Czas kamieni (Time of Stones) by Monika Krajewska was the first photographic project to tackle the theme of the extermination of the Jewish community and culture, produced in the form of a book and published during the times of the Polish People's Republic.
It is also a remarkable study of the fate of the memory of the Jewish neighbours in the post-war Poland. The book is a result of many years of the work of the author, who made it her goal to document the Jewish cemeteries and their ruins in Podlachia, central, and Lesser Poland. The black and white photographs reveal the visual and artistic qualities of the matzevot and the titular time fracturing their integrity, but most of all frame the broader cultural and scenic context surrounding the Jewish cemeteries deep into the period of the Polish People's Republic. Photographs of cemeteries surrounded by grass and shrubbery and encircled by socialist modernist apartment buildings illustrate the scale of the neglect and oblivion of the residues of Jewish culture.
Krajewska's piece still seems to be up to date, even though it was the first among publications to unveil the under-represented reality of the Polish People's Republic. After the 1980 Solidarność upsurge, more publications reflecting the shift in the PRL's official cultural policy towards Jewish issues were released. Apart from Czas kamieni, worthy of a mention is Jan Władysław Rączka's album Krakowski Kazimierz (Krakow's Kazimierz, Kraków, 1982). The strategic significance of Czas kamieni within the publishing market of the time is highlighted by the fact that the book was released in three languages simultaneously (German, French, and English).
Krajewska's photo project opened new horizons of thinking about the past and about memory. Its premises were consciously followed up by the next generation of artists only after 2000. On the other hand, the numerous album publications of the 60s, 70s, and 80s devoted to concentration camps accentuated the universal dimension of martyrology rather than made an actual reference to the subject of Shoah, the extinction of the Jews.
Krajewska's book, being one of the first to tackle these themes, is highly nostalgic. Her photographs are accompanied by poems written by Jerzy Ficowski, Antoni Słonimski, Anna Kamieńska, and others. Krajewska's photo frames are nevertheless varied and far from an inventory routine, forming a collection that is free from the typological style. The whole project, comprising black and white photographs combined with simple typography set against black background, and raw printing that was typical of the time (the third grade offset paper print was completed in December 1982), is suggestive and dramatic. The uncoated – probably due to material shortage – cover and the poorly bound block have made the book fragile and susceptible to wear and tear, which also means that, despite a vast print run, it is currently difficult to find a copy of Czas kamieni in impeccable collector's condition.
photographs: Monika Krajewska
introduction: Anna Kamieńska
graphic design: Hubert Hilscher
publisher: Interpress, Warsaw
year of publication: 1982
volume: 202 pages
format: 27.5 x 27.5 cm
cover: cardboard hardcover
print run: 40 000
Original text: polishphotobook.tumbrl.com
, transl. Ania Micińska, August 2015