The exhibition "Negatives are to be stored" presents photographs by a Polish artist Stefania Gurdowa (1988-1968) who until recently remained completely unknown to the general public.
A box of glass negatives signed with her name was found bricked up on the attic of one of the tenement houses in Dębica - a small town in southern Poland. Most of them contain vivid portraits of anonymous people who lived in the neighbourhood in the interwar period. Usually, each negative contains two portraits. Earlier on, it was a frequent habit, especially among thrifty studio photographers. However, upon further inspection of these compositions it becomes less and less obvious that it was sheer coincidence which drew these particular pairs of people together.
The double nature of portraits by Gurdowa is based on encounters and clashes, variations of scale and contrast, as well as other similarities and differences. For example, did these two sisters come to the photographer together? Or is it possible that these two ladies who never knew each other had the same dress tailored by the same dressmaker? Why do we see on one film an old woman whose face is slim, and right next to her a young girl who is full of energy and life? Is it a coincidence or an individual reflection on transitoriness of life?
On the one hand, photographs by Stefania Gurdowa perfectly fit their era and place of origin, demanding that the names and stories of the people portrayed be restored and annotated under the photos. On the other, however, there is something archetypal about them which makes them very modern. They escape any ethnographic characterization, equally stirring the meticulousness of an archivist and the sensibility of a poet.
Organizers: Imago Mundi Foundation, Adam Mickiewicz Institute, Red Barn Gallery.
Partners: Ethnographic Museum in Cracow, Photo Agency Visavis.pl.
More information about the artist and her photographs:: www.gurdowa.pl.
Exhibition open from May 1 until May 29, 2010.
The exhibition is one of the highlights of Polish Cultural Week in Belfast.
The project is part of "POLSKA! YEAR" - Polish Season in Great Britain.
Red Barn Gallery
43b Rosemary Street
Belfast BT1 1QD