The Residents. Portraits

The Residents. Portraits is series of portraits of the artists-in-residence at the Ujazdowski Castle Centre for Contemporary Art a result of the cooperation between the invited artists and Polish photographers of the young generation. It is a long-term initiative by Marianna Dobkowska, the curator of the Ujazdowski residencies, and artist Witek Orski.

Approaching portrait photography as primarily a special kind of meeting between two people, we assume photographers will be able to strike up a relationship and collaborate with the portrayed artists. Our goal was to capture images of residents at this particular moment in their stay in Warsaw, hinging on a creative meeting of personalities on both sides of the lens. The work on these portraits may become a starting point for future collaborations, mutual inspiration, and expansion of their network of contacts within the global artistic community, say the project curators.

The Residents. Portraits was initiated by Marianna Dobkowska, curator of the Ujazdowski residences, and artist Witek Orski. The first invited photographer was Karolina Zajączkowska, who portrayed the autumn residents of Ujazdowski: Melissa Tun Tun, Lina Lapelytė, Graziela Kunsch, Nikita Kadan and the Kem collective. The photographs are complemented by short interviews with the artists conducted by Alek Hudzik.

Karolina Zajączkowska tells the story of working with the residents:

In joining the project, I really wanted the way the portraits were made to be different from an ordinary commercial commission, where the photographer acts like an intruder and quickly runs away. This time, the portrait was supposed to be the result of time spent together, the result of conversation and meeting, a confrontation of my artistic practice with their practices, and perhaps collaboration, to varying degrees. Each of the artists has a completely different sensitivity and collection of topics in which they deal; what they had in common was a short moment in which they lived and worked in the castle. Emphasizing the individuality of the artists, each portrait is a separate story. Photo sessions and meetings lasted for a month. 

Zajączkowska made the portrait of Lina Lapelytė in two hours, on the same day as they met each other. From the very beginning, I knew that we had to include a beach and sound, elements present in her work. We intended to use a beach on the Vistula River, but in the end, the photos were taken in a sandbox behind the Castle, with her children sprinkling her with sand.

Zajączkowska had an idea for the portrait of Graziela Kunsch from the first moment she met her. She was interested in the theme of "care" firmly rooted in social reality. However, a special thing happened after taking the photos. At first, it was difficult for her to accept her image and the posture I proposed to her for the portrait. When we met again after some time (she invited me to participate in her project), she thanked me; according to her, I saw and showed her something that she had been rejecting for years. Thanks to our meeting, she now wants to tackle theatre and emotions in art again.

The photographer spent two weeks with Nikita Kadan, who seemed very formal and inaccessible. Here, the breakthrough was in the actual moment of taking pictures. In addition to the portrait, the meeting resulted in two other projects, together with Russian artist Anastasia Potemkina.

Photographic portraits were made by Dawid Misiorny, Weronika Ławniczak, Witek Orski, Katarzyna Szugajew, Anna Orłowska. One may see them in The Residents magazine available online and in selected art bookstores.