Tomasz Wiech’s Poland

Some of Tomasz Wiech‘s pictures in today’s NYT Lens blog feature Poland’s Great Adventure made me smile, which is a good enough reason to mention them here.  They are part of a collection of work soon to be published as his book  Poland, In Search of Diamonds of what is described as “absurdist and abstract work.” Fortunately although sometimes joyfully absurd, the work is never abstract, but very much situated in the real.

It’s worth going to Wiech’s own web site, where you can see a larger (and I think better) selection of this work – simply called In Poland.  If the work appeals to you it is also worth going on to his po polsce blog which I think he uses to show his work in progress, with brief comments in both Polish and English.  At the start he writes:

Blog is part of my project about Poland. It was made thanks to scholarship from Ministry of Polish Culture. Project tells about my country, that is nor pretty neither ugly. Nor catholic, neither secular. They tell about a country that is strongly influenced by history and tradition. 

My own visits to Poland have impressed me both with the breadth of Polish photographic culture and also the support that photography (and I think other cultural areas) receives both from municipal and national authorities. It comes as a shock to someone used to the disdain of the British art mandarins who’ve always treated our medium as something to be handled at arms length in tongs while holding your nose – except of course when it happens to be made by people who are quite clearly doing art rather than photography.

Poland is in many ways a country of contradictions which make it a fertile ground for Wiech’s ironic observations. Even under socialist rule it remained a devoutly Catholic country, and in the rush to capitalism it still retains aspects of its socialist past – including the respect accorded to the arts.

There are other documentary projects and features also worth a look on Wiech’s site along with other work. I was moved by his Generation 1906, triptychs of eight people at the age of 100, though I would have liked to see these black and white images on a rather larger scale. He also has another blog, ‘Simple Observations‘ on which he posts the occasional image of something that he has observed, just as simple images without text, although people sometimes comment on them.

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