Beata Szparagowska has a macabre but alluring sense about the majority of her work when looked at together. Changing from black and white to heavy shadows in color, Szparagowska keeps the eye busy in minimalistic spaces of her photographs. While keeping herself busy at her residency at L’L in Brussels, Szparagowska kept her camera aimed at theater residents for two years to help create Hide & Seek. The images collected together for Hide & Seek are great examples of the relationship shared between the subject and the photographer. Also shown from beginning to end is the performance given by the residents as the eye is carried from left to right in every photograph. The book is the photographer’s version of a miniseries with the story thought of by the viewer as the masked figures are giving the best still performance of their lives.
Greeting the viewer on the cover and on the first image in the book are people with masks over their heads, one mask technically being a pillowcase. As the pages are turned, the images are the same square shape and keep the eyes moving in a straight line across the photographs from left to right. Some photos are by themselves while two are seated next to each other. The two that are settled down side-to-side have an even horizon line that is pleasing to view compared to the enigmatic hooded figures scattered throughout. Straying too far from the main event doesn’t reveal as much as Szparagowska has kept everything within the concealed viewing line that she has created throughout the book. This technique that Szparagowska has implemented makes her directing for the story underneath in Hide & Seek more enticing.
Each image appears to have a miniature back-story. The first image of a figure wearing a pillowcase makes a reprise later on in the book, showing the person with the pillowcase bunched up over their head smoking a cigarette. A total of seven different masked people grace the pages with their short tales. The capture of someone mid-motion pushing against the wall and someone mid-motion pulling at another person’s face are more episodes in the saga. Each image offers another part of a tale that in the end comes together so seamlessly with the efforts of both the theater majors and the photographer working together to create the story being born. The final exertion of this piece is from the viewer putting in their own theories of what is happening with the characters in the plot of the story that has been started by Szparagowska and her peers.
Szparagowska’s work while in her residency creates the mysterious storyline that pulls the audience into the end and has them wanting more. Between the masked figures and the random objects positioned within the landscapes shown, there is a cryptic but interesting narrative occurring. It all is stories the audience is creating on their own; Szparagowska is giving them the power with the images to mold their version of what is happening in the book. Although what Szparagowska may see behind the masks is not served upfront right away, Hide & Seek is a book not to be hidden from sight.
If you are interested in purchasing Hide & Seek, you can purchase it on the Photo-Eye website.
Written by Madison Rich
Image Copyright: Madison Rich