‘Photographs are side effects of my meetings with people’, states Anna Bedyńska. She admits that she is intrigued by diversity but is not scared to include autobiographical threads in her works.
After graduation I was working for a short while as photo editor. I understood then that working behind a desk was not for me.
In 2011 she started to cooperate with the Polish Humanitarian Action (PHA, pl.: Polska Akcja Humanitarna) as a volunteer. For the event Obiad za złotówkę (Dinner for One Złoty) she took photographs in Kosovo, Kazakhstan and Poland. She also helped to edit an album for the tenth anniversary of the organisation's founding. While working on this project she met Piotr Wójcik, a deputy of the photo department in Gazeta Wyborcza (many photographers who work with Gazeta have an episode of working with PHA). The meeting ended up with a proposition for Bedyńska to work in the journal.
I was given a compact digital camera which was characterised by a few-second delay between pressing the shutter button and the shutter’s actual opening. Anyway, I was given a free hand too, so I was allowed to pursue my own ideas.
Bedyńska came to Gazeta just when the last issues of Magazyn, its weekly reporter’s section which always featured at least two or three photo reportages from various places in the world, were being released. The artist was quoted as saying:
With the shut of Magazyn the golden era of Polish press photography ended. My friends who had worked there earlier were struggling with crisis but for me it was a new chapter in my life. I did what I would do anyway but I had the chance to publicize my work in Gazeta.
One of her first photo reportages – Przytul mnie (Hug Me) was awarded a Grand Prix in the Grand Press Photo in 2005.
Bedyńska examines both new social phenomenon and traditions that have passed away. In 2008 she created a reportage on challenging patriarchy in the family. For the project Męska Rzecz (A Manly Thing) she photographed fathers who stay with children at home whilst their wives pursue professional careers. Matkopolko and Z dzieckiem pod biurkiem (With a Children Under the Desk) showed women trying to conjoin the role of mother and the role of person being professionally active. The artist observes appearances that have recently been inaccessible for photographers. In Świątynie rozkoszy (Temples of Pleasure) she captures disorderly houses, while in Męska miłość (Manly Love) – as the title suggests – love between men is portrayed. In 2012 Bedyńska created the multimedia project Love is in the Air that talks about the social infertility of contemporary women.
All Bedyńska’s reportages suit the tradition of photo essays, developed in the 1950s by the American photographer William Eugene Smith. The protagonist is always in the foreground, while a graphical representation of what the protagonist has to face remains in the background.
In 2009 Bedyńska developed the project Jedna ciąża, dwudziestu (One Pregnancy, Twenty…) in which the artist decided for the very first time to stay on the other side of the camera – as the subject of the photograph. The artist asked five male and four female photographers, including Maciej Zienkiewicz, Michał Mutor, Alina Gajdanowicz, Ewa Łowżył, Monika Bereżecka, Andrzej Świetlik, Mikołaj Grynberg, and Paweł Kiszkiel, to participate in the project.
The most memorable was the session with Ewa Łowżył, who decided to show me in a very naturalistic way. It was an act which demanded more courage from me, but I knew that as the conceiver and the photographed object I needed to submit to artist’s vision. Ewa was just after a hard experience of confinement and early motherhood, so she arranged me in the situation of hospitalised oppression which she'd recently experienced.
Stepping away from photography
In 2013 the photographer was honoured with a prize in the prestigious World Press Photo contest for one of her photographs in the White Power cycle that shows portraits of people (particularly teenagers) who have albinism.
During the realization of those photographs it was incredible to see what happens to children when they become my objects. I photographed young people who are most of the time hidden, whom we do not want to see, nor photograph. They do not fit into the established canons of beauty, here they were in the centre of interest and main stars though. I was able to see the way they were growing in front of the camera, the way pride and self-confidence are filling them up.
Bedyńska now lives in Moscow, where she is currently studying in the Marina Razbeżkin and Michaił Ugarow Documentary Film and Theatre School.
Many times I've asked myself why don't I have a camera with me all the time. It happened for instance during the realization of Ubrania do trumny (Coffin Clothes). I have always felt in the back of my head that need to take photos as often things happen in front of my eyes so incredible that photographs and texts themselves are not able to capture it. That is why I need to move away from the stability of photography.
Author: Krzysztof Miękus, translated by Antoni Wiśniewski, March 2016