This photograph comes from a book documenting the first phase of the systemic transformation process which began in Poland after socialism collapsed in 1989.
Witold Krassowski was photographing everyday life in Poland for almost two decades, often on the lookout for subjects well beyond the main political arena. He travelled around villages, rundown collective farms and disco-polo concerts, capturing individual faces and genre scenes. Years later, he described the works as follows:
I tried to convey the period atmosphere – which was transitional by definition – to create somehow synthetic portraits of social groups I felt were much more representative than fleeting events.
Krassowski encompassed the rapidly-shifting reality in black-and-white photos. His works resemble a mixture of humanist photography and 1970s’ noir reportage. Mundane situations are occasionally depicted in grotesque photographs which stir up a wealth of contradictory feelings.
In the above work, Krassowski has recorded a rural roadside scene with a typical Polish landscape as a backdrop. An apologetic-looking man leans on a bicycle, listening to advice from a Catholic priest standing over him. The shot seems like an outtake from the popular comedy U Pana Boga za Piecem (‘In Heaven as it is on Earth’), except Krassowski never mocks or looks down on the characters he photographs. His provincial subjects are depicted with respect, in almost sculptural postures. The positioning of their bodies reveals feelings and a mutual relationship, yet the men remain anonymous – faces indecipherable, their features dissolving into shadow, imbuing the work with a more universal quality, like a parable.