Tomasz Górnicki - the Sculptor

Colossus

“I called him – Colossus” told me Tomasz Górnicki after having set up his gigantic sculpture. He had been constructing pieces of it in his backyard for a year. It then took him a week to put it together on a building.

Check Tomasz Górnicki’s impressive portfolio »

Poland. 2018.

Book Design

The book is meant to be a visual experience of the sculpting process. The cover of the book is made of the same steel, as the statue. It is not only heavy, but it makes hands of the viewer dirty with rust.

On the front cover a pattern has been etched with water. The pattern depicts first lines that Tomasz Górnicki drew while designing the statue.


Vanishing Heritage

Vanishing Heritage

The architecture of castles and palaces of Kłodzko Valley

Kłodzko Valley, Poland. 2017

Lower Silesia, including Kotlina Kłodzka – the patrimony of the photographer – is an area with the largest number of castles, palaces and mansions in Europe. In the times of communism, these castles were taken away from the owners illegally. They were, however maintained by state agencies in very good condition. When in the 90s Communism gave way to capitalism, a difficult period for these extraordinary buildings came. These facilities were either sold to illegal investors or were abandoned – and fell into decay. Many stories can be created around these castles and palaces. These can be about the legitimate heirs who can not retrieve the ownership. About the homeless who live in abandoned palaces. Or about the everyday of the natives living in the shadow of decaying monuments.

The idea behind the cycle is to show the problem from a different side. From the side of the castles themselves. Sophisticated details of decoration and decaying beautiful interiors – they are directly witnessing countless human stories and the victims of human action – or omission. Pictures come from a dozen or so castles and palaces lying in the Kłodzko Valley. Part of they are losing their desolation. Some, it would seem, had more luck – they found new owners. Unfortunately, many buyers do not care about saving monuments, but on profiting from the sale of valuable inventory.

Bachelor’s Project

Institute of Creative Photography

Exhibitions
  • Galerie KUPE Opava Architektura ve fotografii polských autorů, 2019


Tomek Gola - Milk Bars

Milk Bars

Poland. 2014-2015.

The atmosphere of those few remaining Milk Bars (Bar Mleczny in polish), that still preserve specific melancholy from communist era.

Read more about Milk Bars on wikipedia.


Fallen Ground

Fallen Ground

Fallen Ground

A photography project bringing graffiti art, parkour, street workout and motion picture together (click photo above for full view).

Note, April 2020. This photo seems to earn a new meaning in the times of the present pandemic…

In collaboration with Red Bull Photography and Pentax. The project was featured on the homepage of global Red Bull site for a week.

Incredible BTS movie shot by Deli Films. (I wasn’t a very good actor, it was my first appearance and I exaggerated by far. But I still think it’s an amazing movie worth checking out to see the tremendous work everybody did for this photo to emerge).

It would not be possible to create that piece without great commitment of the following athletes:

and the Graffiti Artists:

Before shooting the final photograph, we had numerous photoshoots to get to know our abilities. Below is a small selection of these photos.


The origins of coffee. Antioquia, Colombia.

The origins of coffee

Antioquia, Colombia. 2015.

“Coffee – to some it causes insomnia, to others – helps make dreams come true” says an old colombian proverb.

For more than half a million Colombians, coffee is the means of survival. For the whole nation – their national identity. The whole world knows, that the colombian coffee is one of the best. Few realize why. Although the origins of coffee are in Ethiopia, colombian climate prove to be the best for its most delicate kind – arabica.

Coffee is cultivated on the altitude of 1200-2000m, where high moisture, frequent rains, constant temperature (15-25 C) and a lot of sunshite create perfect conditions. Furthermore, volcanic soil and shade add up to the specific acidity. Favorable conditions come with price though – steep andean slopes make it impossible to automate the cultivation, as it is in Brazil for example. The whole process of cultivation has to be carried out manually. On one hand this guarantees highest quality possible – on the other – causes murderous work. And the wages are low.

95% of colombian plantations are little family farms, owing no more than few thousand coffee trees. Most of the cultivators do not drink their coffee – they do not know, how to roast it. They sell all their produce and buy instant coffee, which is made of the worst sort of coffee beans – from waste. Slowly, thanks to educational programmes, the scene is changing – which still improves the quality of colombian coffee. For an average Colombian it does not matter though. Best coffee beans are exported from Colombia. Internally only the worst sort of beans are sold.

But this is slowly changing as well.

Grand Prix

The trip to Antioquia was an award for winning the Grand Prize at the Oregon Coffee Board Photo Contest 2015, sponsored by the Gobierno de Antioquia.

Below is the winning photo.


Fantasy Fest, Key West, USA

Fantasy Fest

Key West, Florida, USA. 2014

In late October each year, Key West in Florida is changing its face from a little tourist hotspot to a hot nude arena.


Prison Art

Prison Art

Poland. 2011-2014.

How do people deprived of freedom cope with the overwhelming monotony of prison life? Many turn to handicraft. Some of them make real art. Time is the one element prisoners have in abundance. Materials and tools are another matter however. Even though artistic development classes can be a key means of prisoner re-socialization, penitentiary officials spend hardly any budget on it. So prisoners have to organize everything for themselves. Only the most dedicated persevere.

Most inmates have had nothing to do with handicraft in their civilian lives. They pick it up behind bars out of boredom. Some discover real talents.

But there are also graduates of fine-art universities, professional designers, musicians and writers.

“I had published marine photos all around the world in prestigious magazines. Now I create fish sculptures from medical tongue dispensers” – Krystian.

Drawing and painting are the most popular forms of prison art. Intricately decorated wooden boxes are also one of the oldest forms of artistic expression.

“I draw portraits from photos of girlfriends and wives and exchange them for coffee and tobacco. Other prisoners do this to obtain phone-cards so they can call their loved ones on the outside. But I have no one to call ” – Łukasz.

“I donate all my paintings to charity. In honor of my daughter. She had heart problems and died when she was 4” – Jerzy.

For some prisoners doing handicraft is a way of killing time. For others – it fulfills an inner need to express themselves. For most of them – it’s a form of currency.

Most prison work is distributed among prisoners in exchange for other goods. Some is also bought by prison staff. Little known by society – art created in prison often ends up in charities. Perhaps in some way this helps make up for the prisoners’ bad deeds of the past. Surprisingly most prisoners engaged in art express the problem of a lack of time. Some spend entire days working on pieces. All of them agree that focusing on art allows them to get away from the brutal reality of prison.

“14 years is actually not a long time. You get so used to the rhythm of the prison day it’s actually hard to find time to write a letter to the family” – Daniel.

“I started painting 6 months ago. I have 12 more years to go. I suspect that when I’m finally released I’ll have quite a portfolio to show off” – Jerzy.

“But the younger ones – they don’t want to learn anymore. They’re just interested in drugs and computer games. They’re completely unprepared to go back into societal life” – Marek.

Some long-term prisoners and therapists I talked to agree that 20-30 years ago the scene looked different. In every cell at least one person was doing art. Now there are hardly 5 or 6 people in the entire prison.

“I’ve been working in prisons for 19 years and can see very clearly, that prison art is becoming a thing of the past” – sums up Jan, a prison therapist.

I spent 3 years, visited 37 polish prisons, spoke and photographed 107 inmates to gather the material seen in Prison Art.

Support
  • Scholarchip from the Minister of Culture and National Heritage
  • Patronage of the General Director of Penitentiary Services

The Aftermath

The idea after having finished the project was to organize exhibitions within the prisons. This was meant to give the people from the outside possibility to enter penitentiaries and see the exhibition in places, where the photos were created. And allow prisoners to see, that there is a way to creatively occupy time while serving their sentence.

Below you can see few photos from such exhibitions.

Premiere of Prison Art at the Rakowiecka Penitentiary – 2014.04.10
Click image to see more photos


M41. Murghab, Gorno-Badakhshan

M41 - Portrait of the Heart of Asia

Portrait of the Heart of Asia

Central Asia. 2012.

Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan – the Heart of Asia.

Several ethnic groups mercilessly mixed up living in each other’s countries. The Tajiks, related to Persians, live in Afghanistan and Uzbekistan. Kyrgyz people, divided by a border from their northern brothers, the Kazachs, make up the majority in eastern Tajikistan. Uzbeks living in southern Kyrgyzstan leave no peace to their hosts.

This is one of Stalin’s legacies. The way he designed the region ensured that it would regularly be shaken by inter-ethnic violence. When he drew lines on a map to form new Soviet republics in the 1920s he created minorities that were bound to make them unstable. With the collapse of communism the notional internal borders of the USSR became real international borders, which exacerbated the difficulties of minorities caught on the wrong side of the lines.

The history of the region itself is a never ending plot of wars, conquests and falls of emperors. From Alexander the Great through the audacious Genghis Khan, Tamerlan, and Babur, to the British and Russian invasions. And most recently the presence of international security forces. All connected by one – the M41.

It begins on a crossroad in the middle of the desert, near Mazar-i Sharif in Afghanistan and ends close to Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan. Along the way it cuts through Uzbekistan and loses itself for a long while on the sub-celestial highlands of Pamir in Gorno-Badakhshan, an autonomous republic in Tajikistan.

Publications
  • doc! photo magazine #9, 2013

Exhibitions
  • 2014 – PUOT gallery, Polanica-Zdrój, Poland
  • 2012 – Magazyn Kultura gallery, Cracow, Poland
  • 2012 – Agora HQ, Warsaw, Poland

Presentations
  • 2012 – Piwnica pod Baranami, Kraków, Poland
  • 2012 – Włóczykij Travelers’ Festival, Gryfin, Poland

Route Plan

Tajikistan


Extreme rafting on Zambezi

Extreme rafting on Zambezi

Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. 2011.

One of the four most dangerous whitewater rafting sites in the World open for tourists.

At the time of my experience, the Zambezi River was especially hardcore due to the dry season. There was not much water, so the river surface was closer to the rough and rocky bottom. This made the numerous cascades more wild and dangerous.

I was a tour-leader of an incentive expedition. Rafting on Zambezi was one of the highlights of the trip. When we were descending into the deep gorge of Zambezi River, just next to Victoria Falls, some men were playing it tough and arogant. But during the really extreme course they were the first ones willing to climb up the steep walls of the gorge just not to continue on rafting on the insanely wild Zambezi River. Women were the ones having a blast and fearing the least the extremely wild course.

Miraculously I didn’t loose my camera, although several times I was sure it was already gone.

Publication

The story was published in National Geographic Traveler Poland (1/2013).

You can download PDF here.


Hipsta SW USA

SW USA

USA. 2011.

In my seven years long career as tour-leader one of the routes I’d been doing most often was an exhausting trip around South-West US. I was the tour-leader, driver, guide, soulmate, drink mate etc.

On one of the trips I picked up additional challenge. In 2011 iPhones eventually started taking photos of decent quality. I decided I would not take my big camera (which I hardly had the chance to use on these trips anyway), but the smartphone. I liked photos processed in hipstamatic app, so this was my set for the trip.

This is the daily life of a tour-leader in one of the most scenic parts of the World. Hipstastyle.

The route

Starts in Kłodzko, Poland. On to LA, San Diego, Tijuana, Flagstaf, Sedona, Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, Page, Zion Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Las Vegas, Sierra Nevada, Yosemite, San Francisco, Monterrey, LA… and back from Warsaw to Kłodzko with a train, that broke down.