Wiktoria Wojciechowska is a photographer and video artist whose works oscillate between documentary and creation. She is a winner of the Leica Newcomer Award and author of the book Short Flashes.
Photographer and video artist whose works oscillate between documentary and creation.
Wojciechowska studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw. Her degree piece, which she realised in the Photographic Narration workshop ran by Prot Jarnuszkiewicz, was titled Own Place. The series is comprised of portraits of persons who are inside a house, but photographed from the outside, through a window. In this way, two spaces fuse: the house’s interior and its surrounding. In the text accompanying photographs, the author writes about contemporary nomadism, the constant search for a better place to live, and about the need to domesticate. Her photographs are intended to express a longing for a state of stability. The project won an award in the Photo Diploma Award 2013 competition.
The series Short Flashes was created during the photographer’s journey to China. The author felt isolated and was troubled by her unfamiliarity with the language and local customs. Rushing cyclists and scooter drivers covered by colourful plastic sheets were as anonymous as she was. Photographing them became a means of adapting to the new place, describing it. The portraits were taken during the period of frequent typhoons, in 2013/2014. After her return, the photographer reminisced:
I walked, observed, and tried to understand the new reality. In the streets, many people passed me on scooters and bicycles. I wanted to remember their faces, emotions, and fatigue; the colours and shapes of the glossy raincoats moving in the wind.
The photographs were taken with a flash lamp, which created an effect of ‘freezing’ the figures in the photographs, capturing them still, as well as emphasising the candy-coloured tones of the coats.
In 2015, these photographs won the Leica Newcomer Award competition. According to the jury, in the spontaneous pictures, she managed to capture the authenticity of behaviours. In May 2016, Bemojake publishing house released a book under the same title, which was inspired by Wiesław Myśliwski’s novel A Treatise on Shelling Beans.
Selfies, Virals and the City: 2015’s Photography of Liquid Modernity
This project was produced in 2014–2016 in Ukraine. It revolves around civilians who took part in the Euromaidan, fought on the Russian front, or battled the pro-Russian separatists in eastern and southern Ukraine. The portraits are accompanied by video projections, photographs from the front, and collages. The author focuses on a man, looks for suppressed emotions while avoiding breakthrough moments and climactic occurrences. Wojciechowska also uses video and photos taken with the soldiers’ mobile phones. Marta Królak, the curator of the exhibition at the Biuro Wystaw gallery in Warsaw (16– 30 December, 2016) summed up this project:
The reflection in the work of Wiktoria Wojciechowska doesn’t only concern the fragility of human life and body. The author also raises questions about the timeliness of the figure a soldier, a man, an adult.
Wojciechowska’s photographs have been awarded at the portfolio review of the Kraków Month of Photography (2015) and at the prestigious photo festival in Arles (2018), among others.
In an interview with Ewa Dyszlewicz for the Szum Magazine, Wojciechowska describes the process of working on Iskra:
My characters were not military professionals; they didn't have sufficient physical or mental training to take part in an armed conflict. All of them – the students, cooks, philosophers, and mechanics – abandoned their daily activities to fulfil their duty, both to each other and the state. And play with death every day.
During our meetings they told me about final things, about ways to fight trauma.
Dróżka (The Path, trans. HSz) from 2016/2017 is another of Wojciechowska’s photographic projects. It came about spontaneously during a trip the French village of Vallée des Merveilles in the Western Alps with a group of archaeologists. She incidentally met shepherds who told her about migrants wandering through the mountains from the town of Ventimiglia, located on the border between Italy and France. For thousands of years the mountain road has functioned as a trail for traders, pilgrims, refugees, travellers, and shepherds with their sheep. Those who passed through left behind signs engraved in the red stones of the Vallée des Merveilles. Wojciechowska restricted the area of her work to the so-called ‘Miracle Train’ route, which is a fragment of the picturesquely situated railway line running near the border. Soldiers and the police patrol all trains at every intermediate station in search of illegal migrants.
Italy has signed a directive released by the European Parliament prohibiting the release of registered migrants from the country. However, their chances of gaining refugee status are slim, therefore they’re unable to find legal employment. They live with no prospect of improving either their fate or living conditions. According to Wojciechowska:
The behaviour of local authorities is also symptomatic. I remember when the mayor of the border town of Ventimiglia introduced a strict ban on sharing water and food with refugees for several months. France is their chance for a normal life.
In the photo series Labirinto, which began in 2017, Wojciechowska juxtaposed architecture typical of Mussolini’s era with portraits of migrants whom she met on the deserted streets of Latina or rather Littoria. The city built on drained swamps, this city, once called ‘Mussolini's Jewel’, was supposed to be an architectural ideal which would reflect the spirit of new times. Littoria is a city of migrants. In the 1930s it was World War I veterans and Mussolini supporters who settled there, then people fleeing the Soviet Union and more recently a wave of African refugees flooded Littoria. It’s their stories that Wojciechowska decided to discover:
I started speaking with them, collecting their stories and taking portraits. As it turned out, for many I was the ‘first white person’ who wanted to talk to them since their arrival to Europe.
Wiktoria Wojciechowska’s latest project is entitled The Ray of Light, the artist returns to Ukraine to photograph buildings there once were or still are Catholic churches. The spiritual aspect of these buildings isn’t the only thing that interests Wojciechowska, she’s also curious about the political side – many of the temples are currently in ruins or have been converted into Greek Catholic or Orthodox churches. Through the implementation of this project Wojciechowska tries to understand what religion, the church, and faith are.
Familiar Strangers: Polish Photographers Go East
Selected solo exhibitions:
- 2019 – Chinese Chapters, Stimultania, Strasbourg (France)
- 2017 – Sparks, Confluence gallery, Nantes (France); Sparks, Ramskram Gallery, Reykjavik (Iceland); Secret Garden, Museum of Natural History Philadelphe Thomas, Gaillac (France); Sparks, Museum of Photography in Riga (Latvia); Sparks, Theatre Dracenie, Draguinan, (France)
- 2016/2017 – Iskry (Sparks), Gallery Biuro Wystaw, Warsaw
- 2016 – Iskry (Sparks), ZPAF Gallery, Month of Photography, Kraków; Sparks, The Encounters of Young International Photography, Espace Grapelli, Niort (France)
- 2016 – Sparks, The Encounters of Young International Photography, Espace Grapelli, Niort, France
- 2015 – Short Flashes, Oskar Barnack Award Exhibition, Festival Les Rencontres, Arles, France; Short Flashes, Oskar Barnack Award Exhibition, Leica Center, Wetzlar, Germany; Short Flashes, La Quatrieme Image, L'Espace des Blancs Manteaux, Paris, France; Short Flashes, Photolux Festival, Palazzo Ducale, Lucca, Italy; Short Flashes, Humanity Photo Awards, Shangri-La, China; Sparks, Ethnographic Museum, Warsaw, Poland
Selected group exhibitions:
- 2019 – Sparks screening, Musée de l'Elysée, Lusanne (Switzerland); Sparks video screeing at Les Rencontres Internationales Paris/Berlin, Auditorium du Louvre, Paris; Sparks at La Fabrique des illusions, Sursock Museum, Beirut (Lebanon); Sparks video screeing at Nuit de la Photo, La Chaux-de-Fond (Switzerland)
- 2018 – Sparks, Jimei X Arles Festival, Xiamen (China)
- 2017 – Sparks, Photography Centre – Hotel Fontfreyde, Clermont – Ferrand (France), Sparks, Circulation(s), Paris
- 2016 – Sparks – Chapters video, Venice International Performance Art Week (Italy); Short Flashes, Masters of Photography, Photokina, Kolonia (Germany); Short Flashes, Oskar Barnack Award Exhibtion, Fotofestival, Łódź
For more information on the artist's exhibitions and projects visit www.wiktoriawojciechowska.com
Author: Michał Dąbrowski 2016. Updated: HSz September, 2019