The photographer illustrates how people cope with their humdrum lives in a former spa area.
Mateusz Kowalik took photographs in Sokołowsko, formerly Görbersdorf, a village nestled in the Suche Mountains. In the mid-19th century, Dr Hermann Brehmer was so impressed by the curative powers of the local climate that he founded the world’s first sanatorium for tuberculosis sufferers, which attracted patients from all over Europe, and served as a model for a resort in Davos, Switzerland. Currently, Sokołowsko has less than a thousand inhabitants, but the village comes alive a couple of times a year thanks to performance, sound and film festivals.
The portrait above shows Samia, who moved to Sokołowsko from Kraków to be closer to nature. Surrounded by the Suche Mountains, she and her husband found the peace and harmony they were missing in the big city. They live in an old German building, bringing up their daughter Maja and growing tomatoes. A good life, but they admit that:
This is not a place where we’ll stay for the rest of our lives.
Kowalik’s project shows Samia and other people engaged in everyday activities, such as handicrafts, farming, reading books, and meditation. Although they can breathe the fresh air and eat organic food from their own gardens, they agree that life in the provinces is still not paradise. After moving out of a city, the lack of employment, even casual, becomes a major problem, and one must deal with heating, mowing the grass, and clearing the snow in front of the house in winter. Travelling to the shops and general loneliness also make life difficult.
This project explores the desire to change one’s lifestyle and try to adapt to a new environment, as well as the price one must pay for that change.
Originally written in Polish, translated by AG, edited by MB, Dec 2018