by Krzysztof Sienkiewicz

Mirek Kaźmierczak from the series 'A Return'

Why photography? How has it all started in your case? 

Mirek Kaźmierczak (MK): To some extent it happened by an accident. I started photographing when I was 19 at the beginning of my studies. Before that I didn’t care about photography at all. In fact, I chose to study photography on an impulse. I simply thought it might be interesting. Yet as time passed I found myself digging deeper and deeper into the subject.

Which course of study did you complete? Have you received any other education in this field in any sense or perhaps you perceive yourself more as an autodidact? 

MK: I completed journalistic studies at the University of Warsaw with a specialty in photojournalism. At the university I learnt the technical basics, but I also attended some interesting courses on history of photography and on the aesthetics of an image. These studies gave me a solid basis that helped me in my own search for how and what I’d like to photograph. What is more, I participated in reportage workshops and Migawki workshops and festival, which stimulated my thinking about photography*. 

Mirek Kaźmierczak from the series 'A Return' 

What kind of a photographer are you? How do you feel?

MK: I cannot clearly specify that at the moment and in fact I do not feel that I need to. However, I do notice some evolution in my attitude towards photography. I was very much interested in classic reportage and press photography earlier, but now I perceive different approaches as more appealing. Yet I’m still working in the broad field of documentary photography.

In formal terms the project, which you were developing during Migawki workshops, entitled ‘A Return’, may be considered as a documentary project. Tell us something more about this series.

MK: ‘A Return’ is a project about which I started thinking several years ago, when I came across Konrad Pustoła’s cycle ‘Sanna’. ‘Sanna’ is a series of photographs that tells a story of Mr. Krzysztof Bross, who lives at the Soliński Reservoir (Zalew Soliński) in Bieszczady Mountains in southern Poland. I got fascinated with this world and decided to create a broad story about people, who chose, out of different reasons, to live in Bieszczady in 70s and 80s. I heard stories about these people. Over the years a sort of a mythology of Bieszczady, an inaccessible, wild and tough to live in region, was formed. I wanted to confront these visions with reality. I wished to see how true they are. I wanted to find out who these people are and why did they decide to live there. Yet ‘A Return’ is also about me. I come from Sanok, but for the last several years I have been living in Warsaw. My desire was to come back to places, from which I remember just the landscapes. I wanted to get away, even if for a little while.

Mirek Kaźmierczak from the series 'A Return' 

Therefore this is a story about escaping the city too, both for you and the people you photographed. What can one find in the mountains that is not present in a big city?

MK: I could feel that unless I satisfy the expectations of my interlocutor I will not take any photos. One other time I met a guy who carves drums. He was very reluctant to tell about his past. These stories are very diverse. I think that for each of the people I met, Bieszczady represent something different. One of them said that this is “a land of eternal Sunday”. Obviously this is his individual attitude, as one may find a lot of coal burners and lumberjacks there, who work hard in the woods, but this is also how I feel in Bieszczady Mountains. In a city such a feeling is almost beyond reach.

Mirek Kaźmierczak from the series 'A Return'  

In ‘A Return’ you combine strong, suggestive portraits with landscapes. In the visual layer this story reminds me of Bryan Schutmaat’s project entitled ‘Grays the Mountain Sends’. Is this project a sort of a reference point to you?

MK: Without doubt this kind of storytelling is close to me. I know this project and I really appreciate it.

Is ‘A Return’ a finished project? 

MK: No, this series is still in progress. I do not want to assume any particular date of its completion or set an exact number of people I would like to photograph. I’m still looking for new characters and I wish to revisit some of the already portrayed.

Mirek Kaźmierczak from the series 'A Return'  

You are a part of the PUAP Collective. What kind of a collective is this and who is a part of it? Do you think that such collectives may be the future of documentary photography?

MK: PUAP is an initiative of several people. Apart from me they are: Olga Świątecka, Maciek Simm and Paulina Małyska. We wanted to create a space that works as a safe platform to exchange ideas, opinions and inspirations about our individual projects. However, our goal was also to form a kind of an institution, which will develop with time into a body that collectively creates publications, exhibitions and workshops. A body that promotes photography as a medium and the one we make. PUAP has a legal form of a foundation, which enables us to apply for funding to complete our projects. I don’t think that collectives are the future of documentary photography. For me the most important thing is to be able to confront my works with others, to be able to talk about my ideas with people that are capable of being honest with me.

What or who inspires you?

MK: It might sound weird, but in the case of ‘A Return’ project it is the smell that has a big influence on me. My friends, family and most of all the surrounding in which I’m functioning on a daily basis inspire me. I often go through this huge book entitled ‘Heroes’ and published by Getty Images. This is a true treasury trove of incredible projects. What is more, I’m trying to stay in touch with the Polish photography scene.

Mirek Kaźmierczak from the series 'A Return'  

And what do you think about the Polish photography scene?

MK: I have noticed a more distinctive division for photojournalism and the so-called new documentary photography for sure. In my opinion, a lot of artists have developed their practice and is now following the modern trends. What is more, I observe a growing number of initiatives dedicated to promoting new Polish photography and young artists.

Do you have any plans for the near future regarding photography?

MK: I want to continue shooting in Bieszczady Mountains. My goal and a dream as well is to publish this project as a book one day. I do have some ideas for new things too. We, as the PUAP collective, would like to complete a photographic project together this year for sure.

Mirek Kaźmierczak from the series 'A Return'  

* Migawki is a project organized by the Association of Creative Initiatives “ę”, in which tutors work with young photographers using the “from an idea to the realization” method. In the Association, we value the Do It Yourself concept that involves taking by the artists the responsibility not only for the visual content, but also for designing and producing their exhibitions and publications. Authors have been developing their ideas for many months under the supervision of tutors from the Association “ę” and masters: curators and visual artists. They took part in several art-coaching sessions and in dozens of workshops. In effect, artistically mature projects of an often-universal meaning were created.


Mirek Kaźmierczak