday use her main concern, she shows them in a completely different setting. Something, what we knew and seen before suddenly becomes unknown. Podgorska gives photographed objects new meanings and encourages us to see their extraordinary side. Nothing is the same anymore. Objects shown on her works are given a rank of archaeological discoveries or almost outer-space findings. They are no longer reminiscent of what they were and why they were created. Photographed products, designed to match certain requirements and purposes, become tiny sculptures, installations, and therefore lose their initial context.
Objects for which there is a demand only because of their functionality, here become deprived of it and shown in a completely new setting. Looking closer at how they are made, one starts to wonder if they were indeed only thought to fulfil a certain role. Did someone before thought of them as of decorative objects and saw the potential which inspired Podgorska? What once made Podgorska like her office job a bit more, is experiencing the beauty hidden in things which we normally don’t perceive as beautiful or particularly interesting. After photographing these objects for the past four years, she now shares her findings and makes us see things with new eyes.
Maria Markiewicz.: Natalia, you recently finished working on the “Stockholm Syndrome” series, which was entirely focused on photographing objects that you found in your workplace. How did it all start?
Natalia Podgorska: To be completely honest the project is still ongoing, new bits and pieces are popping up and new cakes are being devoured in the staff kitchen. I think the only way to finish it is when I leave the building for the very last time. There were several reasons why I began working on the “Stockholm Syndrome”. First of all, I was bored out of my mind and wanted to work on something that was only mine, but I didn’t want the project to be an after hour ‘hobby’.
M.M.: What interested you in the objects you chose to photograph?
N.P.: I started documenting forms and situations that caught my eye outside of the ‘professional’ environment I was in. Initially, it shoted it mostly by my mobile but soon I realised that being the in-house photographer in a company that had no idea what it meant allowed me to take pictures of literally anything using my camera and lights without bringing attention to myself. I also wanted to understand the way people employed in the company perceived those objects. For them every group of products – screws, bricks, handles, you name it – was an area of expertise that they spent years in.
M.M.: What were you thinking about whilst taking the pictures?
N.P.: I wanted to emulate that levels of fascination and knowledge for people like myself who couldn’t care less about building materials but would happily appreciate abstract forms and eerie landscapes. Here I would like to say that I never really felt superior to people working around me. The process of finding that world interesting is mostly performed for myself, so I wouldn’t go insane. I treat it more as a ‘translation’ than broadcasting the only correct, arty way of looking at things.
M.M.: Your works often resemble miniature sculptures or installations. Do you think of them in that way?
N.P.: “Stockholm Syndrome” will eventually come to life as a book, built as a polyphonic structure, with multiple lines of narrative reappearing as we progress into it. The objects found in pictures represent a certain progression and can be divided into several groups. Some of the objects are more an archaeological discovery in a sense where they just suddenly appear (but so do sculptures and artefacts when we dig them out of the ground) and others are consciously created structures made using bits found in that excavation. In other words – yes, I do think about them in that way, but there are multiple reasons why I do so.
M.M.: Besides photographing objects of everyday life, you also work with still life and portraiture. Your works are abstract and surreal. What photographers do you look up to and where do you seek for inspiration?
N.P.: I try to look at my idols and not necessarily ‘get inspired’ but rather reaffirm in the idea that my viewing and organising of space and world possibly exists in fellow humans, and most hopefully – in great artists (who knows maybe by some sympathetic magic I might become one one day). The people I think about right now are Richard Wentworth with his everyday sculpture photography series, Gabriel Orozco and David Nash. As for purely photographic influences I would have to Say William Eggleston just because I’m a complete sucker for subjective documentary and vivid colours.
M.M.: There is currently a very strong representation of East European photographers who are getting more and more international acclaim in the art world. Whilst some of them have already established positions there are also many who are just starting their journey. What would you recommend young photographers who are looking for ways to showcase their work? Applying to magazines devoted to photography can help?
N.P.: The sheer amount of people applying to any of the editorial sections of the very few magazines that showcase young artists is so big that not getting picked is not a matter of lack of talent, it’s just a very depressing statistic. I would say – create your own platforms and don’t be embarrassed to push even the most D.I.Y exhibitions you can.
Interviewed by Maria Markiewicz
Edited by Contemporary Lynx