The artist was interested in how anonymous people cope with major historical events. He listened to the stories of those who had seen death during the war, and photographed the sites of uncommemorated atrocities.
All the stories mentioned in Kramarz’s A Piece of Land occurred during World War Two. The artist worked in Poland and Ukraine. His photographs of landscapes show scraps of forests, thickets or buildings – nothing particularly outstanding, like places we might pass every day. These spaces only come to life thanks to the eyewitnesses – each photograph in the exhibition is accompanied by recorded recollections.
The above photograph was taken in the village of Sieklówka in the Bieszczady foothills. In the recording, Józef Skiba recounts how he lost his family during the occupation, and later discovered their bodies in the woods.
In order to interpret Kramarz’s work, the viewer needs to concentrate and listen as the painful story unfolds. Understanding the photographer’s work requires patience and time. It is interesting to see how viewers change after hearing the distressing facts, and begin to see the photograph like an eyewitness. Every sentence adds new detail to the landscape, stripping away its neutrality and transparency. As Kramarz writes in the accompanying text: 'the voices of the eyewitnesses open up these spaces'.
After hearing the recordings, the titular piece of land in each photograph becomes a piece of memory that ceases to belong exclusively to those who witnessed the tragedies, and joins the collective memory. Kramarz highlights ways in which people and spaces are emotionally linked, showing how traumatic events make us establish symbolic borders around places – sometimes in order to remember, and sometimes to forget.
Originally written in Polish, translated by MB, Nov 2018
This text is part of the project Metaphors of Independence: Poland In 100 Photos.
To coincide with the centenary of Poland regaining its independence, we have created a selection of photographs that allow us to understand both yesterday and today. A hundred photographs but so much more. Find out more.