Before arranging the sessions, the two women behind the project summed up their aim as ‘wanting to photograph shame’. They had meetings with people to interview them about uncomfortable topics while taking their portraits.
The photographers and participants discussed repressed needs, painful recollections and unaddressed traumas. What were Świątecka and Redzisz’s interviewees ashamed of? Of their parents, their bodies, their sexual orientation or of being molested during childhood… One female participant even said: ‘I am nothing but shame’.
In an interview, Świątecka admitted:
Some wondered if we had the right to ask so much and encumber our audience with such a burden.
Plenty of people were willing to share their memories. At the exhibition, 27 close-up portraits hung next to printed excerpts from the stories. This challenging collaboration proved liberating for some of the participants, who made such comments as:
Showing shame to a stranger means accepting your own fragility and simultaneously demonstrating your inner strength.
People don’t ask; they’re afraid to [...] It’s better to talk.
In this project, the pictures and texts function in tandem, complementing one another. The people captured in the photographs are intent. Most avoid looking into the lens and gaze off somewhere safer. A few bury themselves in gestures, or hide their faces in their hands. Most of the portraits are of women.
The Shame project was shown at several exhibitions in Poland, published in Duży Format, and its creators also had the opportunity to speak about it at the TEDxMarszałkowska conference.
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.