This photograph of a lesbian couple holding hands was commissioned in 2003 by the Campaign Against Homophobia. Displayed on billboards, the photographic series launched a debate in society on issues of intolerance against homosexuals.
The photographer Karolina Breguła studied at the Łódź Film School. In an interview for Culture.pl, she mentioned how Józef Robakowski had influenced her work:
Robakowski taught me that the most important thing is to know what needs to be said.
The idea behind Let Them See Us was simple – to photograph 30 gay and lesbian couples and put them on public display via street posters and exhibitions. Breguła’s portraits were taken just after she graduated, and garnered a range of comments.
These simple, unpretentious shots show ordinary people out walking together – no more and no less. One year before Poland joined the European Union, sexual minorities were rarely discussed and if they were, it was in the context of Western European parades. Reactions to these public comings-out were varied – following protests by the right-wing League of Polish Families and All-Polish Youth, the Kraków Association of Polish Artists and Designers decided not to hold the exhibition, the outdoor advertising company pulled out of the project at the last moment, and there were also acts of vandalism.
This was the first socio-artistic campaign in Poland intended to counteract discrimination based on sexual orientation. It was an attempt to break taboos and confront society with something it had previously marginalised. Later, the artist admitted:
Then I discovered that through artistic activities, one can try to change something and truly have an influence, and I wanted to carry on working like that.
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.