It is never easy to talk about love. There is banality and pretentiousness round every corner. There are, however, authors who can balance successfully on the border of beauty and kitsch. Mateusz Sarełło is certainly one of them.
Sarełło's Swell is a photographic story about a man losing his beloved woman. It is also a study of the dualism of love and sudden acute loneliness. Even though there are no wars here, no starvation nor suffering of innocents, Swell evokes stronger emotions than most shocking pictures of tragedies. It is coverage of a ‘little apocalypse’.
Swell literally falls apart in the reader’s hands. The book appears to be broken, torn into two halves. It makes the reader feel uncomfortable and aims to metaphorically reflect author’s own split-up. It delineates a visible division of narratives: before and after.
Before. In the first part of the album the photos are very calm, the saturation is very low, typical for Polaroid technique. These are single scenes, known to anybody who had a chance to see the Polish seaside during the off-season; a man inured to the cold runs into almost-freezing water, people feeding the seagulls, a shipwreck overgrowing with grass.
After. The photos are black-and-white, grainy, contrasted. Everything is closer and more intense. Sarełło walks the beach and shoots pictures of strangers using the flash. There is no room for tenderness - it is an assault. Pictures of waves harmonize with unsettling, fierce portraits. The sea happens to be calm but suddenly almost ‘spills out’ from the book. The ambience is very tense and uneasy. The whole of the album constitutes a dark portrait of the overwhelming feeling which we encounter when somebody we love turns into a stranger.
The essence of this album is to be found between the photographs. The title Swell signifies a dead wave, a long, slowly-fading storm surge, direction independent of the wind. Such waves tend to be more perilous than larger, regular waves.
Swell is the publishing début of Mateusz Sarełło. The book was designed by Ania Nałęcka, Michał Łuczak acted as its editor and curator, while Jakub Rubaj helped with the texts.
Author: Dariusz Bochenek, Translated by W.O.