Maciej Jeziorek says he is a child of the editorial office. It was there that he learned photojournalism, but the breakthrough year in Jeziorek’s work was 2008, when he co-founded the Napo Images agency and the Napo Foundation. Since then, he has been working on his own original, long-term documentary projects while experimenting with form.
Born in 1973 in Warsaw, Maciej Jeziorek commenced his photographic career in the press. He graduated in Theological Studies at the Papal Faculty of Theology in Warsaw and Photography Studies at the Phototechnical School in Warsaw. Since 1998 he has worked as a photojournalist for the editorial office of Życie Warszawy, then for Tygodnik Solidarność and newspapers Życie (Life) and The Times Polska. He says that he is a child of the editorial office, as it was there that he learned photojournalism. Older colleagues and editors corrected his mistakes. He participated in the Credit Suisse Masterclass for photojournalists from east-central Europe programme in 2004, during which he documented the last months of the Rozbark mine in Bytom. For the first decade of his work, he focused mainly on local issues but also travelled to Kyiv to report on the Orange Revolution.
He won his first significant prize in the 1999 competition held by Polish Press Photography. In later years, he received numerous awards. In 2007, he won awards in two Polish press competitions – Grand Press Photo and BZ WBK Press Foto. In the latter, he won the ‘photo of the year’ award for a photograph depicting pilgrims waiting for a mass at Blonia Krakowskie during Benedict XVI’s pilgrimage to Poland. In 2016, he was the chairman of the jury of the BZ WBK Press Foto competition.
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Own Documentary Projects
The breakthrough year for Jeziorek was 2008, when he co-founded the Napo Images agency and the Napo Foundation. ‘We were all looking for something more. The classic way of telling stories through the press was not enough for us. We acted in the dark, learning and motivating each other.’ The co-creation of Napo Images opened Jeziorka up to a new way of working. From then on, he undertook his own original long-term documentary projects, experimenting extensively with form.
"3 000 000"
Photos for the project were shot during 2009 and 2010. The title refers to the three million square metres that approximately delineate the area of the former Warsaw Ghetto, located between Umschlagplatz and the Palace of Culture. Jeziorek photographed this space with his hand-made cameras. The images from his camera obscura, blurry and surprising, referred to the urban space and the theme of memory. It was presented in 2014 at the Jewish Community Centre (JCC) in Warsaw. Part of the material was found in Professor Jacek Leociak’s books, including the most recent Biografie Ulic: O Żydowskich Ulicach Warszawy: Od Narodzin po Zagładę (Biographies of the Streets: On Warsaw’s Jewish Streets – From Birth to the Holocaust) published by DSH publishing house in 2018.
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Thanks to a scholarship from the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage in 2012, Jeziorek set off on a tour of Poland for a few months. He drove along the borders of the country, taking photographs in accordance with the theme of ‘change’, intending to show Poland in a specific moment of transformation. The motif of road photography, widespread mainly in American photography, certainly inspired Jeziorek’s choices in regards to form. As he said: ‘We’re no Frank or Egglestone. But, out of curiosity, I started to look for similar photographs in Poland, taken during a journey whose only goal was the road and recording everything that appears on it.’ Photographs from this project appeared in the press – in a publication in the Polityka weekly. Individual frames were also presented at group exhibitions, such as Eastreet (Warsztaty Kultury, Lublin 2013) and Napo Images (Ostrołęka Cultural Centre, Ostrołęka 2017).
Paving the New Path to India
In 2008, Jeziorek went to India for the first time, for six months. At first, he photographed in a reportorial style, trying to free himself from the rules of the press. There, he found his way of photographic narration, which he showcased in the publication 317 Days to Mars. During his multiple trips to India, he also worked on commissioned topics and conducted several photography workshops.
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317 days to mars
jak przez szkło
Jak przez Szkło (As Through Glass) is a publication published by the Mission of the Warsaw-Prague Diocese. It contains a classic black-and-white photo-reportage about three centres for lepers run by Poles. The photographs were taken in 2009-2010 in Ramgarh, Puri and Jeevodaya in north-eastern India. Jeziorek presents the work of doctors and missionaries. The book includes his interview with Dr Helena Pyz on the topic of her work and leprosy.
317 Days to Mars is Jeziorek’s second book project in India. The photographs were taken in the years 2013-2014. Unlike As Through Glass, here Jeziorek became the originator, creator and producer of the publications. The axis of the project was the start of India’s Mars Orbiter Mission. Jeziorek took the photos in New Delhi area during the probe’s journey from the Indian cosmodrome to Mars orbit. As the photographer said:
I realised that Mars was my key to understanding that country. A frequent statement among tourists, especially from our culture, is that they feel like they are on a foreign planet there. Indeed, there is a certain problem with finding yourself in such a – at first glance – crazy and surprising place. Disorientation gets to everyone. The aim of the book is, first of all, to convey this impression. It is a visual story about the lack of contexts and the creation of new, not necessarily true ones. There is also a small battle with stereotypes about India. I tried to make the book multi-dimensional. It’s very easy to read, you can flip through it. But when you decide to pause at a given moment, the real fun begins.
The book received an honourable mention in the Photographic Publication of the Year 2015 competition and won the Grand Press Photo competition in the Book of the Year category.
In 2018, Jeziorek received a second scholarship from the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage. Thanks to this, he is working on a project titled Message in Mumbai and New Delhi, inspired by a sixteenth-century letter from India written by Krzysztof Pawłowski.
Jeziorek has been associated with the Forum Polish Agency of Photographers since 2002 and became the chief photographer in 2016. He is also a member of ZPAF and Press Club Polska.
Originally written in Polish by Joanna Kinowska, August 2018, translated into English by PG, September 2019