Photographic Icons of Polish History
#photography & visual arts
small, Photographic Icons of Polish History, Unknown photographer, The liquidation of the ghetto, Warsaw, May, 1943, courtesy of the DSH, full_fotoikony_dsh_770.jpg
John Paul II, Józef Piłsudski and Lech Wałęsa, the construction of the Palace of Culture and Science, the Martial Law period, and Wisława Szymborska winning the Nobel prize for literature – these are some of the major historic figures and events documented in photographs and presented at the History Meeting House in Warsaw.
The idea for this exhibition was born two years ago. Its curator, art historian Joanna Kinowska, explains
It turned out that when asked, our friends and relatives were unable to point to any examples of photographs depicting the breakthrough moments of Polish history. And so we thought that it was an important topic to work on. We began asking in a very specific way if people associated any photographs with given historic moments. And if they remembered one but could not recall its author, we asked them to describe it.
The organisers asked about 300 people – experts in visual culture who pointed out specific images, and non-experts, who shared their photographic associations with specific historic events.
Certain types repeated themselves and like this, we finally chose the 42 photographs which can be seen at the exhibition."
Fotoikony w Polsce. Poszukiwanie/głosowanie (Photo-icons in Poland. Searching/Voting) is open to the public from Tuesday 2nd December at the DSH on 20 Karowa street, Warsaw. It begins with the photograph by Karol Beyer which depicts five dead victims of an anti-Russian demonstration in 1861. Next, there are images of Józef Piłsudski, Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz, and the May Coup. The World War II period is represented by images of violations of Polish borders by Germans in September 1939, the liquidation of the Warsaw ghetto, and the explosion of a shell in the Prudential building.
The Communist People's Republic years are portrayed by photographs of the building of the Palace of Culture and Science, as well as the chancellor of East Germany, Willy Brandt, kneeling in front of the Monument of the Heroes of the Ghetto. There are also the coastal protests of December 1970, John Paul II's first pilgrimage to his home country, the registration of the Solidarity movement, the Martial Law period, the riots at Wujek coal mine, and the Round Table talks.
There are also photographs which show Danuta Wałęsa receiving the Nobel peace prize in the name of her imprisoned husband, the so-called Kozakiewicz gesture, a photo of Krzysztof Komeda playing the saxophone in bed, and a portrait of Tadeusz Kantor. The contemporary period is portrayed through photographs of Wisława Szymborska receiving the Nobel prize in literature, and the great flood of 1997.
Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz
jan paweł ii
The curator of the display adds:
By definition, a photo-icon depicts an event or a person who is not only recognizable, but also one with whom people somehow identify. Hence the idea for the interactive formula of this exhibition, in order to allow people to judge the presented images. Each guest of the DSH can vote for the picture which seems most important to him or her. One can vote in three categories – "Yes. I know this picture very well.", "Yes. This picture made the biggest impression on me", "Yes. This picture depicts history well". People are also invited to vote through the DSH website. Thanks to the public's opinion, we will be able to verify our selection. The results are also meant to become a point of reference for further reflection and research.
The Fotoikony w Polsce. Poszukiwanie/głosowanie exhibition will be open until 22nd February, 2015.
Source: PAP, translated by Paulina Schlosser, 27/11/2014