Krzysztof Miller (b. 1962, died 9 September, 2016) developed his characteristic, reflective style of an emotionally engaged news photographer concerned with the plight of people.
Although Miller took up photography in the second half of the nineteen-eighties, his best-known pictures only appeared in the following decade. At that time Miller was travelling the world as a news photographer for the newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza, covering the hottest media events: armed conflicts in the Balkans, Chechnya, Afghanistan, South Africa, and famine in Africa. Miller developed his characteristic, reflective style of an emotionally engaged news photographer concerned with the plight of people. His photographs often accompany the texts of Wojciech Jagielski, with whom for some years he formed a unique journalistic duo.
After 2000 Miller began to work at a slower pace due to editorial budget cuts and his own health problems. However, his achievements still remain key to the continuing debate over the shape of modern photojournalism. Essential to this are not only Miller’s excellent photographs, but also his decision to begin studying at the Film School in Łódź. Miller is the mastermind behind the work of the Slowphoto collective, is a co-founder of the group Artists 24h and boldly experiments with photographic techniques. Within the framework of school workshops, he processes his iconic photographs using the nineteenth century wet collodion technique. The final effect enchants some and causes consternation in others. His glass plates with positive images (as opposed to the negative image in the original collodion technique) were shown at, among other events, an exhibition at the Narodowa Galeria Sztuki Zachęta in Warsaw (2009).
Almost the entire history of photography is to be found on this one glass plate – wrote Miller. My image is passed through three historic technological revolutions in photography: I take an image from a negative, develop it digitally and then reproduce it in wet collodion. The emulsion poured on the surface of the glass is never the same twice, but becomes a unique copy. The choice of image and photographic technique is not accidental. Among other things, wet collodion consists of gun-cotton. This is also a component of the explosive materials that in war bring death, injuries and suffering – in the photographic process, this material lends my heroes immortality. I would like, by means of the collodion technique, to bring them back from the dead, show how they lived in their difficult times, and make them immortal.
Basia Sokołowska has accurately supplemented Miller’s manifesto, drawing attention to the fact that collodion – 'apart from its use in photography was also used in medicine to dress wounds.' The war wounds in Miller’s case are above all of a psychological nature. The most recent projects by the Slowphoto group, called post-photography, are based at the Psychiatric and Post-Traumatic Stress Clinic in Warsaw, where since October 2010 the photographer, along with Polish soldiers returning from missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, is undergoing post-traumatic stress therapy. In addition, Miller was the subject of an article in Gazeta Wyborcza (The Bang-Bang Club, 2011) written by Wojciech Jagielski as a contribution to the debate about duty, ethics and the psychological consequences of work as a war photographer.
In January 2014, Miller has returned to the art world with the exhibition Niedecydujący moment/ Non-decisive Moment, shown in many venues in Warsaw, Kraków , Zielona Góra and Opole, which covers 25 years of his work as a photographer.
Krzysztof Miller's photographs are available on: agencjagazeta.pl
Author: Adam Mazur, October 2012, update January 2014, article based on Decydujący moment. Nowe zjawiska w fotografii polskiej po 2000 roku by Adam Mazur