Memory is a funny thing: it is what is left out of an experience, and yet unreliable to be accurate. Polish artist Weronika Gęsicka has found a way to manipulate memories by fragmenting them from vintage images and assembling them into new ones.
Read our conversation with Weronika through this interview.
Hi Weronika, firstly we’re delighted to have you in Lomography. Your series “Traces” is some sort of visual narrative on how photography confirms one’s presence. May you share with us a more in-depth explanation as to how photography can be ‘traces’ of people and things?
Photography has been created for recording the reality: documenting events, confirming participation or registering someone’s presence. After a long time, many photographs become pictures that are hard to read, if they are not accompanied by some stories. They become “traces” that need to be decoded. That is the thing with photographs from photo banks which mostly show anonymous faces, signed with simple words: a woman, a man, a family, kids, etc. We have here a broad spectrum for own reflections on who the people from the photographs were and what we can really find out about them from those photos.
The photographs are actually images you’ve purchased from an image bank. How did you findd the vintage photographs, and what inspired you to create this series?
I often look through various archives: photo banks, library collections or crime pictures that are sometimes made available on the Internet. During one of such searches, I came across photographs which at the first glance looked as if they were taken out of a family photo album: memories from holidays, portraits of couples, family scenes. They mostly came from American archives from the 1950s and 1960s.
I found there both very natural and spontaneous photographs, as well as those that seemed more staged. It was not completely clear whether they portray real families or maybe actors that simply pretend to be families. Because of this uncertainty, I decided to put those photographs into one “family album” and create an unique catalogue of memories in which the truth mingles with fiction.
After purchasing them, these images are then modified. How did you compose them to become your ‘own’ works of art? What do you think is the common element you’ve brought out that is present in the series?
In each photograph I find an element that becomes an inspiration for creating a new history. Gestures, poses, elements of surroundings. Details which people sometimes ignore. I try to erase, as much as I can, the difference between an original image and my own modification creating a completely new history at the same time. Photographs seem to be separate, unrelated situations, but in truth it is one story about what a recording of someone’s presence is, both in photography and in memory.
What’s the most enjoyable experience you’ve had while working on “Traces”?
Searching all those archives is really very engaging. When I look through thousands of photographs, I find an explorer in me who is happy whenever find something amazing. There were many such discoveries. I also found interesting photographs which were not used in this project, but became an inspiration for other works.
How about the hardest/most challenging part?
Working with archival material is always a challenge, because we draw on the projects of others. You have to find a way to add some new value, to show them from a different perspective. I try to fulfill the planned concept and not losing the original message of an image at the same time.
Digital images are now more prolific and prominent. Do you think the printed image/the physical image is still as important as it was before? If yes/no, why so?
Contact with a physical picture is totally different than just looking at photographs on the Internet. Frequently an arrangement of photographs or the way of presenting them decide about the reception of work.
Surely the fact that we have a great ease of sending and spreading images contributes to the fact that many people do not feel the need to look at them “in real life”. Nowadays, we like doing several things simultaneously, we also look at photographs in the net in the “meantime”. However, there will always be people who will look for something more.
In your own opinion, does film photography still have a place or role to fulfill in the realm of photography?
I think in today’s photography there is room for many forms of expression. It doesn’t matter much how we took a photograph, if the technique is in line with the concept. Films give a different vividness than digital photography, Polaroids introduce a totally different atmosphere than pictures taken with a large-format camera, and mobile phones enable to take pictures at virtually every moment. Despite new methods of recording images are created, the present ones will still function. Probably it is the diversity and possibilities that make photography so popular.
Apart from Traces, which of your other works are you proud of and would like to share?
I hope it will be my next project I am working on right now. I would like to show it in time.
When not working with photography, what do you do?
Apart from photography, I also make objects and items that function independently or constitute the basis for my pictures. Lately, I have been learning new things that I will need with future works. They include among others casting, sewing, wood or metal machining. I always try to make the form reflect the concept as good as possible, in my case it constantly requires obtaining new abilities.
Lastly, what’s your next creative endeavor?
At present, I am working on finishing the project “Traces”, it takes most of my time. Apart from that, another project is created. It is also in a way connected with the topic of memory – I want to show that issue from a different perspective.