This shot by Andrzej Tobis comes from his unusual dictionary which uses photographs to describe contemporary Poland.
A white limousine parked outside a retail and service shop also serves as an advertisement for a restaurant. Slush has piled up in front of it, and pastel facades of housing blocks can be seen in the background. This picture by artist and photographer Andrzej Tobis is taken from his A–Z Educational Cabinets project, on which he worked from 2006. He was inspired by a German–Polish illustrated dictionary published in East Germany in 1954. Tobis used photographs from contemporary Poland to describe selected words from the original dictionary.
This is what Tobis said of his work:
I am an observer. I like to travel around the outskirts, looking, taking photos, trying to comprehend what I am seeing. I am a caricature of the mythical language inventor who pointed at things, named them, and created meaning. When I tire of observing, admiring and defining, I take a rest and paint.
For the author, the dictionary was a starting point to create an image archive. Tobis did not arrange the pictures, but merely recorded the landscapes and situations he witnessed. Most of the photographs in the series were taken in Upper Silesia. In his foreword to Tobis’ publication, Sebastian Cichocki wrote that he regarded the works as:
A visual repertoire of ‘backwoods’ Poland […] which is vanishing faster than we would expect.
Tobis was interested in the decaying outskirts of cities, and sought contrasting elements and different layers of time for his work. In the above photograph, communist-era concrete blocks meet a limousine – a symbol of luxury from 1990s’ American movies and TV series. The intense colours of external-insulated blocks stand out from the backdrop of grey sky and grubby snow – an image of late Polish capitalism.
Originally written in Polish, translated by AG, edited by MB, Dec 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.