Aneta Grzeszykowska’s work is composed of almost 200 photographs from her private archive, from which the artist has removed herself, thus creating a photographic autobiography without a leading lady.
We see a photograph of a couple taken in a studio or on the backdrop of a uniform grey wall. Our eye is caught by the unnatural position of the models’ hands and a shadow on the man’s jacket-sleeve. Once we notice this artificiality, so begins a disturbing game to find traces of the heroine whose presence has been erased from the photos.
In Album, Grzeszykowska focuses on mechanisms of remembering and forgetting, as well as the very reliability of memory. It is a comment on the role of photography in the remembrance process – perhaps we saw the majority of what we actually remember in photographs?
Grzeszykowska’s work has features that are both familiar (situations, framing, social roles) and alien (no child in a christening photograph). The odd feeling one gets when looking at these works triggers a certain anxiety. The resultant cognitive dissonance allows us to look at this family archive with detachment, aware of the rules which govern this type of picture. Obliterating oneself from family photographs may also be interpreted as a desire for self-assertion – an escape from closed, standardised images which conserve the past in safe, commonly accepted social confines.
Today, when more people seem aware of how images can be manipulated than a few decades ago, the impact of these works has probably lessened. But whenever we say 'you can tell it’s been Photoshopped', aren’t we simply trying to reassure ourselves that the original christening photograph still exists somewhere? Grzeszykowska’s project shows the degree to which photography has influenced the way we define identity on the basis of image.
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.