For the photographer, this conceptual work based on two portraits of an elderly woman was a search for the meaning of life.
Composed of ten photographs, the work was created in 1986. It is a series of prints based on two portraits of an old woman, taken around the same time. The two initial images share the same background, model, clothing, and a lily clutched in her hand, but differ in one minor detail – the second picture shows the woman with her eyes closed. Her posture and the way her headscarf is tied reveal that the photograph to the right is reversed – the line where the twain meet thus acts as an arbitrary mirror.
The author described his work in his usual emotional, lofty style:
My favourite series […] demonstrates that we are born into the light. It dazzles us, we grow, we run, and ideals start to emerge during our school days: love for our mothers, for God – as symbolised by the lily. We mature until we reach a certain peak. Frequently we will sin, forgetting and losing sight of our ideals, which will cross to the other side. Ideals fade as the years pass by – the image of the woman gradually darkening into blackness, whereupon she vanishes completely.
In this work, the photographer ascribes meaning to seemingly meaningless situations and things, juxtaposing two portraits which are quasi-identical but for a blink of the eye. The artist toys creatively with this inconvenient, random detail (eyes shut) to demonstrate the passage of time, or his own attitude to life and how it ought to be lived. The succession of images, growing lighter on the left and darker on the right, seems to illustrate the consequences of past choices.
Lewczyński’s photography has built a structure that enables one to articulate existential questions.
Originally written in Polish, translated by AG, edited by MB, Dec 2018