His photographic practice is strongly linked to the birth and development of photo blog culture, Dąbrowski being one of its pioneers in Poland. His accidentswillhappen.blogspot.com has inspired amateurs and professionals alike, including Michał Szlaga, Rafał Milach, and photographers from the Czułość circles. Dąbrowski's pictures are very representative of his generation – they document the experience of those born at the turn of the 1980s, mixing nostalgia for the vaguely remembered times of the Polish People's Republic with fascination with the early transformation of the 1990s and the urban life style of the new millennium.
Compulsive, snapshot-like frames entice with their intimate aura, at the same time constituting a successful attempt at universalising own experience and a catalogue of specific visual and cultural codes, with which his peers can easily identify. We find pictures of a TV screen, flash-lit snowflakes at night, female breasts, bicycles, morning coffee, views from the window of a running train, and basketball. Dąbrowski's photographs are straightforward, spontaneous, and sincere, but at the same time correspond to the tradition of snapshot photography, i.e. the street photography current, echoing the works of Nan Goldin or Daido Moriyama. Dąbrowski differs from these classics not just through his location, but also by abstinence from stimulants (he's straight-edge) and an unequivocally affirmative tone. The Polish photographer constructs his own positive myth of happiness, a private western, so to speak. He explores the world with hope for and joy at what each day might bring, and his experiences are filled with photogenic noises and grey areas, flashes, and imperfect yet beautiful pictures shot from the hip.
When performing the ground-breaking gesture of translating a blog narrative into a book publication, Dąbrowski definitely thoroughly investigated the culture of self-publishing, which at the time was already flourishing in the West. Even though Western and the two ensuing publications – Sweet Little Lies and 113, 604 Stray Dogs – were initiated by the publishers, not the artist, their simple, even raw form (cheap offset print), lack of cover and spine, small volume and format (proportional to a standard photo print), and limited edition (300 numbered and signed copies) all reference low-budget zine projects. This is a conscious choice. In the digital era, Dąbrowski holds on to analogue photography and lo-fi aesthetics, in opposition to technologically advanced commercial photography. He uses classic, compact cameras and 36-exposure film. This is a contemporary medicine for image overload and – it is tempting to add – the overproduction of photobooks.
Each of the three books is an autonomous project, but due to the similar visual atmosphere of the pictures, as well as lack of cover and clearly visible arrangement of stitches, they can be easily merged into a single sequence that presents a consistent vision and offers an insight into the author's private life – his girlfriend, friends and acquaintances, the city and random passers-by. Dąbrowski travels with his camera between his native Białystok, Warsaw, where he lives, and the rest of the world. In 113, 604 Stray Dogs, he recounts his stay in Bangkok. His camera helps him to adapt to his surroundings, memorize situations and places, and allows him to feel at home everywhere – photographs from Thailand blend with those from Poland, as they are equally charged with vitality and nostalgia. Dąbrowski made an interesting use of this capability in the second part of 113, 604 Stray Dogs. He created a little mystification, in which he enacted a fictional affair with an Asian girl in his own apartment in Warsaw.
The photographic material was perfectly edited, which is a result of Dąbrowski's professional background – he spent several years working as a photo editor and columnist, writing about the history of photography for the Przekrój weekly. In this context, it could be said that Dąbrowski's books are not just a kind of guide to his generation, but also a handbook on seeing and responding to reality.
Western, Sweet Little Lies, and 113,604 Stray Dogs are almost perfect incarnations of unpretentious, intimate photobooks that give the impression of an authentic experience and are not made to show off or feed one's ambition, but just like on social media, to share one's photographic moments with friends, acquaintances, and wider group of followers. This is how the series came about, and it soon became a legend on the Polish photobook scene. Western, the first of the three, not only turned out to be an announcement of the renewal of the auteur photobook in Poland, but has also nowadays gained the status of a notable rara avis.
photographs, texts, and graphic design: Kuba Dąbrowski
publisher: Foundation for Visual Arts, Kraków / Art Bazaar, Warsaw
year of publication: 2010 / 2012 / 2013
volume: 64 pages / 80 pages / 80 pages
format: 18 x 13 cm / 18 x 13 cm / 18 x 12 cm
cover: no cover
print run: 300 / 300 / 300
ISBN 978-83-928967-5-3 / 978-8363509-00-2 / 978-83-63509-01-9
Original text: polishphotobook.tumblr.com
, transl. Ania Micińska, October 2015