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Sopot: Frames of Sopot

September 4, 2020 - September 20, 2020




This year, 2020, is very strange and difficult. The pandemic that has spread throughout the world has a multidimensional impact on our lives on both the macro- and microscale; this impact is still evolving at an everyday and emotional level. The Frames of Sopot photography festival and its structure had to change day-to-day and adapt to conditions out of anyone’s control. After all, residencies in Sopot are one of its main features, with invited artists carrying out photographic projects of their choice; the of practicalities of this task have become very limited. And so, this year’s alarming events have a direct and long-term impact on the work of everyone associated with delivering the festival, especially on the artists, and in many more or less apparent ways have made their mark on the selection of the subjects and the way they have been presented. This year we have invited Marta Berens, Maksymilian Rigamonti and Piotr Zbierski to work in Sopot. Moreover, there will be new exhibitions from Katarzyna Mirczak and Maciej Stępiński, whose work also has been taking its direction and shape up to the last minute, to assume its ultimate form. Paradoxically, in spite of the period of frustrating isolation and uncertainty, many of the works presented at the festival touch upon the element of journey and space, not always in a direct and self-evident way. Not only in the sense of physical movement, but also in a metaphorical sense of an inner, intimate, emotional or historical journey. The artists have included their new impressions, experiences and observations in their projects, which has given them a particular dimension and nature as food for thought and a perspective from a distance. 

This year, the Frames of Sopot festival will host two artists from outside Poland. Sergey Melitchenko of Ukraine and Valentyn Odnoviun of Lithuania will present their latest exhibitions, alongside original projects produced during the festival in Sopot. Moreover, you can see a rare exhibition of Polish photography books, courtesy of the Municipal Public Library in Opole, and an exhibition by Zosia Promińska. 

Make sure to join us for the festival!



Marta Berens

Graduated from the Institute of Creative Photography in Opava and the year-long Sputnik Photos workshop. A film producer by education and profession. Photography is a passion of hers, for her the medium is a space in which she moves between dream and reality, rests and takes a breather from the rush of workaday filming. It’s a place where she engages in a dialogue and processes her personal, family experiences. She has produced such projects as “Crystal Structure,” “Fairytale,” “Dream Chapter” and “Silica,” in which she puts her family in her own inner landscape. For her, photography is also a means to preserve memory and record traces of indigenous cultures, religious minorities, their beliefs and traditions in the “Suiti” and “The Northern People Tales” series. These photographic journeys have a common denominator–isolation, distance, disappearance. Marta Berens is a finalist and winner of many prestigious competitions, including the Magnum Photography Awards (category: documentary photography, juror’s pick David Allan Harvey), LensCulture Emerging Talents Awards 2014, Burn Emerging Photographer Fund 2015, Reminders Photography Stronghold Gallery Grant – Tokyo, Japan and the Format International Photography Festival 2015 in Derby, UK. 


 Did all of them want to die like this?

Maybe it was an urge?

A mysterious purge.

 The locals,

Post-War, Polish, living,

Buried the others in the garden.

They ponder to this day

In the evenings,

Over their tragedy 

And over the strategy

Of reflexes in bodies and ghosts.

Who was the medium?

The one upstairs?

For it fell silent after he moved out.

Or the woman across the street?

 Or maybe it broadcast

And received by itself,

Since it perpetrated such things?

 Miron Białoszewski

A Post-German Ballad of Sopot (fragment)

 In times when evil is again raising its ugly head, feeding on dissent, fear and building tension that entangles the entire globe, it makes me wonder: how could we have forgotten so quickly about the cruelty, the spiral of being possessed by evil, mass murder and an overt discrimination of “the Other?” How close are we to repeating the script of one of the most spectacular displays of evil, World War II?

The spirit of transformation is in the air. The most terrible thing is that it only depends on us whether this change will lead towards the light. Reality is formed by our opinions, thoughts, ethics, decisions. 

 We have come to live in interesting times, one more turning point in our history is drawing near. History repeats itself; like Uroboros, the symbol of time and rebirth, we are eating our own tail. How should we create a new footing on the foundations of the divisions that have infected us not unlike a virus, in the face of a pandemic of evil and a breakdown of values? Where will this ego race, unbridled consumption, growing inequality, and failure to respond to the cry of the Earth take us?

 We know the blows of hate, the spiral of madness, the full range of brutality and persistent callousness all too well; we know that the human soul can descent deep into hell even in our lifetime. How to turn back the wheel of history? How to take tap into this moment to be reborn in light, concord and mutual respect for our differences?

 Feeling helpless, I resorted to action: it always helps. This time, Sopot was the place that offered me this opportunity. Inspired by a shamanic path that provides a form of dialogue with other realities, I decided to take a trip, as it were, to the world between the one that is and the one that remembers, to seek help from the spirits of the city there. The trip was illuminated by fire, which has for ages been a strong symbol of purification, which lights up darkness and gives people strength. 

 The shaman is calling for help; he is a medium, an intermediary, who is to bring a solution to the problems, a healing to his tribe. Hypnotised by the beauty, the town’s mysterious and timeless aura, I took a trip around Sopot bathed in the symbolism of freemason architecture, where the air is still suffused by a living spirit of the past, while the present-day inhabitants, firmly rooted in the land, leave the haunted houses. 

 The town has been through a lot, was witness to human tragedies, the fate of many nationalities interspersed, hearts broken by divisions. During my trip, the thought would come back to me like a mantra: how much we are interspersed and dependent on each other and, therefore, how much the direction the human race will now go in depends on us. 

 We have one of the most important tests coming up, a test whether we manage to unite and together define borders based on gentleness, love, tolerance, being mindful of others, of the voices of nature. Only boundaries can bring real inner freedom to us. Ghosts are not the ones that haunt us. The hell is in ourselves and we can leave it behind any time by listening to our hearts and letting go of the fear of the unknown, the other and the uncomfortable. Everything begins in the mind. Let’s begin with ourselves. 


Maksymilian Rigamonti 

Born in 1974 in Warsaw, Poland. He studied graphic design at ASP in Łódź. He has worked for news magazines like Newsweek Polska, Wprost Weekly, and Dziennik Polska Europa Świat. He is a member of Press Club Polska and ZPAF. In 2012 Maksymilian’s photograph won the Picture of the Year in the Grand Press Photo 2012 competition. President of the Republic of Poland, Mr. Bronisław Komorowski took a honorary patronage of his project “Bykovnia. Archeology of crime.” Scholarship holder from the Polish Minister of Culture for the year 2014. Nominee for the Leica Oskar Barnack Award 2014. The photo book “The Echo” was awarded Honourable Mention by the International Photography Award in 2018, the Photo Book of the Year 2018 in Grand Press Photo 2019 and Photography Book of the Year 2018 by 76th annual Pictures of the Year International. Since 2020 Ambasador for Fujifilm Poland.

People of the sea 

They go. They see. They are. 

The fine line between land and sea determines what I observe. I—them.

What are they looking at? After all, there is only a vast emptiness there.

What are they talking about? I eavesdrop in spite of myself, the water carries it—

Where are they going? They are going through life.

So I sit and observe. I am an audience in a public theatre of the life that passes me by. I am invisible, and I only wish I could fly. A clash of worlds: absolute privacy with a big audience. They are genuine, without any human masks on. They tell us about ourselves. About us, Polish people. Who we are, where we are going. Are we US and are they THEM? Or perhaps they are us and vice versa. We should see each other and have a look. They will see and I will look. I’ve been looking for a long time already. This is exactly the goal of my work.


Piotr Zbierski

Piotr Zbierski (b. 1987) studied photography at National Film School in Lodz Poland,where he continues earning a doctoral degree now. He presented his works in many countries like France, Poland, Germany, Portugal, Russia, Slovakia. As well as magazines (Shots Magazine, Ninja Mag, Archivo Zine, Die Nacht, Gup Magazine). In 2012 he won the prestigious prize for young photographer Leica Oscar Barnack Newcomer Award for his series Pass by me. His works are in the collections of Kiyosato Museum of Photographic Arts and Musée de l’Élysée. In 2016 he published the book titled Push the Sky Away – the triptych of three series that he worked on in the last nine years.  In 2020 he published his next book called Echoes Shades. It is the storytelling about relationships between nature and culture.

TOPOS – a shared place

I have already known the theory that life consisted of a few ideas, a few women, a few books and a few trips. At this moment, I am once again reassuring myself about an idea that has been bothering me for a long time, that life may also consist of a few sentences. A few sentences might revolve around you all your life. From time to time, you will be reminded of them, by completely random conversers. You will read them in a newspaper, in a novel you open by chance. And the rest, everything you say and hear, will be variations on this theme. 

Jerzy Pilch, List of Adulteresses

It was seven days of looking at ourselves and at one another, in a mirror, in a looking glass, in a person. Intimacy, trusting yourself and a belief in a process. A few ideas, a few films and mindfulness of what has happened now. An experiment. We circled around mirrors, we came taking a few objects, our physical bodies, our consciousness and subconsciousness. We started each other up, expanded each other, brought our feelings, states of aggregation and presence in space out into the open.

The image as a point of communication, a point of reflection. Our meeting as an impulse that produced images off the surface and from under the surface: a collage of two spaces, attitudes and bodies. Between the figurative metaphor and erotic fascination, similarities of outlooks and the adherence of the image, between the spiritual and that which comes from biological nature.  



Young and not quite free 

There is nothing more between Odnoviun and Melnitchenko than talent. Of course, they know and probably like each other, but when it comes to photography they are at radically opposite poles. Odnoviun is a cool conceptualist and a melancholic immersed in history. His minimalist pictures do not suit what is going on in Ukrainian photography today. Odnoviun feels better with Lithuanian photographers, introverted and stubborn. Therefore, it is no wonder that he has decided to settle in Lithuania. However, it is surprising how enthusiastically he has been accepted by the local community. He is the first foreign photographer to join the elite Lithuanian Photographers’ Association. The same one that was founded by Sutkus, Rakauskas and Macijauskas. If Odnoviun feels better in art academy circles, then Melnitchenko roams in the field, performing in Kharkiv or in his hometown Mykolayiv. Melnitchenko’s photographs are exuberant and full of energy, with the artist’s peers as their leading theme. It so happens that this is yet another generation that struggles with an identity crisis, but also with an unending transformation of the Ukrainian political and social situation. Melnitchenko converts this into photos of men and women, mostly men, and in the case of women, it’s his own wife. His nudes and half-nudes of bodybuilders and hipsters brought him acclaim in the world of photography, including the Oskar Barnack Prize. Body photography may be associated with queer art. However, the famous Kharkiv school of photography is a more adequate footprint. Created by a group of friends and spearheaded by the now-famous Boris Mikhailov, this informal academy has been radiating out across Ukraine and the world for over four decades. Openness and genuineness, but also being full of corporeality, shocking nudity and graphic sexuality are the trademarks of these photographers. Melnitchenko feels well with this heritage and gladly adds his own photos and cycles to it. Odnoviun and Melnitchenko have nothing in common except being Ukrainian, being true representatives of a new generation of photographers that now steps onto the world stage. However, there is something in common between the photographs of prison spyholes and nude men frolicking in nature. The need for freedom is combined in them with the threat that lurks right above the Ukrainian boundary of history. The young and free Ukrainians touch upon matters related to war, enslavement and a sense of threat. They think, feel and photograph in such different and yet fascinating ways.


Sergey Melnitchenko

Born in 1991 in Mykolayiv, Ukraine. Founder and curator of MYPH platform (photography school, collective & gallery). Member of UPHA – Ukrainian Photographic Alternative. Started photography in 2009. For 10 years participated in more than 100 solo and group exhibitions around the world. Winner of Ukrainian and International competitions, including “Leica Oskar Barnack Newcomer Award” in 2017, “Photographer of the year” in 2012, 2013 and 2016 (Kyiv, Ukraine), “Golden Camera” in 2012 (Kyiv, Ukraine). Shortlists of “Krakow Photomonth” in 2013 and “Pinchuk Art Center Prize” in 2015, etc. Participant of “Paris Photo” in 2017 and “Volta Art Fair” in frames of Art Basel in 2018, 2019, “Photo LA” 2020 etc

Young and free

Information space is endlessly replete with apocalyptic predictions. At the same time, privacy is becoming more colorful due to globalization and all its gifts in the form of access to goods, travels, freedom of expression on the Internet. A time of private victories and a general crisis. The situation is becoming more and more unpredictable and alarming every year. 2020 has broken all records in this direction. The COVID-19 pandemic quickly laid the whole world on its shoulder blades. In a matter of weeks, all borders and transport links were closed. Everything that gave a feeling of freedom in an instant became inaccessible. In 2020, my photos from the “Young and free” series of works become acutely social. I try to instantly respond to ongoing shocks in the country and in the world by uploading pictures to the network. The case when you do not need to invent anything – nature itself creates colorful plots. For example, fields generously strewn with plastic garbage that are scattered from the landfill after a hurricane, or a smog that covered the whole country from fires in the Chernobyl forests. Because of quarantine, life has become like a leper colony. The right to safe movement can now only be obtained with a mask, gloves and a disinfector. World quarantine left no doubt that we are all tightly connected with each other, and, accordingly, everyone can both influence on what is happening and become a victim of influence.

Young and free? – This is a question for the whole generation, for the generation of millennials, which, under existing conditions, is on the forefront and should take responsibility. Now there is a decisive transition from the point of uncertainty to the formation of a long-term vector. You can fall into the trap, take as a basis the ideals created by the predecessors and again crash. Or make a choice, while maintaining your right to freedom of opportunity.


Valentyn Odnoviun

Ukrainian living and working in Vilnius, Lithuania. Graduated from the Vilnius Academy of Arts, with two MA degrees of Photography and Media Arts in 2016 and Art History and Theory in 2019. Also, studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Łódź in 2015 and at the Academy of Fine Arts Munich in 2018. Currently writing a PhD dissertation at the Lithuanian Culture Research Institute.

In 2018 received the official status of “Artist Creator” in Lithuania.

During the last several years researches has been mostly linked with historical or socially engaged events and problems through the “abstract”-looking image, working with the imagination of the viewer to create more concrete communication with the help of interpretation and conceptual thinking.

Between 2016-2019 nominated for photography awards, held personal and participated in collective exhibitions in Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Georgia, Czech Republic, Ukraine, Germany, Serbia, Slovenia, Poland, Austria, Italy, The Netherlands, Switzerland, Great Britain, New Zealand and USA.


The project consists of photographs of the walking yard and prison cell door spyholes in former political prisons in Eastern Europe. The same places were used by different oppressive systems.

Previously, to keep people under control, they were isolated in special places and/or were under different methods of surveillance. Nowadays surveillance is taking new (digital) forms, but the main essence remains. Total physical and mind control of society.

I believe that historical origins influence us more than most of us realize. Photographs, presented here, are both documentary and subjective at the same time. They embody real traces of events, objects and memories. And they serve as platforms for imagining these events, objects and memories in more interpretative form. They are a part of our surrounding and of our logic and of what makes sense when we put them together.

The actual work calls into question the relation between what we see and what we perceive in advance of the act of recognition. These photographs emphasize the borders not only of human perception, but the border where the consequences of human action meet reason.

This project is dedicated to my father Viktor Odnovyun, who spent more than four years in three different prisons as an asylum-seeker.


Katarzyna Mirczak

A visual artist,  graduate of the Institute of Archaeology at Jagoellonian University in Cracow. In her art, she uses objects found in the archives of scientific and medical institutions, exploring matters related to memory, identity and death. She shows these objects in an unemotional and disciplined way, thereby blurring the line between classic still life and scientific documents or forensic evidence. Her work is often exhibited at the most important art and photography venues and events, such as at the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw, Bratislava’s Kunsthalle, at the Rencontres d’Arles Festival, Paris Photo and the AIPAD Photography Show in New York. From 2010 she has been a collaborator of Erick Franck (Eric Franck Fine Art, London), one of the founders of the Henri Cartier-Bresson Foundation in Paris, member of the Tate Britain Gallery Advisory Board and publisher.


Scenery, setting, relay, second or further plan. But also: context, situation, location, warp or canvas, circumstances and conditions, realities or backstage, source, genesis and cause, even an accompaniment. The Background will come to terms with each of these words. The cultural clash that took place in the so-called “recovered territories” annexed from Germany to Poland after the Second World War created an indelible background, still visible in many layers, word folklore, construction, dress code, music, customs, rituals or folk art. It is the background, as a repository of unspoken stories, that emerges the cross-cultural presence of leftovers, such as furniture, paintings, and porcelain. Their turnover on the secondary market is constantly wrestling with memory, making the background uncomfortable, and attempts to blur it more and more readable. 

Katarzyna Mirczak was born in those territories, her project attempts to face the memory of people and the place where they lived in the western and northern territories of contemporary Poland.  Background, an artistic distillate of the contemporary situation found in these areas, consists of two narratives. In first part the author uses photos from the resources of the Central Photographic Agency (CAF), Landesbildstelle Oberschlesien, National Digital Archives‘ collection (NAC), Polish Press Agency (PAP), Tadeusz Taubes’ Department of Jewish Studies  of the University of Wrocław, Ethnographic Museum in Wrocław, National Museum in Wrocław and private collections as well. The second, contemporary part, consists of images created by photographer herself, who examines this way the state of preservation of the background, objects and memory remaining from previous inhabitants. Mirczak, through photography, gives a voice to things and places that are undergoing symbolic transformation – from the object of separation, left by displaced persons, through an object that was a subject to description and valuation, as the German good, to the stage where the original meanings become blurred and the object itself blends into everyday life and changes in context.


Maciej Stępiński

Artist, photographer, video artist, lover of British and American cars. Graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw and the École Nationale Supérieure de la Photographie in Arles. University lecturer and A-level teacher of photography, PhD student at the Faculty of Graphic Arts, Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw.

Tapping into the tradition of the French garden and the disciplined aesthetic of the German Becher school, Maciej Stępiński takes the vision of his own order to the formally chaotic cityscape. The artist is fascinated with artefacts and manual labour. Building a road, aquapark, viaduct, erecting a warehouse or cutting down a tree can often have more permanent consequences than the idea itself. 

It is I who decides what ends up in the picture. I do not photograph what is there, but what I see. Concrete–lawn. Tree–wall. Bushes–tin fence. Grass–asphalt. Building–shrubbery. Human–wall.

For twenty years, Maciej Stępiński has been consistently modifying his pictures by divesting them of features that could distract from the subject of the work. Lacking any geographical information, devoid of time and place, his photographic images present the border between a natural landscape and the city. What is going on here and now, although seemingly nothing happens, often takes place on the periphery of reality, an invisible border delineated by man.

Journey visits me

In 1862, Thomas Cook, who conceived and commercialised organised excursions and holidays, offered the first such trip outside of the United Kingdom, to Egypt. With time, his group vacation business quickly evolved, people began to travel to Asia, North Africa and the United States. Such trips were planned as a form of recreation affordable even for the less affluent who had an opportunity to see and travel the world for the first time. 

 At the same time, because this kind of leisure was a complete novelty, many people still felt it was too expensive, dangerous and energy consuming. However, those who wanted to learn about faraway places had the opportunity to appreciate them at the World’s Fairs held in parallel in Paris, London, Atlanta and other big cities. Besides presenting works of art, the latest technological and scientific achievements or human zoos, entire villages and pieces of nature were built to show life in faraway lands. For example, in 1904, an Irish town, Pygmy village and artificial Tyrol Alps were all built in Saint Louis, Missouri.

 One may argue whether this brought any educational benefit or just entertainment. However, it was certainly rather controversial because the Pygmy village also exhibited people who had no idea of the context which they found themselves in Context.

 Just like in his previous work, in his part of the Journey visits me project Maciej Stępiński uses a special form of modified photography, thereby emphasising his stance towards what he observes and what he wants to pass on to the viewer. He looks at the idea of an artificial park imitating the tropics and faraway exotic regions, which in its form is isolated from external connotations, reference to space or any directly discernible placement in “reality.” The concept of a journey to faraway places is left devoid of its integral components, i.e. movement and time, the process of moving, a path, it makes itself subject only to its own functionality, regardless of location conditions or repositioning. This element of the “journey” becomes redundant, with the very idea existing only in the metaphorical, at the level of a subjective feeling of change. In his images, the artist highlights this feeling by eliminating any characteristic elements of the landscape he encounters: the strange, heavy artefacts and architectural forms seem deserted or not yet inhabited, they seem to persist beyond time, place and history.

 In the 1960s, the artist’s grandfather, Janusz Maciej Stępiński, lived and travelled in Africa, where he was a UN statistician, and also zealously took photographs and shot films. Besides his slide photographs, there are also postcards that he sent to his then-small grandson. All these elements combine into a multi-layered story. Several decades later, Stępiński confronts the find with his own deliberations about the essence of journey and puts it in the context of an artificial paradise, giving it a conceptual nature. In this regard, the idea of photography as a form of memory and proof, in this case the proof of a journey in a definite time and space, paradoxically shows, all the more, yet another of its substitute aspects: the illustration and imitation that serves to develop the thought experiment one might call the Journey.


Zosia Promińska 

A visual artist, photographer. She lives and works in Zurich and in Portugal where her studio is located. She graduated from the Ethnolinguistics Department at Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań. From the age  of 15 she started a sixteen years long lasting career as an international fashion model. She is the award winner  of the ShowOFF  competition at Photomonth 2019 in Krakow, she was also nominated for ReGeneration5 at the Musée de l’Elysée. Her works have been published in magazines like “Vogue”, “i-D”, “Harperʼs Bazaar” and “LʼOfficiel,” among others. In her debut project “Waiting Room ” Zosia explores topics related to the social pressures, investigating the contemporary principles designing and criticism of beauty. Currently, in collaboration with Kerher Verlag, she is working on publishing this series, the premiere is scheduled for autumn 2020.

Waiting Room is a body of work that has evolved over a series of staged encounters across Poland. These “still lifes” of prepubescent models are carefully staged within the intimate space of their bedrooms, surrounded by sentimental objects reflecting their teenage reality. The artist purposely styles her subjects in the latest collections of Poland’s best designers so they resemble models thrown into the limelight of fashion.

Within this project, the visual commentary shows that the perceptions created through fashion, an undeniably narcissistic industry defining aspirations for consumers through its choice of aesthetics and constructed in the form of pre-adolescent models, is socially flawed. As an outsider looking to critique this deliberate shallow reality, viewers too find themselves seduced by the innocence, purity, and youth seen in Promińska’s work. This constructed reality is by no means new.

Is it not the case that since the beginning of time art has displayed youth as the definition of beauty?

These works add an additional layer of interest with the private spaces in which these subjects sit. Their own waiting rooms. It is in the small details that the clues stare back at us—teddy bears, dolls, fashion posters. The juxtaposition highlights their potential imminent reality. A dream that may or may not exist. One can only be drawn into their hope that they will one day be a poster on another teenage room wall. Promińska continues to shoot and question this dreamscape. This waiting room.



Although it’s difficult to believe, the photography book has been with us since as early as the 19th century. It has gradually made a name for itself and today is an inseparable part of the photographic reality.  In 2019, photography books were presented at an exhibition at the Opole Photography Festival and, a year later, courtesy of the Municipal Public Library in Opole, visited the State Art Gallery at the 6th Frames of Sopot photography festival.

The Opole exhibition began to build a Polish Photography Book Collection, with its goal to create a centre to present the current state of affairs in the Polish publishing market. The Opole collection is open both to publications from major publishers and to increasingly popular self-publishing. The 2019 exhibition showed a sample of what had been published in Poland in recent years. At future exhibitions, the Opole Photography Festival’s organisers plan to focus on books published between the coming editions of the festival.

What is a photography book anyway? Is it enough to say that it’s a publication where words are replaced by photographs? No, that would be going too far, of course. But their message really is in the photographs. Words are only a complement and a guide to the correct interpretation of the content and the author’s intentions. This is why photography books include both items addressing trivial matters and those that touch upon issues that are important to us all; those that try to describe (or illustrate) certain phenomena and those that create them.

Consistently built since 2009, the Września Collection deserves a separate place on the map of Polish photography books. Its volumes are an artistic archive of Września, as it were, showing the city’s and its people’s current situation filtered through the sensitivity of one artist: a photographer. Our exhibition could not do without these publications.


September 4, 2020
September 20, 2020
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