The first publications of Wilczyk's photographs accompanied literary texts, either his own or written by his peers, such as Marcin Świetlicki's poetry books (M. Świetlicki, W. Wilczyk, 20 niezapomnianych przebojów i 10 kultowych fotografii / Twenty Unforgettable Hits and Ten Cult Photographs, 1996).
Kapitał w słowach i obrazach (Capital in Words and Images), published together with Krzysztof Jaworski, is – at least in terms of the relationship between text and image – the most mature and artistically interesting product of those times and that environment. It is also Wilczyk's first fully-fledged photo publication. The poet and photographer have equal stakes and credit here – poems and pictures constitute two mutually complementary and yet artistically autonomous wholes. Kapitał thus subscribes to the tradition of editorial cooperation between a poet and a visual artist, propagated by the pre-war avant-garde. However, as normal as it became to illustrate poems with drawings or graphics (one such creative duo was formed in the 1960s by Tadeusz Różewicz and Jerzy Tchórzewski), photography rarely appeared next to poetry. The collection by Jaworski and Wilczyk is even more interesting due to the fact that it is ostentatiously programmatic in its promotion of literary and photographic hyperrealism – referring to a term proposed by Wilczyk (it is also the title of his popular photo blog, which in fact also features and celebrates poetry).
The title of the volume was borrowed from a series of photographs Wilczyk took in Upper Silesia which showed shop windows. Kapitał is a blunt and eloquent reflection on the political transformation that was taking place, and at the same time a hyperrealist look at the “shitty roofs under the shitty sky” (Krzysztof Jaworski, Hiperrealizm świętokrzyski / Hyperrealism in Świętokrzyskie). While making a reference to the pre- and post-war Silesian photography (predominantly by Max Steckel and Michał Cała), Wilczyk documents the end of the industrial era caused by the fall of communism. These photographs iconographically match the Silesian topos of a heavily urbanised region, separate in terms of culture and landscape. At the same time, they contain some motifs that the artist would go on to develop in his later series: abandoned historical buildings set against the contemporary urban landscape (Niewinne oko nie istnieje / There's no such Thing as an Innocent Eye), slogans graffitied by football fans (Święta wojna / Holy War), and topographical shots of the fabric of a city in which old and new architecture meet (Inne miasto / Other City).
When it comes to publishing, Kapitał is captivating in its modesty and class that reference the form of the limited edition, often self-published, poetry collections from the 1990s. It is hence a convincing supplement to the story about the fall of communism and birth of capitalism told by the poet and photographer. The simple, template-like layout and graphic design of the publication belongs precisely to that “in-between” era – already after the fall of the socialist policies, publishing culture, and underground samizdats (to which Kapitał is genetically much closer, evidently), and still before the emergence of the new generation of designers and publications that renewed the publishing culture. Last but not least – Kapitał is a sincere declaration of artistic optimism despite a lack of a significant material capital (the publication was financed by Jaworski from his fee for a film screenplay), and in this sense it is also a typical, cheap and offset product of the prolonged period of transformation.
Soon after the first edition (2002), the book was published in Germany (2004), by the then-popular Club der polnischen Versager, based in Mitte, Berlin. A comparison of the two versions, identical in content but different in terms of layout, format, paper, and typography, brings about yet another interesting observation. It is related to the evolution of Wilczyk's photographic consciousness and his departure from the convention of so-called elementary photography, persistent in, among others, displaying a full negative frame (together with the characteristic black borders surrounding the image – visible in the 2002 edition), towards a more open and non-stylised formula of a photo document (the borders were cropped out in the German edition).
In Kapitał, Wilczyk presented himself as an artist who perhaps abandoned poetry-writing but replaced it with equally dense photographs. Thanks to the juxtaposition with Jaworski's poems, he is able to effectively expose the complexity of the photographic image and its rhetoric potential, both lyrical and documentary. This unique combination of the experience of a poet and photographer was not only elaborated on in the aforementioned blog, but is also an interesting documentation of the hierarchical re-evaluations of the artistic language describing reality. Wilczyk's output is a flagship example of the increasing importance and effectiveness of visual arts and photography in shaping the condition of Polish humanities after 2000.
After over ten years of intensive photographic and art critical activity, and several of his own catalogue and album publications, Wilczyk returned to the intriguing trope demarcated by Kapitał when publishing a photographic and poetry book together with Grzegorz Wróblewski, titled Blue Pueblo (2015).
photographs: Wojciech Wilczyk
text: Krzysztof Jaworski
graphic design: Wojciech Wilczyk
publisher: SFS Publishing Company, Kielce (Polnische Versager Verlag & Pigasus Polish Poster Gallery, Berlin)
year of publication: 2002 (2004)
volume: 64 pages (66 pages)
format: 15.2 x 15.2 cm (19.4 x 19.4 cm)
print run: 500 (500)