Photographer. Born in 1979. Lives in Kraków. Graduate of the Faculty of Political Studies of the Jagiellonian University (2004, specialization in journalism). Since 2008 a student of the Institute of Creative Photography at the Silesian University in Opava in the Czech Republic.
Tomasz Wiech, photo Grażyna Makara
In his work he's most interested in showing the changes occurring in Central-Eastern Europe, especially in Poland, along with Romania, Slovakia and in the Ukraine. As he says himself, he most enjoys photographing such places and situations, where seemingly nothing goes on. He uses various conventions of photographic documents to create reportages and portraits, changing them every time according to which technique works best to illustrate the particular context for each subject. His best-known works include the series: In Poland (2005-2010), Skawce (2009), Park (2007-2009), Something Personal (2007-2009) and Nowa Huta (2008).
The Silesian Park of Culture and Recreation in Chorzów became the topic of the photographic series Park (2007-2009). It was founded in the fifties in what was probably the most industrialized region of Poland of the time. In those days over 800 tons of dust would fall on a square kilometer of land. The park was to be an ideal place for entertainment and recreation for miners tired with their work and for their families. The central part of the park was designed as a forest reserve and in its vicinity other elements were created: a zoo, an amusement park, a rosarium, the exhibition hall Hat, the Silesian Stadium, a planetarium, the swimming pool Wave, tennis courts and restaurants. During the decline of communist Poland the golden age of the park came to an end and some of the facilities began to fall into ruin. In the transformation period the process of destruction escalated.
Tomasz Wiech's photographs show how the sculptures created in the socialist realism style now gather moss and how the concrete bulks of dinosaurs fall apart revealing the metal constructions. At the same time next to the old facilities new ones appear – most often cheap kiosks with toys, houses of horrors or beer gardens.
Something Personal (2007-2010) is another documentary series by Wiech, which illustrates changes occurring in contemporary Poland. It concentrates on the new order appearing before our eyes rather than on old things, which are falling into ruin. The photographs realized in big Kraków corporations show the everyday life of workers, who spend many hours in their workplaces every day. Wiech is interested amongst others in the phenomenon of people making themselves at home in the space of the office.
The cold, unfriendly spaces of big corporations are designed in the same way all over the world. Dehumanized and hostile, they look alike everywhere. When empty, they are the essence of typicality and mediocrity, it is only the workers, who give them a human, individual dimension. On the partitions between their boxes they hang their children's drawings, on the screens of their computers they install wallpapers showing pictures from their vacations and on their desks they place their favorite knickknacks or occasional decorations such as Christmas trees. One of the photographs from this series entitled Breakfast in a Corporation won the author the 3rd prize at the World Press Photo competition in 2009.
The changes taking place in the reality which surrounds us are often shown by Wiech through portraits of people and places. That is the case with the photographic series Skawce. The title is the name of a village in Lesser Poland, which lies on the river Skawa 50 kilometers from Wadowice. The village was to be destroyed or rather flooded as a result of building a dam. The inhabitants received the first signals about plans to flood the area in the sixties. Over a dozen years later the building of a 50 meter high dam commenced. The construction is still going on today and no one can say when it will end, but the lake, which exists only in plans, has already managed to destroy the lives of the people of Skawce. They were ordered not to conduct renovations and not to build new houses, they were forced to sell their land and farms and told to move to a newly created village called New Skawce. In Old Skawce only a dozen or so houses remain. They are inhabited only by those, who want to die in the place of their birth.
The photographer reminisced about the troubles involved with the realization of the project:
I was interested by the phenomenon itself – something exists and in a moment it's gone. In the case of Skawce the situation is complicated, because that village didn't disappear, it was only relocated to a different place in a slightly altered shape. Besides, the topic isn't superphotographic in a visual sense, so it cost me a lot of work. I decided to merge photographs with interviews because from the locals I heard things, which I couldn't precisely translate into the language of images. When I came to Skawce for the first time I met a certain woman, whom I asked, where is this village that is to be flooded. My head was full of apocalyptic visions of inhabitants packing their belongings and running. She replied: "this house will be flooded, that one too, actually all of them". Skawce looked like a normal village. And that's why many people told me that it's not a good topic. But I was stubborn and decided to finish that project. I like to photograph ordinary things, which at first seem unattractive.
From 2004 to 2010 Wiech worked as a photojournalist for "Gazeta Wyborcza". Since 2010 he's a freelancer. His photographs, distributed by the Gazeta Agency, appeared in many of the most important Polish newspapers and magazines. He received many significant journalistic photography awards: Grand Press Photo (2006), WBK Press Photo (2006, 2007), World Press Photo (2009) and others.
Author: Magdalena Wróblewska, December 2011
Selected individual exhibitions:
- 2010 - "Skawce", Centre for Contemporary Art "Signs of Time", Toruń
- 2008 - "Chorzów Dream", Pause Gallery, Kraków
- 2007 – "Road through Romania", Villa Decius Association, Kraków
- 2005 - "Foothillers", Bednarskiego Park, Kraków
Wybrane wystawy zbiorowe:
- 2010 - "Perception Meets Reality", Bruges, Belgium
- 2009 - "Photographic Culture", exhibition accompanying the Congress of Polish Culture, Pause Gallery, Kraków
- 2009 – Month of Photography in Kraków
- 2009 - "Red, White and Other Colours", Kaunas Photo Festival, Lithuania
- 2009 - "There are Many Reasons for Living", Planty, Kraków
- 2005 - "15 Years of Gazeta Wyborcza", Loch Camelot Gallery, Kraków
Most noteworthy awards:
- 2009 – first award in the "Everyday Life" category, Newsreportaż 2009, "Newsweek Polska"; third award for single photograph in the "Everyday Life" category, World Press Photo
- 2008 - Grand Prix at the "Portrait of Kraków 2007" photographic contest
- 2007 – third award in the "Portrait" category, Photographic Competition of BZ WBK; Grand Prix at the "Portrait of Kraków 2006" photographic contest
- 2006 – second award in the "People" category, Newsreportaż 2006, "Newsweek Polska"; second award in the "Sports" category and third award in the "Society" category, Photographic Competition of BZ WBK; first award in the "People" category, Grand Press Photo 2006, award of "Gazeta Wyborcza" in the "Portrait of Kraków 2005" photographic contest
- 2005 – award of "Gazeta Wyborcza" in the"Portrait of Kraków 2004" photographic contest