Wojciech Plewiński's Haunting Portraits
#photography & visual arts
small, Wojciech Plewiński's Haunting Portraits, Wojciech Plewiński demonstrates his fitness on board of Dar Pomorza, photo: Jan Morek / Forum, full_plewinski_wojciech_forum__770.jpg
Wojciech Plewiński’s photographs exude remarkable intuition and awareness. In honor of his ZAiKS award, here is an overview of his stunning oeuvre.
In search of form
Wojciech Plewiński sought his own path for a long time. After a year-long adventure at the Faculty of Sculpture of the Kraków Academy of Fine Arts, he moved to Architecture on Kraków University of Technology. In interviews he stresses that studies had taught him artistic discipline and sensitised him on form. He finished his second major, but he already found a new passion while he was still studying: photography. He received his first awards for pictures he took with Leica camera that he borrowed from a friend. "This has lifted my spirit, I saw sense in it" – he recalled after many years.
He found his first job in a Kraków-based conservation office, but an office-based work wasn’t satisfying. Encouraged by the enthusiasm coming from Gomułka’s thaw (October 1956) he resigned to occupy himself with photography. The courageous decision to work as a freelancer was a worthy one – a year later, with help of his friend Barbara Hoff, who later became a fashion designer, he started working in Przekrój weekly. One of the most famous photographs of Roman Polański, dancing on a table in his pyjamas, comes from the very period.
And so does the one with Krzysztof Komeda playing to his wife in their bed....
Kociaki / The Kittens
For numerous years Plewiński was the only full-time photographer employed by Przekrój. He portrayed young girls who then featured on Przekrój covers and in Kociaki / Kittens column.
Przekrój’s editor-in-chief, Marian Eile, wanted to finish with the socialist realism iconography, where women were presented either as war heroines or tractor drivers. Women’s new image was adopted from the Western press and became a new face of the liberal media of the “thaw” age.
Here’s how Plewiński commented on his partisan-like method of work:
Each week we’d accost girls in the streets and in student’s cafeterias. They had to be noticed, encouraged, appointed. We did everything on our own, from make-up, which they had no idea about, through hairdressing to borrowing clothes from our wives’ closets.
Anna Dymna, photographed a dozen years later, in 1970, was on her second year of acting school and has already debuted in Wesele / The Wedding on the scene of Słowacki’s Theatre. A year after the publication in Przekrój, the actress starred five films, and during the works on Pięć i pół bladego Józka (in the end the film was never made) she has met her future husband, Wiesław Dymny – a poet and an actor. He was one of the creators of Piwnica pod Baranami / The Cellar under the Rams with which Plewiński also co-operated.
Plewiński quite quickly became recognisable in Kraków. Not only did he gather fans, but also some followers.
Some cases were funny, like this time, when a girl was really unsure, as if she was afraid of something. I shown her my press card, I told here how it’s going to look like. And she said: “You know, I’ve already been photographed by a Wojciech Plewiński, but it wasn’t you”.
Photo shoot in Przekrój did not seem so innocent to some. After a publication of the “excessively undressed” pictures in the weekly, Beata Tyszkiewicz was forbidden to undertake her school-leaving examination by the authorities of the Catholic school which she attended.
The photographer speaks of his theatre beginnings with a great amount of modesty:
I got there by accident, really. Someone was sick, someone else couldn’t make it.
He received his first order from Teatr Rapsodyczny, where, among others, Karol Wojtyła, the future pope, performed. A coincidence was helpful to gain a couple of first contacts, but orders from the most recognised Kraków scenes was an effect of a job well done. Plewiński photographed plays of Wajda, Szajna, Grzegorzewski and Kantor.
The Hour-Glass Sanatorium
This warm image taken on the set of The Hour-Glass Sanatorium is a good summary of Plewiński’s abundant output. Wojciech Jerzy Has, the director, is authentic and present, just as any other person who had the privilege to be photographed by Wojciech Plewiński.
20th century photography
Author: Michał Dąbrowski, 22.03.2015, np. culture.pl, ninateka.pl, fototapeta.art.pl, fotopolis.pl, transl. Agata Dudek, 24.03.2015