This image, taken on the centenary of the restoration of Polish independence, is an example of staged photography imitating reality.
The photograph was shot from the Novotel Centrum in Warsaw. Zielińska had previously been searching for the best view of Dmowski Roundabout, the starting point for a march organised by nationalist groups. The interior had to appear cosy, so she moved the bed and lamp, and switched off the TV. After rearranging the room, she and her model waited for the crowd to light up its flares.
The photograph provoked numerous comments regarding its authenticity. In the media, Zielińska admitted that the picture was the result of merging two shots, so it was swiftly labelled a ‘photomontage’ that did not ‘reflect the reality’. This oversimplification suggested nostalgia for photography as a technique for reproducing reality.
Zielińska was inspired by the work of Canadian artist Jeff Wall. Her Polish creation is constructed in a similar way to his A View from an Apartment, with two contrasting realities combined into one shot. Wall’s work invokes odd feelings of observing something familiar yet strange at the same time, the reality enhanced by the staging.
The woman in Zielińska’s photograph has a smartphone in her hand, but is not looking at it – her gaze is directed towards the centre of Warsaw, where flares are burning and shouts about national pride can be heard. Zielińska’s work has a mimetic structure – it imitates reality to demonstrate something unique. Although produced according to rules that govern the real world, it has been enhanced. Its power derives from illustrating the contrasts between private and public spaces, peace and tension, silence and noise.
Zielińska created a seductive Instagram-like image to depict public anxiety and the frail sense of security we derive from Internet access.
Originally written in Polish, translated by AG, edited by MB, Dec 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.