In this series of staged portraits, Adam Pańczuk has managed to catch the remarkable relationship between humanity and nature.
During his grandfather’s funeral service, this photographer from Biała Podlaska heard the local priest say something that lodged in his memory:
Your grandfather spent his whole life getting to know the soil so he could return to it after death.
He realised that, up until then, his works had lacked such power that was capable of touching the audience. He spent two months preparing for these photographs: taking notes, talking to people, biding his time.
The fruits of that research were a series of staged portraits of villagers. His photographs depict people in their own farmyards and fields. In the Podlachian dialect (a mixture of Polish and Belarusian), the titular ‘karczeb’ is a root that is difficult to pull up, but the word also used to mean people who lived in harmony with the rhythms of the soil, and were truly part of it.
In the above photograph, we see Ignacy, a horse breeder. Before the shoot, Pańczuk was afraid that his subject might be too busy to be photographed, due to his job, but in response he was told:
This atmosphere of mutual trust left room for improvisation, and Pańczuk placed the man in a specially dug hole. His photographs revisited the soil mentioned at his grandfather’s funeral, and it became the leitmotiv for the whole series.
Pańczuk’s works have documentary value yet, due to their sparse settings and subtle touches, he has somehow managed to capture his subjects timelessly.
Originally written in Polish, translated by MB, Dec 2018