Witold Krassowski is a photographer born in 1956 who is considered one of the most important contemporary Polish photoreporters.
Photographer, born in 1956, who is considered one of the most important contemporary Polish photo-reporters.
Although he studied linguistics at the University of Warsaw and the Sorbonne, he got his doctorate in photography in 2009 at the Radio and Television Faculty of the University of Silesia in Katowice; three years later he received his post-doctoral degree. To date, he still teaches, nowadays mainly at the Faculty of Media Art at the Warsaw Academy of Fine Arts.
In 2009, EKpictures published Krassowski’s album entitled Powidoki z Polski / Afterimages of Poland. The photobook consists of over a hundred black and white photographs that show the transformation and changes in Poland after 1989. This collection of photographs has received very good reviews from many scholars. Adam Mazur and Łukasz Gorczyca said that it is ‘one of the most interesting and gutsiest books about the [Polish system’s] transformation’. The volume is in a way a summary of the reporter’s numerous years of work, as the content spans almost two decades. Krassowski photographed the changing reality in Poland after 1989, focusing on its common, everyday heroes, not politicians or decision-makers. Of this collection of pictures about an unusual period in Poland’s history, the artist said:
A photographer who witnesses such phenomena should not miss such an opportunity. Changes were happening all around, there was only a problem of choosing. (…) I tried to present the atmosphere of that period, ephemeral by definition, to create a sort of synthetic portrait of social groups, perceiving them as more emblematic than fleeting events. The social situation presented in the photographs, is authentic for the years between 1989 and 1997, when they were created.
Some consider Krassowski an ‘eccentric’ because the way he works is quite uncommon in the 21st century. Despite the digital revolution in the realm of photography, he is still faithful to black and white film.
Images from digital technology are too clean. By that I mean that they are too perfect, in a sense. I was always interested in rough and raw pictures. (…) I wanted to remind the observer that they are looking at the surface of the picture. First of all the imperfections and roughness of the analogue image remind of that and second of all, it stripped the image of all unnecessary, distracting details. In short, it served as a means of drawing attention to the content.
– Krassowski said in an interview for Digital Camera Polska in 2013, while explaining his choice of work technique.
Krassowski has hardly taken any colour images (as he says, he only uses colour sporadically in commercial projects), and he doesn’t use popular effects or digital modifications. In times when digital processing gives unlimited possibilities for manipulating an image, he only permits the use of an enlarger to brighten shadows or diffuse white light.
Witold Krassowski has worked as a photo-reporter in Afghanistan, the UK, Mongolia, and India, yet most of his creative output comes from Poland. He's portrayed drunk people at a firestation party in the same way he shows the elegant elite of the city – somewhat critically, somewhat mockingly. As Adam Mazur and Łukasz Gorczyca pointed out, in Krassowski’s photographs one can notice the echoes of the humanistic photo-reporting style of Henri Cartier-Bresson, as well as the grotesque and irony apparent in Martin Parr’s images. Krassowski’s photos are very explicit – and it’s not just the black and white contrast, but the fact that each frame tells a complete story which doesn’t require any additional captions.
In one interview in which Krassowski explained his unusual inclination for analogue photography in the 21st century, he made an observation about the difference of the perception of the world for a photographer, framing it through a digital camera screen, and seeing it through negatives in a viewfinder.
Looking at the screen we assess the image, and looking through the viewfinder we assess reality. I prefer to refer to reality, not an image.
Author: Anna Cymer, August 2015, Translated by: Zuzanna Wiśniewska, September 2015