"From Poland with Love" is written as a diary. I am in Lódz as Artist in Residence to add more images to my series "Accidental Enchantment" - at the moment still a work in progress. Around the end of this year this series will be published as a book. Everyday I will choose one image and explain a little bit of the background, and what made me shoot this particular photo.
Dessau - 15-8-2017.
On the way to Lodz a stop over in Dessau. Bauhaus a good start of this trip. The school building World Heritage - beautiful - all form, but what happened with function, the arts, the passion? With the original people gone, the spaces feel cold and empty. Little work on display, more a historical archive of papers and contracts - all very detached and intellectual. No friendly smiles from the people at work. But clearly for Dessau a big tourist attraction.
Lodz - 16-8-2017.
More than 500 km straight east, pouring rain, the landscape softly rolling aside the road. Small hills, some trees. Immens open spaces, badly kept soil - perfect battle grounds. In my mind I see the armies marching. Napoleon on his white horse. La grande armee a group of tin soldiers. The next...no! This is going to be a positive journey.
Ghetto - 17-8-2017.
Tymoteusz - fellow photographer - takes me for a swift tour around town. First stop a whole street of very big, empty houses - clearly once a very prosperous neighborhood. He has a key so we can look inside.. A completely derelict building with an endless number of rooms. No glass in the windows, floor boards missing, rubble everywhere. But still tender remnants of earlier occupation. This is a part of the old Ghetto. The germans let the people work in army factories inside the Ghetto. In the evening they went back to their 'homes', often more than one family in one room.
Neglect - 18-8-2017.
Around 1900 Lódz was a wealthy industrial town, mainly due to five large industrialist families. Their immense redbrick factories and luxurious palaces for their families characterized the town. For their workers they built grey blocks of houses, but also schools and hospitals, The palaces have been restored to their former splendor and are now often governmental buildings. Social housing however still pays the toll for 80 years of war, occupation and neglect.
Art - 19-8-2017.
Rain today, grey, no light for photography . Time for housekeeping, making my place inspiring. The lady at the corner had bunches of dill, beautiful delicate, soft yellow and green flowers. The smell in the room is now very uplifting. Time to see some art. The Herbst Palace that used to belong to a family of Lódz industrialist - the Herbsts - has interiors from the turn of the 19th and 20th century, some rooms very dark, very gloomy, but others in the much lighter Jugenstil style. Small silver artifacts, decorative wallpaper and elegant lamps. In the garden pavilion - in a romantic rose garden - Polish paintings from around 1850-1920. It is always interesting to go and see the paintings from local artist, work you never get to see otherwise. Very lively scenes from polish country life. Not much different from what I have seen in reality in Karelia in Northern Russia.
Contemplation - 20-8-2017.
Another gray day. The City Art Gallery of Lódz has four exhibition spaces. Driving is easy today as the city seems empty. Neither the art nor the spaces are very inspiring. In all I am the only visitor and the attendants eyes follow me by every step I take. The streets turn out to be a more interesting. I am totally overwhelmed by the amount of decay and graffiti everywhere around. Making pictures here is not easy. Although combining the two may result in a kind of art, the look of it is not very enchanting.
Venus - 21-8-2017.
Is it safe to go alone to an impressive derelict factory? Not without at least sturdy boots. So much rubble and broken glass everywhere. There is beauty in the place, that is undeniable. But all imaginable shots already taken, is there anything new for me. Searching for a different perspective, my eyes fall upon her and all doubts gone. She is my Venus!
Today I went back to the abandoned house in what was during the war the Lódz ghetto. Everything that could have any use or value has been ripped out. For squatters no chance of settling in. But one tiny practical object survived the thorough demolition. This so very familiar porcelain knob was still where it always had been. A knot on a nail helped placing the cord from the socket at the ceiling right over the middle of where once was a bed. In the draught the knob was moving slowly, like the pendulum of a clock.
How many people put their head down in this corner. What happened that last day they stepped out of that bed? The answers are only in our imagination.
Melancholy can be very ambivalent. It comes with comfort and hope for your sorrow and pain accompanied by joy and beauty.
I needed a break from the decay of the last days. A few days ago I found this fantastic restaurant and the owner let me take photo's in the early morning hours. The place is situated in one of the very few industrialists estates that came undamaged through the last hundred years. The upper floor of the house is still completely in its authentic state. For me it felt completely natural, as if I had been invited to the house around 1900.
Vanitas - 24-8-2017.
You can read this photo as a "Vanitas" image. Clearly the clock is ticking for this building. Maybe the stick a last call for action.
How scary, gloomy, dark and dirty a place may be, all that matters for the outcome of the image is the quality of light. This morning I felt very lucky. The whole factory looked brighter and perhaps even beautiful. A faint resemblance to a cathedral - founded in honor of times gone by.
Jugendstil - 25-8-2017
I am born and raised in a house from 1914 - a beautiful Jugenstil house with stained glass windows and colorful peacocks above the doors. But my parents modernized the house in the '50. In those days Jugendstil was considered ugly. Now again it is widely appreciated and I feel terribly ashamed that we took the peacocks out.
Going back in memory is not always fruitful, but here it felt straight like home. Climbing the stairs was The Hague revisited, going down in picture mood. Then out on the road again - real time.
Buddenbrooks - 26 -8-2017.
"The Buddenbrooks" was my first association when I entered these rooms of spectacular opulence. In Lódz the industrialists palaces had their offices on street level , the family accommodations where on the floors above. In the corner of every room the sumptuous tile stove for heating. Electric light was installed around ca. 1910. The office clercs lived nearby, even often in the same street, but in much smaller apartments.
Today you find richly decorated houses in almost good order with the neighboring house - front likewise decorated - in total decay. The number of doors on every landing equals the number of households in the building. A gate to the street keeps those not welcome out. In other places the yard is open, which adds to the degree of graffiti, decay, and dirt. Empty bottles everywhere.
Fantasy - 27-8-2017
As a child this was definite a "don't touch" area. Now just imagine the spin could tell . All those hands that caressed, pushed, clapped or beat it - in joy and happiness, in anger and fear. How many hands, what people....
A staircase for me is very intriguing. The doorstep the start of a mystery book. Wooden steps worn out by heavy work boots or soft cracked marble, broken by age. The landings - 'rag bags' for all not wantees, or tidy, well kept, even some plants. Fantasy-lands' borders are wide open.
Prude - 28-8-2017.
Why is it that when we look at a bed, we either get prude or it starts feeling sexy. This bedroom - clearly a lady's - gives nothing away of her status or age. Is it the bed of a girl with still all life coming, the room of the misstress, awaiting the call or the old lady going to bed with her dreams and memories - the good old days of way back then.
It is the warm tacitly of all materials that attracted me to make the picture. The promise of a good night sleep. A small nightcap before and an early tea in the morning, what could go wrong in a bed like this.
The sober elegance of this place would be the perfect setting for a monks cel or for a meditation centre. But in real life this is a place were families live! Now in summer the window can stay open and warm light comes flooding in. But imagine the long harsh winters, when it can be bitter cold and daytime is short and snow is black from all the smoke and dirt in the city.
I should neither be naïv nor a romantic. There is nothing nice about decay. And often photographing it makes me feel really doubtful and uncomfortable. But still..... the light is beautiful and it makes a great picture..
Memento - 30-8-2017.
Already two weeks in Lódz. I feel most of the work done. Tomorrow I will leave for Arkadia - an 18th century romantic park in English garden style, ruins and follies included. Back to nature! Not far from there is the Radziwill's Palace in Nieborów, again an Artist Residency, where I can stay for a few days. A very elegant surrounding - no greater contrast imagenable. Good to start afresh. So bye for now from Lódz. Arkadia, I can't wait to come!
Arkadia - 31-8-2017
These big leaves always inspire me. A porch and a path to a secret garden. Jugenstill in nature. To enjoy the sentimental romantic of Arkadia you have to follow the play of the Duchess Helena Radziwill. This is one big theatre, build and destroyed and rebuild over time by both family members and governmental institutions. But first and foremost it forms an ideal background for the pictures of the newlywed. At least 20 couples were there today with their photographers. All very young and beautiful. Making very romantic images for the most important day of their lives.
Camera Obscura - 1-9-2017.
Again 'camera obscura' has proven to be the key to get permission to live and work in this museum. It is great to be here in Nieborów Palace, but at the same time difficult to catch the mood of the place, so that it fits into my own story. The project itself is still a black box. I haven't seen most of the work and have no idea how it all fits together. Here in the big hall this mood of timeless melancholy. The chair of the warden holds me back in real time. Still one more day of both dreaming and fighting - the usual ambiguity in my way of work.
Shadow - 2-9-2017.
Shadow and light - hope and comfort for both your sorrow and your beauty and joy. I set out to express all these elements in my images - the ambivalence in my feelings. My melancholic longing for things unknown. It has been quit a journey. Unlike Bauhaus at the beginning, this story holds no straight lines.