10.02 - 09.04.2017


Michał Szlaga. Poland


Address:  IFF Gallery, Fort Mokotów, ul. Racławicka 99, building 6

Opening hours: Wednesday to Friday 2:00 PM – 6:00 PM, Saturday and Sunday 12:00 PM - 6:00 PM

Exhibition curator: Krzysztof Miękus

The Poland exhibition is a result of over 15 years of work by photographer Michał Szlaga. These are thousands of pictures which form a peculiar diary of the photographer’s journeys across Poland. Szlaga lives in Gdańsk, but he is constantly on the go – this is what his profession requires. He is an expert in organising such trips: he knows the menu on the trains by heart, he knows where and when roadside prostitutes can be found, and what position to take in a long-distance coach in order to get at least a nap after a sleepless night.

He always travels with his amateur, mini analogue Olympus mju II, a camera which – despite its simplicity, low price and limited durability – has already gained a status of an icon among photographers. It’s discreet, unobtrusive, very small and, above all, not at all “serious,” which makes approaching people closely remarkably easier. In his project Poland Szlaga is, undoubtedly, quite a nosy peeping Tom, who catches its subjects in the least expected moments. However, he is not interested in ridiculing people. Instead, he seeks to find some universal emotions in their gestures and faces.

The pictures for the Poland series were taken as if “by chance” – they are always quick shots spotted on the way, during unexpected and unintended meetings – spontaneous frames of reality. Despite its intentional randomness and fragmentation, the whole project is aesthetically coherent, as it is – leaving aside its documentary layer – a result of searching by the photographer of the beauty in banality: such as an ephemeral rainbow spotted over a washbasin in the local Polish train, a line of red lights on a jammed street seen from an overpass, or landscapes pictured at dawn. 

Michał Szlaga observes Poland from trains, cars or as a passer-by – he seldom takes on the role of a participant of events. And yet, he almost always manages to come close to whatever he finds interesting. This is a sweet’n’sour Poland: folksy and cheesy, but at the same time auto-ironic or immersed in contemplative meditation.


Michał Szlaga - born 1978, a graduate of the Academy of Fine Arts in Gdańsk, made his debut with a series of staged self-portraits with the common title What Made Me? (2002), in which he appears in such historical roles as a Nazi, a Jew, a Catholic priest, a member of the communist Citizen’s Militia, and a Red Army soldier. Following his graduation, he has systematically documented Polish reality using the convention of blog photography (Reality, 2007) and documentary typology (Prostitutes, 2010).

Since 2000, he has returned obsessively in his work to the subject of the Gdańsk shipyards, regarded as the place of the birth, rise and fall of the Solidarity (Solidarność) labour movement and an example of a once great, prospering shipbuilding industry, the remains of which should today be saved in photographs. For Szlaga, the shipyard is a constantly changing post-industrial architectural landscape; a landscape he documents using photography and video. Collaboration with the Wyspa Institute of Art located on the premises of the Gdańsk shipyard permitted the photographer to present his works in important contemporary art exhibitions (Dock Guardians, 2005; Again and Again 1989–2009, 2009). For the last few years the majority of the artist’s photographs appearing in galleries have been connected with the shipyard, including portraits of leaders of the Solidarity opposition movement (among others, Anna Walentynowicz, Tadeusz Mazowiecki).

Also worthy of attention are Szlaga’s works that were completed in collaboration with the visual artist Piotr Uklański, and the Global Prosperity project (2010–2011), which he put together with the journalist and traveller Max Cegielski. Global Prosperity documents an expedition to India, following the route taken by ships made in the Gdańsk shipyard and scrapped in the town of Alang on the Indian Ocean coast. Cegielski’s text and Szlaga’s photographs fall somewhere between art and socially engaged journalism, and offer a special kind of metaphor for the global capitalist order.

Szlaga’s photojournalism and individual photographs have been frequently awarded in Poland and abroad (among others International Photo Awards 2007). Michał Szlaga is also known as a photographer of celebrities, working with such Polish magazines as Malemen, Przekrój, Newsweek, Twój Styl and Viva!.

In 2013-14, Szlaga started working on several new projects, such as Aleja Solidarności (Solidarność Avenue) – about commemorating the Solidarity movement across Poland, and Odyseja (Odyssey) – a documentation of a sailing venture (carried out in collaboration with Tomasz Kopcewicz).

Poland exhibition has already been shown at 

Instytut Fotografii Fort 10.02-9.04.2017

Ujazdowski Castle Centre for Contemporary Art (group exhibition "Późna polskość") 31.03-06.08.2017

Krakow Photomonth 2017 4.06.2017

Fotocooltura Festival 9-11.06.2017

PF Gallery CK Zamek in Poznan 1.08-1.09.2017

MICET INTERACTIVE MUSEUM / National Stary Theatre in Cracow 16.09-30.09.2017

Tarasin Gallery in Kalisz


All photographs shown at the exhibition are available for sale. The full presentation, including dimensions, editions, techniques and prices, can be viewed and downloaded here

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