In his blog, the photographer publishes pictures he took in his childhood, thus touching on the role of archives in the process of recounting the past.
Everyone who has delved into the history of photography knows of the French photographer and painter Jacques Henri Lartigue. The child of a prosperous family, he is famous for taking his first photographs as a six-year-old child. Born in 1894, his early works documented the latter years of La Belle Époque, the historical period of détente that was interrupted by the outbreak of the First World War. His funny, dynamic and charming photographs are classics of world photography. He was discovered by John Szarkowski, who organised an exhibition of his works at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. A quotation from Lartigue serves as the motto for Jędrzej Sokołowski’s blog:
Jędrzej, son of the photographer and photography teacher Juliusz Sokołowski, was raised in a house filled with cameras. He started blogging in 2010, at the height of their popularity in Poland, when professionals and amateurs cared about the regularity of new posts. Bucking the trends, he decided to publish photos from his childhood. Since becoming a professional photographer, he had missed being an amateur or, rather, a child.
On the one hand, launching a blog of this type could be seen as a demonstrative refusal to participate in the technological race for relevance and, on the other, as a statement: the young eye filters images not through reason, but from the heart, and is thus truly free (candid, genuine). By referring back to his own history, Sokołowski exposes the role photographers play in the process of creating history and stories of the past. As a child, he took photographs unconsciously. For him – to borrow Lartigue’s metaphor – the camera was an eye of memory.
Even though taking those photographs may have been an unconscious choice, the decision to exhibit them was not. Sokołowski began showing his past creations from a current perspective by publishing a self-portrait, a portrait of his father, and photographs of Warsaw. The striking authenticity of photographs from the family archive gives one the impression of mingling with something untainted by modernity, a faithful trace of the past. Sokołowski’s private archive seems poles apart from the perfect reproductions of the world that are so readily available on the Internet.
Looking at works like these, which seem more convincing years later, we should remember that every time we dip into an archive of historic images, we create a new reality. The images we select, how we present them, and the comments that accompany them offer a vision of the past from a modern-day viewpoint.
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.