The photographer has produced an unpretentious report showing a group of boys from Biskupice, a notorious district of Zabrze.
1001 Bad Deeds – Konstancja Nowina Konopka The photographer has produced an unpretentious report showing a group of boys from Biskupice, a notorious district of Zabrze. Konopka presents friendship, and children free of all responsibility: a group of friends hanging around together in the former workers’ and miners’ district. Her subjects are still rosy-cheeked, smooth-faced children, running after balls, throwing stones, or walking down railway lines. They live in their own world, but still push the boundaries.
The photographer depicts her subjects’ daily lives, yet avoids being judgemental. Her group scenes resemble shots from a feature film – precisely capturing the tension of the moment with a director’s eye. The backdrop is the outskirts of town, near old factories and stairways. The story is told in shades of grey, with occasional grimy pastel shades of flaking paint or old brick seeping through.
Konopka’s photographs accompanied Barbara Pietkiewicz’s report ‘Enclave of Poverty in Silesia’ in Polityka weekly. It focused on the culture of poverty and its inherent reluctance to comply or cooperate with institutions, e.g. sending children to school. If combined with a strong group identity, this ends up in a vicious circle.
One chance to break the deadlock of inherited poverty is to work with ‘influencers’ in the community. They can show children how life could be different, without attempting to reform or persuade them forcibly. The charismatic Konstancja Nowina Konopka displayed this ability while while gaining the boys’ trust, enabling them to see themselves as others see them. In an interview, one of them admitted that, if he won the lottery, he would buy his mother a flat, then move somewhere far away.
Originally written in Polish, translated by MB, Dec 2018