"Blazej and Zuzana" - Slovakia, 2012
“Blazej and Zuzana” – Slovakia, 2012 – Self portrait

Tell us about yourself.

Since my teenage years my biggest passion was photography, combined with general interests in art, literature and history. I enrolled to study philosophy at University of Lodz in Poland however I quickly found out that it wasn’t this that I was looking for. In 2005 I came to London and after moving from place to place in and around the Big Smoke and having various – less or more interesting jobs I decided to move to Edinburgh. Not long after that I enrolled at Stevenson College to study Professional Photography, which I finished in 2012 with a degree in Bachelor of Arts. In September 2012 I moved to Aberdeen where I am continuing work on my portraiture and landscapes projects.

In “The Neighbours” project, I am trying to create a portrait of contemporary and multicultural Scottish society and investigating its links with the rest of the world. To highlight that migration, and multicultural societies are not a new occurrence, I am researching on communities and individuals who came to Scotland many years ago. But of course the main part of this project is about more recent changes. In the last ten years many people from new EU countries like myself settled down here which resulted in Scotland being even more diverse and multicultural. The main idea is included in the title – In today’s well connected world anyone regardless of nationality, cultural or religious background can be our neighbour.

"Sikh family" – Edinburgh, 2012 – The Neighbours
“Sikh family” – Edinburgh, 2012 – The Neighbours

Where do you work?

For now, most of my work is done in Aberdeen and Edinburgh but the further stage of my project would require me to travel to different areas of Scotland.

When I am making portraits, I am always working in my sitters’ homes or places, which are related to their stories. I like that every person’s home has its own unique mood and story. I prefer to be out there that’s why I am very rarely working in the studio, but of course I have some ideas for studio-based projects as well. When it comes to landscapes, I am trying to combine my interest in places and scenes, which are aesthetically attractive to me with my interest in the history of the city, its inhabitants and their everyday activities.

"Jozefina" – Slovakia, 2013 – "Domov" – project recently shortlisted in The Jill Todd Photographic Award
“Jozefina” – Slovakia, 2013 – “Domov” – project recently shortlisted in The Jill Todd Photographic Award

Tell us about your process:

I choose to work in a genre of portraiture photography as this form gives me the possibility to meet a variety of different characters and listen to their stories, whilst observing them in their private domestic environment. I would describe my work as a formal environmental portraiture. My portraits are always a result of collaboration between the portrayed person and myself, however I always keep at a distance. I am the one who is recording their appearance and the story but in most cases I act more like a guide rather than a director. I am aware of the fact that photography – as any other medium – is very subjective but I want my sitters to be as truthful to themselves as possible. I want them to forget about the presence of the camera for a while. To achieve this I am always asking them to imagine that they are seeing a mirror instead of the camera. These mirrors are double-sided and I hope that the viewer looking at my portraits will be able to find himself in one of the pictures and translate the stories of my sitters to his own experiences. I think that these portraits also reflect who am I.

My landscapes are about juxtaposition, local history and mood of a particular place. My own perception of the place is also playing a very important role in the whole process of creating the photograph. I am often attracted by landscapes where mainly everything is designed by man or it is a result of mans’ activities as this can say a lot about the time and the conditions in which we were/are living.

"Polish- Russian family" – Aberdeen, 2013 – The Neighbours
“Polish- Russian family” – Aberdeen, 2013 – The Neighbours

What’s your typical day like?

This changes from time to time. When I am preparing for new projects, I tend to spend some time on looking for possible sitters, locations, funding sources and also on promoting ongoing projects that I am doing right now. But the research process is constant, as you never know what you may come across. When projects are in the implementation stage, I visit people or locations and take their portraits. I also work part-time in the evening so my photographic activities are from early morning until late afternoon. Very often I spend nights on the post production of the photographs from the past weeks. I try not to look at the new pictures immediately as I like to develop a sort of fresh view which allows me to look at them more objectively.

"Dr Kazimierz Durkacz" – Edinburgh, 2012 – The Neighbours
“Dr Kazimierz Durkacz” – Edinburgh, 2012 – The Neighbours

Where do you find inspiration?

This is a tricky question. If I knew where I could always find inspiration, I would not “waste” my time on looking everywhere I think I might find it!

It could be everything! From a short note in a local paper, word in the dictionary, book, story someone told me or most often by just walking around the city and being a bit nosey and curious about people and places.

What are your future plans?

At the moment I am taking part in “The Quality of everyday life” exhibition, which is on display in the Summerhall gallery until 22 November. I am showing some of my portraits from “The Neighbours” project there. Apart from continuing my work on this project, I am also working on a landscape series called “Gray City” and I am in the research stage for another portraiture project called “The Picts.” As my career progresses, I see myself working on collaborative projects with anthropologists and historians, combining social sciences with photographic art for the benefits of society. That’s my dream.

I would like to use this opportunity to encourage everyone who has foreign ancestors or those for whom Scotland is a new home to contact me, as I would love to hear your story and take a portrait of you or your family. I am looking forward to meeting you!

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“The Neighbours” project was partly funded by a grant from Arts Trust Scotland.