This sparse photograph concerns the ‘small-scale stabilisation’ under communism in Poland.
Mariusz Hermanowicz was a photographer who also made drawings and short films. He lived and worked in Poland and France. In 1977, he went on a crucial, life-shaping journey to London, where he first encountered literature unobtainable in communist Poland, including Witold Gombrowicz and Czesław Miłosz. Inspired by Polish writers, he started to caption his photographs. One of his most vital series, Someone I Don’t Know – which combined both journalistic and conceptual approaches – also originated from that period. He went on to explore similar themes in subsequent projects.
Hermanowicz’s works from the 1970s resemble a diary. He photographed situations in the streets, views out of windows, and Polish realities of the communist era. The pictures are accompanied by concrete, occasionally metaphorical or somewhat surrealist comments; his daily life portrayed in images and text. The titles of the series (View from my Window, My Courtyard, Apartment) encapsulate the unpretentious nature of the photographs.
The above photograph was not one of a series, but was taken while Hermanowicz was working on Apartment, in which he revealed the story of his family waiting to be given a state apartment in Warsaw’s Ursynów district. Exhibited along with the photographs was a letter to the housing cooperative from 1977, part of which concerned a child:
Anticipating that I would receive an apartment this year, I decided to have a baby, which, as it transpired, was a premature decision that may have placed my child at risk of living in unsuitable conditions.
This photograph, taken on May 16, 1978, depicts a moment of tranquillity after they had been given the long-desired apartment. Hermanowicz’s minimalistic shot conveys his personal ‘there and then’, using the opportunity to reveal the realities of the former regime.
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.