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Wojciech Zamecznik: Photo-graphics

"Wojciech Zamecznik. Foto-graficznie", fot. dzięki uprzejmości Zachęty - Narodowej Galerii SztukI
Wojciech Zamecznik: Photo-graphics, photo.: courtesy of the Zachęta - National Gallery of Art

This Polish-English catalogue is the first complex compilation of the works of one of the greatest representatives of the Polish Poster School. The richly illustrated album covers the artist’s life and his multi-layered artistic work, and the texts gathered in the compilation show the artist in his particular cultural and historical context. In November 2016, the book won 2016 Photography Catalogue of the Year at the Aperture Foundation Photobook Awards during Paris Photo.

Wojciech Zamecznik was not a scandalous artist: he was not extravagant in terms of the clothes he wore and did not mention on his posters the number of psychoactive substances he'd taken. He was distinguished by his uncommon height – at 190cm tall, he always looked as if he levitated over the pavement and was not able to fit into cars. He was also never forgotten, thanks to his diligence and almost hyperactive commitment to his work. Nevertheless, he had to be discovered anew – something we owe to the Archaeology of Photography Foundation.

The foundation has been working with Zamecznik’s heritage since 2012 when art historians began cooperating the artist's son, Juliusz Zamecznik. In the meantime Adam Palenta, a director famous for Freestyle Life, chose 19 minutes from the artist’s private archives and created the film House on Its Head which brings a closer look at artist’s work.

This album and an exhibition in the Zachęta: National Gallery of Art are obvious consequences of that work on archives. Wojciech Zamecznik: Photo-graphics impresses with its panache. The Zachęta – National Gallery of Art and the Archaeology of Photography Foundation did not bring a fragmentary, thematic exposition but a complex compendium of knowledge about Zamecznik’s life and work covered in a truly Zamiecznik-like form.

The album was graphically designed by Anna and Magdalena Piwowar (Magdalena is known for the graphic design of albums about three Warsaw districts: Żal, Sas, Mok). The very same cover of the album refers to Zamecznik’s graphic compositions. The colour scheme of the cover defines the dominant colours inside the publication. This time we can judge a book by the cover. Small flyleaves separating particular elements, a distinct typesetting and an untypical combination of dingy beige and strong yellow define Zamecznik well. He would undoubtedly not be ashamed of such an album.
The relation of the form and the content is evident and one cannot miss the impression that the former affects the latter. The album is divided into two parts in a very clear manner. Paticularly noteworthy is an interview with the younger son of the artist, Juliusz, who remembers his father as a workaholic who loved spending time at home with his family:

Father had the gift of rationalisation of work. He could mobilize his immediate surroundings to help him, if urgent tasks called for it. In simpler cases, basic workshop help was provided by his wife and children. Mom helped with the preparations for graphics, such as ruling and painting the colourful backgrounds (coloured paper was unavailable then), or filling areas with colour. She also answered calls and messages, and was an intermediary in communication.

In a letter from July 6, 1953 from Warsaw, he wrote the following to our Mom, who was resting in Kościelisko with us:

My Dearest! ... I'm working today on the mock­up of “Photography” and I'm very sad to have to line the paper myself, instead of hiring you, my beloved helper. I will be consoled soon, when I have joined you both. Our letters miss each other ...

"Wojciech Zamecznik. Foto-graficznie", rozkładówka, fot. dzięki uprzejmości Zachęty - Narodowej Galerii Sztuki
Wojciech Zamecznik: Photo-graphics, photo.: courtesy of the Zachęta - National Gallery of Art

The second part is called Works and is subdivided into two sections: ‘I look – I see, I see – I think’ and ‘Photo-graphics’. The former is distinguished by the blue colour that we see on the cover. This part is combined of photographs taken by Zamecznik on his business trips during the communist regime. Those are not just great shots that show an interest in light, form, and geometry but also a great record of differences between Poland during the communist regime and the Western World. Zamecznik’s photographs are based on form and picking up the nuances of life.

"Wojciech Zamecznik. Foto-graficznie", rozkładówka, fot. dzięki uprzejmości Zachęty - Narodowej Galerii Sztuki
Wojciech Zamecznik: Photo-graphics, photo.: courtesy of the Zachęta - National Gallery of Art

The latter presents commercial and applied projects of the artist: covers, posters, and book and journal designs. This part is divided thematically by Zamecznik’s interests while the artist himself announces succeeding works with the following phrases written on small, yellow pages:

‘I work in my own way’, ‘I am interested in a new form’, ‘I am interested in transformation’, ‘I am interested in contrast’, ‘I am interested in light’.

The last part of the book is a timeline that lists major events from Wojciech Zamecznik’s professional and personal life. This timeline does not end with his death on May 12, 1967 at the age of 44, it continues up to the present. After his death, the artist is as active as in his lifetime or even more: he is present at the most important festivals, inspires other artists and creates seemingly unstoppably.

It is meaningfully stated to readers on the last page of the album with a photograph of a thirty-five-year old Wojciech Zamecznik sitting in an armchair and confidently looking into the camera.

Wojciech Zamecznik: Photo-graphics
Publisher: Archaeology of Photography Foundation |
Language: Polish and English
Edited by: Karolina Ziębińska-Lewadowska,  Karolina Puchała-Rojek
Graphic design: Anna and Magdalena Piwowar
Circulation: 600
ISBN: 978-83-64443-07-7

Source:, Archaeology of Photography Foundation, own materials; written by Dagmara Staga, 27.03.2016; translated by Antoni Wiśniewski, March 2016; updated by AZ, Nov 2016

Tags: wojciech zamecznikthe polish poster schoolphotographyposterfundacja archeologia fotografiithe zachęta - national gallery of artartistic design

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