It was very exciting to find out I was one of 12 finalists for the Grand Prize at Lodz, Poland’s Fotofestiwal for my Rank Strangers portfolio. The organization kindly subsidized my travel making it much easier to get to the former manufacturing town, located 1 1/2 hours by train from Warsaw. The town itself had a faded glory about it, exhibits were housed in the crumbling mansions of former factory overseers, the factories themselves, and in one monumental power plant embellished with beautiful art nouveau detailing and handcrafted tiles, which were competing with small saplings growing from the floor for space and light.
Outside the Lodz Art Center
The festival got off to a big bang with the opening at the Lodz Art Center which housed the Grand Prix show and “Tickle-Attack,” an exhibition spearheaded by a Finnish fotofestival, Backlight, and which was touring in various facets throughout Europe. It was a mob scene, there appears to be a healthy interest in the arts throughout Poland.
A personal highlight was seeing Jan Von Holleben‘s work, Dreams of Flying, which was part of the Tickle Attack portion. His whimsical recreations involving his neighborhood urchins evoke a world of possibility.
How cool is a fotofestival that has its own branded pinball machine?
Not only did I NOT receive the Grand Prize, that honor went to Dutch photographer Christien Jaspar‘s poignant series, Do, – but MORE IMPORTANTLY I failed to place in the Kielbasa eating contest where fellow North American Chicagraphers Matt Siber and Jonathan Gitelson, both showing in Tickle Attack, handily aced me in both execution and style (see below). My plan is to train harder and come back stronger (using Destiny Child’s I’m a Survivor as my theme song) for a rematch in Milwaukee in July.
It was my biggest show to date, 20 pieces, and it was very cool to see them up on the wall and the throng surrounding them. It was also good training for me in preparing for my two upcoming solo shows over the next few months.
Like many American’s I didn’t know much about Poland before leaving. I knew the term “Warsaw Rising” but I associated it more with pithy travel articles about Eastern Europe. I’m sure the festival receives a lot of government support, (I hope), with the intention of the cross-cultural awareness it brings, I think for me, it was a huge success in that regard. I found the Polish people to be warm and open, really kind and helpful (you wouldn’t realize sometimes that they were using the Roman alphabet, I swear- the juxtapositions of vowels and consonants BLEW my mind), and I had the opportunity to shoot a brief travel assignment in Warsaw, which led me to the Warsaw Rising Museum, which is as far from a pithy travelogue as you can get. It really was a very well-done museum depicting the great effort by the Warsawonians (?) to keep their homeland when they were getting hammered by “friend” and foe alike. The amount of injustice this country has faced by it’s neighbors is increible, and their stories, depicted so brilliantly in this museum, bouyed my own spirits when I think how preoccupied I am with pecuniary matters (ie the abysmal state of editorial and it’s future) – when these people were literally sacrificing body and soul for their patria. Not since a very embarassing plane ride to Madrid spent watching Hotel Rwanda have I spent so much time bawling in front of strangers.
Our Super Helpful Train Conductor Writing Out our Train Ticket Receipts
Anyway the moral of the story kids is, if you have the opportunity don’t miss a visit to Poland.