Filip Cwik (born 1973) is a photographer and co-founder and member of the Napo Images agency and the Napo Foundation. He runs his own portrait studio.
"The time has come for subjective photography, telling stories through the prism of our own experiences”, claims Filip Ćwik. He is not interested in searching for absolute truths, but rather, as he says, “my own understanding of a subject, and seeking formal means which enable the creation of images as a subjective definition of the topic."
Any list of Ćwik’s most exceptional efforts should certainly include his expressive black and white photo report showing the nation mourning after the Polish government plane crash in Smoleńsk in 2010, for which he received an award in the 2011 World Press Photo competition. His photographs, concentrating on the faces of the people gathered outside the President’s Palace on Krakowskie Przedmieście street in Warsaw, stand out sharply amongst the sentimentality, tears and pathos seen in the majority of pictures taken and published at that time.
I chose very specific faces and figures from among the crowds of mourners. I looked for interesting emotions as opposed to just a simple message. At the time, I felt a considerable sense of community with those people and this undoubtedly helped me to better understand their mourning and discover emotions beyond the banal in that sad crowd. – says Ćwik.
Before Filip Ćwik received his World Press Photo prize, his work had already won many awards in press photography competitions in Poland. He has twice come first in the national Konkurs Fotografii Prasowej (Press Photography Competition) – in 2002 for his reportage Leszek Miller’s Campaign (People category) and in 2007 for the project Prime Minister’s Last Days (People and Events category). His photography has also been singled out for distinction in Grand Press Photo and BZ WBK Press Photo competitions.
He graduated in cultural studies from Adam Mickiewicz University (1992 – 1997). Since 2001, he has collaborated closely with Newsweek. He had previously worked for the Gazeta Wyborcza newspaper. Since 2010, he has taught at Warsaw University’s Institute of Journalism. He is the founder and member (since 2008) of the Napo Images photographic agency. He created and headed the photography section for the journal Polska The Times. He is the originator of and a juror for the photographic competition Newsreportaż.
Although Filip Ćwik operates first and foremost in the field of press photography, another of his projects, dedicated to the floods that hit Poland in 2010, was featured at the Inside/Outside exhibition in Warsaw’s Apteka Sztuki gallery in 2011. These documentary shots illustrated the damage done to buildings, homes and the landscape by the flood.
To begin with, we see something that is pretty – says the artist, explaining the effect achieved by his photographs – and only after analysing the image do we really understand why it looks the way it does. This is, after all, flood material, and it was really only when the water drained away that I realized that the most shocking images are those showing the interiors of people’s houses.
His departure from standard press reports towards documentary images that can be exhibited in galleries is a sign of the times.
Press photography is enjoying ever greater popularity – Ćwik observed – but this doesn’t necessarily translate into publication in the press. We are seeing fewer and fewer images in newspapers and those that do see the light of day are less and less interesting.
In 2012, Ćwik realized the 12 Faces project – he set up a makeshift portrait studio next to a Syrian refugee camp in Turkey, in which he photographed victims of Bashar al-Assad’s regime. He published the series in a photo book, with the pictures accompanied by collected memories of the photographed individuals.
- 12 Faces - Gallery Ostrołęka OCK/Festival of Photography in Ostrołęka
- 12 Faces - Days of Photography in Świdnica
- 12 Faces - Pauza Gallery, Kraków
- 12 Faces - OFF Festival of Photography, Opole
- inside / outside - Apteka Gallery, Warsaw
- Afghanistan - the time of trial - Institute of Design, Warsaw
- National Mourning, World Press Photo contest exhibition
- Mapping the Flaneur, Newcastle Arts Centre, United Kingdom
- Mapping the Flaneur, FORMAT International Photography Festival, Derby, United Kingdom
- 15th International Chopin Piano Competition, Festival of Photography, Ostrołęka
- Eternal Scouts, 3rd Photodocumentary Festival, Poznań
- Sinking Industry, GPP competition exhibition
- Eternal Scouts, GPP competition exhibition
- The Last Days premiere, KFP contest exhibition
- XV Frederic Chopin IPC, BZ WBK Press Photo contest exhibition
- Leszek Miller's electoral campaign, KFP contest exhibition
- Grand Press Photo. 2nd prize in Portrait category, single, for 12 Faces image
- Grand Press Photo. 3rd prize in People category, single, for Mourning in Poland image
- World Press Photo. 3rd prize in the People in the News category, for Mourning in Poland picture story
- Grand Press Photo. 2nd prize in the People category, for Eternal Scouts picture story
- Grand Press Photo. 2nd prize in the News category, for Sinking Industry picture story
- Press Photo Contest. 1st prize in the People and Events category, for Prime Minister's Last Days picture story
- BZWBK Press Photo. Bank Zachodni WBK Award It Is Worth Being Together
- BZWBK Press Photo. 2nd prize in the Portrait category
- Press Photo Contest. 2nd prize in the Culture and Art, Reportage category, for 15th International Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition picture story
- Grand Press Photo. Single Photo distinction
- Press Photo Contest. 1st prize in the People, Reportage category, for picture story Leszek Miller's Electoral Campaign
The original text was published in The Decisive Moment. New Phenomena in Polish Photography Since 2000, Karakter, 2012
Author: Adam Mazur, October 2012; Update: October 2014