The Neighbours of Blazej Marczak

I am curious about people stories and about conditions they are living in. I chose to work in a genre of portraiture photography as this form is giving me the possibility to meet variety of different characters and listen to their stories while observing them in their private domestic environment.

I believe that photography is a universal language, which helps to look at ourselves and reflects who we are. As my career progresses I see myself working on a long term collaborative projects with anthropologists and historians combining social sciences with photographic art for the benefits of the society. That’s my dream.

I would describe my work as a formal environmental portraiture with a large attention to details. I am impressed and influenced by the methodology and the scale of work from August Sander and Edward Sheriff Curtis. Thanks to these two great photographers we have an insight into the worlds that passed away.

I am aware of the fact that photography is a very subjective medium however I am trying to be as honest as possible in my approach.

My portraits are always a result of collaboration between the portrayed person and myself, however I am always keeping the distance between the photographed people. I am the one who is recording their appearance and the story but in most cases I act more like a guide rather than a director. I want my sitters to be as truthful to themselves as possible and to forget about the presence of the camera. To achieve this I am always asking them to imagine that they are seeing a mirror instead of the camera on the tripod. These mirrors are double sided and I hope that the viewer who will look at my portraits will be able to find himself on one of the pictures and translate the stories of my sitters to his own experiences.

By photographing people in their own environment I am also documenting current living standards. I believe that every detail on the picture is important and what seems normal and uninteresting for us now will have very different meaning in the future. Details can tell many stories to the people who will look at my work. This documentary aspect in my photography is very important to me and therefore, I am avoiding invasive retouching. I am carefully composing my images in the way that they contain as much information as possible without adding props or artifacts unconnected with the sitter (like unfortunately E.S.Curtis did in some instances). Items, which are surrounding us and the places we are living in, can tell as much about our past as our words. In my portraiture aesthetic and approach I am close to the ideas of The New Objectivity movement and The Düsseldorf School of Photography.

In my ongoing long-term project “The Neighbours” I am using a medium of photography to create a portrait of contemporary and multicultural Scottish society.

Blazej and Zuzana, by ©Blazej Marczak

Blazej and Zuzana – self portrait of the artist, by ©Blazej Marczak

In today’s well connected world anyone regardless the nationality, cultural or religious background can be our neighbour. Historical and modern factors had big influence on how our societies look today. I believe that it is important to have a record of the current processes and also to remember about the past events, which shaped our world. Considering current political climate, when benefits of the diverse society are being slowly disregarded I believe that it is important to remind ourselves about the importance of the cultural mosaic we are living in.

Reasons for migrations are different and vary from political ones, economical to those driven by a curiosity. My goal is to show this variety by meeting and photographing people, who moved from their countries of birth and settled down in Scotland. By photographing and interviewing my sitters in their private environment I am trying to show a part of their life and to encourage the viewers to draw their own conclusions.

To highlight that migration, and multicultural societies are not a new occurrence I am researching on communities and individuals, who came to Scotland many years ago. Polish soldiers who stayed here after the Second World War or Jewish families, which settled down in Scotland in nineteen century could be used as a good example. My research proves that these examples are just a part of a much wider and interesting multicultural story of this Northern European nation.

The last ten years brought many changes to the Scottish society, many people from new EU countries settled down here what resulted in Scotland being even more diverse and multicultural. These people and their stories are also integral part of my project.

At the moment my work is focused on investigating and documenting links between Scotland and the rest of the world. But my main ambition is to continue in this project in the different parts of United Kingdom and perhaps Europe to create a body of work, which would be considered not only as a photographic work of art but also as a useful sociological document for generations to come.

After all, we are all descendants of migrants or migrants ourselves and histories of all countries, even the most distant are bounded together by people who were, are and will be constantly on the move around the world.

New layers and new thoughts are added constantly as I am progressing but the core idea is staying the same and I am committed to carry on my work for a long period of time. I see “The Neighbours” manifesting in the form of a book and exhibition accompanied by the stories of people on the photographs.

visit Blazej Marczak‘s website
Dr Kazimierz Durkacz, by © Blazej Marczak

Dr Kazimierz Durkacz, by © Blazej Marczak

Magdaand Nicola, by ©Blazej Marczak

Magda and Nicola, by ©Blazej Marczak

Sikh, by ©Blazej Marczak

Sikh family, by ©Blazej Marczak

Tom, by ©Blazej Marczak

Tom, by ©Blazej Marczak

Uliana, by ©Blazej Marczak

Polish-Russian family, by ©Blazej Marczak