About the Artist:
Born in 1990, residing in Warsaw, Poland. Studied journalism at the University of Warsaw. Student of photography at the National FilmSchool in Lodz and the Institute of Creative Photography of the Silesian University in Opava. Graduate of mentoring program run by Sputnik Photos collective (2014). Scholarship holder of the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage (2016).
Folk tales and fairy tales are introductory texts in reality, learning to distinguish good from evil. They describe the principles of reality and give insight into human nature. It is also a way of learning about values, which is difficult to recognize in a direct way. Fairy tales also reveal our way of thinking about the structure of the story.
Russian literary scholar Vladimir Propp accurately recognized and announced fairytale elements. They form the series and the relationship between the hero, his loved ones, helper or antagonist, as well as, the surroundings or just revealing to the world. One of them is called the “unrecognized arrival”. This is the moment in which, after a long time of absence, the hero returns home and is not recognized and they work anonymously.
Borrowing the narrative structure of Propp, I went back to my family home and tried to replace the images stored in my memory using the photographic medium. I treat fairytales as a tool, allowing you to try out the world, to test them – after 23 functions all subsequent Systematic Propps carry a positive solution.
“marlene” is a story that simultaneously uses the functions of fairy tales and photography. Shades of gray overlap, tear or overexposure become not so much a formal procedure, but a way to understand and approximate intimate history that is full of connections and appeasements.
Below, Marlena answered a few more questions about her series and photography practice!
Why did you choose photography over other artistic mediums?
Photography caught me by accident. I made mistake selecting the specialization of studies in the recruitment process, and this mistake is with me to this day. I am studying at film school, but I am resistant to other media, which manipulates reality. Photography in my opinion allows for this possibility of delicate suggestion of the image without conveying the literal story. We can give our recipient an impulse, which allows for free and personalized interpretation. This is very important to me because I don’t want to impose my story on anyone. I just create subjective emotions and memories.
How did this series start for you creatively?
This cycle has allowed me to understand that it is possible to put any emotion that I have in negative material. A lecturer once asked in the classroom: Is it true that we can use the picture to say everything? I had a lot of doubts about this, but now I know that it depends only on our imagination.
What reflections have you come to after finishing this series? If you are still working on the series, what revelations have come up while creating the series?
It was a bit like homework where you feel great relief after it's over, but then it comes to you that it was just some part and that the pictures need to continue. Viewing, editing, showing, talking about them. Yes, I know, I could put them in a drawer, but I think the topic I tried to show is important, and I have to talk about it. And to talk about it, you have to reach people by photographs.
Currently I am still working on editing material and a book that I would like to publish. I try not to take new photos because it hampers the whole process. I'm focusing on the new cycle that I'm currently working, I know I can not do a few things at once, because it will be more chaotic than it is now.
Do you ever get in creative slumps? If you do, how do you get out of them? If not, what methods have you created not to get into a slump?
I think anyone who takes photos or other creative activities experiences such moments of doubt. For a year I did not take pictures. I did not want to look at what I did. I heard from others that my pictures were great and I totally have to do more and then panic begins. What if the new ones will not so good? Maybe, somehow, I can’t anymore? Always, as I take the camera in my hand, I have this impression that I am learning from scratch. It is amazing because it is childish joy, but there is also the fear that something may fail.
After some exhibitions and competitions I wanted to disappear because although the winnings and good words are happy, they generate the pressure I mentioned.
You will always get the praise and criticism, so I learn every day that I have to respect my pictures. Better and worse. Otherwise, how would someone else appreciate them? I cannot have conventions because I will become very unhappy. When that happens, I will cannot take pictures, which is the most important passion for me.
Are there any books, movies, magazines or podcasts that you would recommend people to check out?
If we are talking about books and magazines, I would recommend reading them all! No matter what, text always stimulates your imagination, and that's very important. When it comes to movies, I recommend the productions of Austrian director Ulrich Seidl. The topics are very moving and the film is beautiful for those interested in the content. It's fiction, but I read about how Seidl works, and that he employs naturists and many scenes are improvised. In a completely different style Wes Anderson films brings inspiration in terms of colors, cinematography, and compositions. The most important films for me are films made by Todd Solondz, who tries to talk about important subjects in a little bit funny and ironic way.
And the most important thing is to watch and read situations around you. Because every world is amazing and inspirational, even the one behind your window where you stood ten times watching your neighbor in lingerie.
Lastly, what artists are currently inspiring you?
The most inspiring for me are my friends. Without them I would not be in the place where I am. Their lives and views are a huge source of knowledge for me. I also love to watch the work of Joel Peter Witkin. His still lifes gave me a great impression on me. The beautiful stories of Larry Sultan remind me why it is worth taking photos, and the work of the Sputnik Photos collective show me the power of what the medium of photography can bring.