In Łódź (Poland) it is a widely known story. A rich entrepreneur, Izrael Poznański (1833-1900), one of the icons of the best industrial days of the city, wanting to have enough workers for his factory, decided to build houses for them nearby – the famułas. At the time of the greatest prosperity, nearly 7000 people lived and worked there. Unfortunately, at the end of the Poznański’s empire, the slow agony of the famułas and their inhabitants started. Its very end occurred when it was decided to shut down the Poltex company in 1991. The housing for workers became a no man’s land and its inhabitants were left to fend for themselves. This miserable state would have gone on for ever if not the general renovation of the former housing of Poznański’s factories that started in 2014. The renovation was preceded by a long process of carrying out the residents to other apartments. And it is when Urszula Tarasiewicz appeared at the Ogrodowa Street. She started to document the empty buildings. As she admits: “I have always wanted to be a meter reader to have an opportunity to watch how the people live. It fascinated me since my childhood as the decoration of an interior tells a lot about its inhabitants. Whether they decorate their rooms with photos of their grandparents or they prefer to have calendars with naked women on the walls. But this time it was a bit more difficult as the flats were empty, so everything had to be imagined.”
Indeed. There are deserted rooms in Tarasiewicz’s pictures. Shabby walls from which someone ripped the wiring and on which the outlines of once hanging pictures and standing furniture are still visible. We have got used to such pictures. We see them every time after floods and hurricanes. But as far as in these cases they are the consequences of natural disasters, here everything is caused by man. That is why the photographs are more impressive, they even terrify with their ruthlessness and coldness. Yet they can’t stop us thinking about the people who are not in them. Who were the people who used to live there? Where are they and how are they at the moment? How they worked out their life after having left these flats where many of them had lived for generations?
Urszula Tarasiewicz guides us around the world, which no longer exists. She does it slowly as if she wants to give us enough time to come to the conclusion, that such is the way of things, that cities need permanent progress, otherwise they will meet a systematic and relentless fall and from which they can be saved only by a revolution. Nearby, on the other side of the street, such a revolution has been made – Poznański’s factory has become an elegant shopping mall and a hotel, the post-industrial space attracts people again, which for the famułas residents must seem to be out of this world. It must have been a real shock for them, further evidence of exclusion.
Tarasiewicz’s photos are simply shots. One can’t find there any traces of playing with composition or attempts to interesting frames. Actually they are not to do it. They are not supposed to entertain or comfort the viewers. We are to feel this sadness that must have accompanied the inhabitants of these interiors. We must experience the roughness of the place which we can see going away into the past but thanks to these pictures will remain in our memory.
Urszula Tarasiewicz (b. 1975) | based In Łódź (Poland) | graduate of the Łódź Film School | ennobles absurd and marginal things in her pictures, looks for beauty in kitsch, colour in greyness, and happiness in unhappy people | author of many times awarded and exhibited in many countries New Urban Legends series | her photographs have been shown in such group exhibitions as Critical Mass (USA, 2012), Call me on Sunday (Austria, 2014), Face to Face (Germany, 2014), among others | participant in prestigious portfolio review organised by The New York Times (2015).
Urszula Tarasiewicz – OGRODOWA/GARDEN STREET
@ andel Hotel Cracow (3 Pawia St., Cracow, Poland)
Opening reception: February 23 at 7.00 PM
The exhibition will be open to the public between February 24 and March 31, 2017
The Urszula Tarasiewicz exhibition is organised under doc! photo magazine patronage.