www.kurzelow.art.pl was (just as Kinomobil project) a collective action held in “interpersonal” space. This time the main goal was to collect unusual stories about people living in Kurzelow, to write an alternative history of this place, told by the citizens themselves – an unexpected voice from the heart of a small village. For me this project had a specific extra meaning, since the part of my family comes from Kurzelow. I have accomplished the second part of my photographic cycle: “time-space-image”*.
An important part of our project was also the artistic workshop for children belonging to local community. Finally, we created the Internet site of the village (www.kurzelow.art.pl), which is to be administrated by one of the its inhabitants and serve the whole community in the future.
* space-time-image” is a circumstantial constellation of the images-portraits of people living, at a given moment of time, on a specific territory. Important thing about the project is that each participant should get the portrait of his own.
Coming back with the photo-camera in hand
Our next target was the village Kurzelów, situated near Włoszczowa. Organizing our workshops in this particular place, we wanted to get closer to the history, climate and atmosphere of the village, which once was a city – to grasp both the ordinary and the unusual aspects of everyday life of its inhabitants. It is a well known fact that in such environment strangers often provoke interesting processes. The news are spreading faster, so that the stranger will be perceived immediately. But first of all: what stranger? For sure, as a group we were a “foreign body”, but when I think about myself, it doesn’t seem so simple. It was in Kurzelów, that I spend most of my summer holidays as a child. It is a place where my great-grandparents were living. All that makes me fill confused: a stranger and kind of native at the same time.
To choose Kurzelów as a place for our action, was not a simple decision for me. It is much easier to work in some “unfamiliar” interpersonal sphere, to operate in a place with which one has no bonds and, what’s event more important, where one doesn’t benefit from the inhabitants’ confidence. This coming back with a photo camera in hand was a big challenge for me. I was afraid that I would let down all those people (those that I met for the firs time and those who remembered me from the past). And of course there is always a question of the photo camera, of its physical presence in such situations: technical equipment of all kinds always inserts a sort of a distance, generates suspicion. Taking a portrait supposes a specific, intimate relation between the photographer and the “model”, it is a kind of a “confession” based on mutual trust.
When you confront your own intentions, even those very timid, with reality, something unexpected must happen. My experiences from summer 2007 concerning the similar action in Stawno (a village in the North-West of Poland) were completely different. In Stawno there are only 156 inhabitants whereas in the case of Kurzelów we have to do with a sort of “small city” (about 1100 people). Even in my brave dreams I wasn’t thinking about taking pictures of all of them, rather I intended to grasp a singular “spirit” of the place.
In Kurzelów you can find different kinds of relations and interactions between people. The population of the village is scattered on a relative big territory, which doesn’t facilitate traditional type of rural bonds. Unlike in Stawno it was not easy to encourage people to pose for a portrait, not to mention about inviting them to an isolated studio, where, as in a buffer zone, I could assure a kind of an intimacy. That is way I decided to apply a double strategy: to take pictures either in a previously prepared space (in Culture Center of Kurzelów) or outdoors (of people met by chance on the street, or in the marketplace, or in their privet gardens).
The latter strategy provoked me to take pictures of animals as well. Especially of those belonging to people that I used to know: a cat of the old village administrator (Mr. Pakosz), a lonely goose named “Katie”, which, after a tragic death of her partner, circles in an artificial pond, a dog – the most faithful friend of Mr. Ciszowski, or another dog – the oldest one in the whole village – which outlived all of its three owners, and finally a horse, one of the few left in Kurzelów.
My unclear status – “not really a stranger” – very often pulled me away from “taking as much photos as I can”. Having met somebody that I knew I started a conversations about the past or current events. This reminiscences and curiosity of the other peoples’ stories influenced made my stay in Kurzelów a singular experience. These two weeks, which were supposed to be a time of hard work on the project turned out to be my private lesson in history: history of the village as a whole, but also private histories of people I’ve met, histories that sometimes unexpectedly crossed with the one of my family. This helped me to fill some gaps in my own story – for which I am very grateful to all people involved…