Freelance documentary photographer, co-founder of the Sputnik Photos International Association of Photojournalists. A graudate of art history at the Jagiellonian University.
Freelance documentary photographer, co-founder of the Sputnik Photos International Association of Photojournalists.
“A documentary is above all a story about people, emotions, ambitions and cravings” – says Agnieszka Rayss (born 1970), one of the founders of the international collective Sputnik Photos. In the same interview conducted by Ewelina Petryka, she admits that she no longer works on documentary projects herself. “The market in Poland won’t allow it,” she explains, claiming that “you must also accept commercial work, though this too may sometimes pose interesting challenges.” An art historian by education and also a graduate of ZPAF Studium Fotografii, Europejska Akademia Fotografii and Laboratorium Reportażu at Collegium Civitas, Rayss is never-theless best known precisely for her photojournalism published in the mainstream press (Przekrój, Polityka and Rzeczpospolita) as well as for her documentary photographs created within the framework of projects for the Sputnik Photos Collective (Ukraine, Belarus, Iceland). Rayss has been the winner of a considerable number of photographic competitions in Poland (among others Newsreportaż, Grand Press Photo, BZ WBK) and abroad (POYI68, and finalist of the Hasselblad Masters Award).
In her work, Agnieszka Rayss above all focuses on the question of gender and life in former communist states. The photographer is interested in the processes of imitating and taking on Western cultural patterns. In 2005 she embarked on the series American Dream, which was presented in book form (Instytut Fotografii proFOTOGRAFIA, 2011) and depicts the Americanisation of Polish culture: casting sessions for television programmes, the cheerleader sports culture and all manner of beauty contests to find the next top model. Rayss’ critical analysis of pop culture also includes the functioning of the mass media in Poland. The artist doesn’t attempt to moralize and, what’s more, discovers that the culture of performance holds a fascination for her too.
"I am no queen of the catwalk, but my world doesn’t differ very much from that of my subjects" – says Rayss. "Like them, I believe in success and enjoy winning. I take part in many competitions and wonder why exactly I do so. Will winning make my work better, more valuable?"
grand press photo
Hasselblad Masters Award
In 2008–2010, Rayss photographed the preparations for body-building contests in Silesia and the ensuing rivalry itself. The project Beautiful Bodies is a series of portraits of male and female body-builders and competitors in fitness competitions, taken against the background of a dark, uniform wall (right next to the stage entrance) and using natural light. Work with negatives and the use of specific staging and daylight, which emphasised the competitors’ musculature, permitted Rayss to create a series for which she received first prize in the 2009 edition of the Newsreportaż competition. “I chose that subject because I was looking for people working on their bodies, on their figures. I didn’t foresee I would achieve such an artistic effect” – says the artist.
Within the framework of the project by the Sputnik Photos collective entitled IS(not), Rayss has prepared a photographic essay entitled Earth Bleeds Water (2010–2011), dedicated to recreation in swimming pools, spas and all manner of natural reservoirs in Iceland.