In these times of decline for artistic photography, Mikołaj Grynberg (born 1966) is one of the few artists consistently exploiting the aesthetic potential of traditional analogue techniques.
Educated as a psychologist, since the beginning of the nineteen-nineties Grynberg has been making portrait collections in a manner informed by noble pictorial techniques. As one may read on the artist's website:
Emotions, the main subjects of his photographs are expressed in various ways and using varied techniques.
After 2000, Grynberg continued on the path of a portraitist, but apart from collections featuring different character studies (Different People, 2002), he has focused more and more on creating series that thematically form closed wholes. In 2004 he began a project dedicated to women and committed over four years of work to the same subject. The exhibition Many Women, 18 to Be Precise appeared in 2005 in Warsaw’s Galeria Luksfera and was inspired by his own personal experience.
It all began with a picture of my mother, Daniela – says Grynberg. After her death I was constantly coming across pictures that I had taken of her several months before she died. We were joking around a bit then, because we had just got over a serious crisis concerning my father’s health and as a reaction, I did a session of pictures with her dressed as if she was a widow. She is wearing black lace on her head and looks most refined...
But it didn’t end with just eighteen women. Within the framework of Many Women (2005–2008) Grynberg took over three hundred pictures of women he met on the streets of Tel Aviv, Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro, Kiev, Mexico City, Lima, Zanzibar City and Beijing. All these images are shown in sepia.
In the majority of my works I purposefully resign from colour because in my projects I mainly want to examine emotions, come to terms with them, and colour would be distracting – explains the photographer.
The series Auschwitz – What Am I Doing Here? (2009–2010), inspired by Grynberg’s own family history, is characterized by an equally traditional photographic approach. It was presented in the form of an exhibition (at Galeria Pauza in 2010, and CSW Zamek Ujazdowski, 2010), an album and a web site. The exhibition consisted of blurred portraits of individuals visiting the museum at Auschwitz-Birkenau, pictures of the architecture and a spatial sound installation made up of fragments of the artist’s conversations with individuals encountered on the grounds of the former concentration camp. The album holds over a hundred photographs, seventy of which are portraits. The pictures were taken by Grynberg in a way that gives the effect of a misty, blurred image, which proves that the difficult history of this place can be told using modern artistic means. The project Auschwitz – What Am I Doing Here? met with a lively reaction on the part of critics, photographers and artists dealing with the questions of memory and history in their works.
Mikołaj Grynberg's website: www.grynberg.pl
Selected Solo Exhibitions
- 1995 - The Beginning - Mała Gallery, Warsaw
- 1996 - New is Coming - Baturo Gallery, Bielsko Biała
- 2002 - Different People - CDQ Gallerry, Warsaw
- 2003 – Time Will Show, Fabryka Trzciny, Warsaw
- 2005 – Many Women, 18 to Be Precise, Luksfera Gallery, Warsaw
- 2006 – Metamorphoses, Luksfera Gallery, Warsaw
- 2006 – California Dreaming, Different People, Soviart, Kiev, Ukraine
- 2007 – Past and Gone, ZPAP Gallery, Gliwice
- 2008 – Amici Veritatis, Europejski Hotel, University of Warsaw Library
- 2008/2009 – Mexico, Mexico City: Calle Garcia Lorca Av. Juarez, Centro Historico 2008/2009
- 2009 – Mexico, Morelia: Casa de la Cultura de Morelia
- 2009 – Peru, Lima: Galería Municipal de Arte Pancho Fierro
- 2009 – Gardzienice Gallery, Lublin
- 2010 – The Jewish Theatre, Warsaw
- 2012 – Artplay, Moscow
- 2012 –DOC. Foundation, Warsaw Museum of Printing, branch of the Historical Museum of Warsaw
- 2012 – Museum of Modern Art, Sankt Petersburg
- 2012 – Municipal Library, Archangelsk
Auschwitz – What Am I Doing Here?
- 2010 – Galeria Pauza, Kraków
- 2010 – CCA Ujazdowski Castle, Warsaw
- 2012 – Swedish Parliament, Stockholm
- 2013 – K Gallery, St. Petersburg
Selected Group Exhibitions
- 1994 - Polish Press Photography Contest, Warsaw
- 1995 - The Life Line, Tallinn
- 1995 – Visioni e Sansazioni, Polish Institute, Rome
- 1997 – Taste Life – CCA Ujazdowski Castle, Warsaw
The original text was published in The Decisive Moment. New Phenomena in Polish Photography Since 2000, Karakter, 2012
Author: Adam Mazur, October 2012