A photo expose about coups, wars and revolutions in South America, Asia and Africa, and an album capturing the life of the famous Polish war reporter - "Indiana Jones with a notepad".
Ryszard Kapuścińśki. Photobiography. Album cover.
A photo exposé about coups, wars and revolutions in South America, Asia and Africa, fuelled by large-format photographs and quotes from Kapuściński’s writings in Polish and English, the new album captures the life of the famous Polish foreign correspondent who spent much of his career in harsh conditions and dangerous places, striving to convey their spirit to the rest of the world
Ryszard Kapuściński wrote incisive, very personal accounts of political and social upheavals from across the world, and documented his experiences through photographs - the album contains so-far unpublished photographs taken by the reporter. Against the backdrop of nations liberating themselves from the shackles of colonialism, Kapuściński searched the world’s war zones for truths of human experience. Several of his books are devoted to Africa, a continent to which he returned as often as possible in a career that covered 27 revolutions and coups.
Braving malaria, civil war and face-to-face encounters with ruthless dictators to get to the heart of a story, he has been called "Indiana Jones with a notepad". His writings delve into the roots of civil and political strife, digging through centuries of conflict, turmoil and even ritual in order to paint an account that is simultaneously authentic, informative and touching.
Chronologically structured, Photobiography covers his entire life: from his birth on the 4th of March 1932 to his death from a heart attack on the 23rd of January 2007. Culture.pl presents excerpts from the album:
He was born in Pińsk - now part of Belarus - "a small town, but multinational, multi-religious, the town of Jews, Belarusians, Lithuanians, Armenians, Poles", a city that was "fragrant with the smell of jam being made by the housewives for the winter".
Travelling as a child through the Polesia region on a cart, he witnessed the events of September 1939, and war became embedded in his young psyche. "I do not remember what peace was […] when the war ended, I only knew hell". His family fled in 1944, settling in Warsaw in 1945, and he began history studies in 1951.
He found his metier as a 23-year-old trainee journalist for a youth journal. In an article written in 1955, he exposed mismanagement and drunkenness in the socialist-showcase steel factories of Nowa Huta, outside Kraków. This set off a political firestorm that sent him into hiding. He was vindicated, then sent to India, Pakistan and Afghanistan in 1956 - the first postwar Polish journalist afforded that opportunity. In 1960 he first traveled to Africa, where he covered the civil war in Congo (he was condemned to death and saved by UN soldiers). Over the next 40 years, he returned to travel that continent and reporting on its postcolonial conflicts. "Africa was my youth," he said later, describing how much the continent had meant to him.
In 1967 he went to the USSR, which resulted in The Kirghiz Dismounts, a collection of reports from the Caucasian and Central Asian republics of the Soviet empire.
He began work as the Latin American correspondent for the Polish Press Agency (PAP) in 1968. In 1969, he reported on the so-called Soccer War, a 100-hour war fought by El Salvador and Honduras. Why Karl von Spreti Died, a book about Guatemala during the 1960s and 1970s, in the background of the assassination of Karl von Spreti, came out in 1970.
If All Africa... , a collection of essays and articles about Africa came out in 1969. "I spent nearly six years in Africa during its most tumultuous and turbulent period, moreover, full of good – sometimes too easy – hopes" he writes. "It was the turn of two eras - colonialism was coming to its end, independence was only beginning. This change, this turn, this revolution – I was trying to describe".
Ryszard Kapuściśski with his wife
While making a living from reporting for PAP in Poland, he simultaneously wrote down experiences that at first felt incommunicable but later became his famous books, such as The Emperor published in 1978. Kapuściński’s best-known book, it presents the fall of the extraordinary figure of Haile Selassie of Ethiopia. It was his first book to be translated into English, and the director Jonathan Miller adapted it for the Royal Court Theatre in 1985.
He wrote Shah of Shahs (1982) on the collapse the Shah's dictatorship in Iran, Imperium (1993) with its essays and reportage about the lands of the former Soviet Union, as well as The Shadow of the Sun (1998) and Travels with Herodotus (2004) and several books not yet available in English. His books have been translated into 30 languages, he won literary prizes in Germany, France, Canada, Italy the U.S. for his contribution to reporting and literature. He wrote most of his books in Warsaw in his study, which remains untouched to this day. Kapuściński died from a heart attack on the 23rd of January 2007. The prestigious Ryszard Kapuściński International Award, established in 2010, is given annually for the best literary reportage published the previous year in Polish.
For more on Kapuściński's life, see Ryszard Kapuściński Biography
Kapuściński's study at Prokuratorska Street, Warsaw
The ultimate compendium on all things Kapuściński, Photobiography contains, in addition to its subject's photographs and writings, a gallery of Kapuściński’s portraits from young boy to 73-year-old man, and a detailed Calendar of Life. Its approach to biography - told through photographs and quotes taken from the writings of the protagonist - was prepared for Janusz Korczak, the accomplished writer, author of over twenty books, social activist and doctor remembered for his struggle to save 200 children living in his orphanage in the Warsaw ghetto. See Korczak Photobiography.
- Fotobiografia. Ryszard Kapuściński / Ryszard Kapuściński. Photobiography. Book concept, choice of texts and graphic design by Maciej Sadowski. Veda Publishing House, Warsaw 2013
All images and quotes used in this article are issued from the Photobiography.
Author: based on the original text by Mikołaj Gliński, translated and edited by MJ 10.06.2013
Additional sources: Ryszard Kapuściński. Photobiography, The Guardian