London-based photographer Ziemowit Maj has a new series of work in which he explores his city in times of crisis: Good Times. He puts time into making a statement as a way of understanding and developing his craft. He creates a tool for himself of the words, allowing the work to make the visual statements on their own. It is up to the viewer to use his or her own tools to interpret.
Nonetheless, Ziemowit was willing to share his thoughts …
“I always hated writing my artist statement, and even though I do it now, every time I feel my work has evolved in a new direction, writing about it is still not something I am looking forward to. Having said that, I see it is a useful tool, and I don’t mean it in a self promo way, but purely as tool to help me develop my art.
The way I approach it, is to create a new body of work first – that’s a personal thing of course, but it works for me. I work a lot, photographing daily, so some kind of threads or patterns emerge in an organic (more than planned and constructed) way. Very rarely I decide to pursue a specific project with a defined theme – unless it’s a project revolving around a specific place, a commission or a collaboration with other artists, not necessary photographers.
My photography is led by instinct; the subjects I choose, framing, points of view and all the other factors are not really rational choices – sometimes I feel those subjects choose me more then I choose them. I came to such a way of working through a prolonged practice in other visual arts (drawing, painting, illustration and graphic design) where the planning phase was long and precise. The freedom of exploration and reliance on pure instinct which photography allows was a revelation for me.
When all the pieces in the series work together as a bigger entity, only then the writing comes.
I will analyse the patterns or directions, without trying to ‘explain’ the work. I don’t believe written language can say a lot of truth about images – they are two completely different ways of communication, they have their own rules and means of getting proficient both as a maker and as a viewer / reader. That is why I will point to the underlying state of mind or a repeating theme, without locking the meaning of the work. I do believe the power of art lies in it being so open to interpretation, so free to connect with the viewer’s personal experience, sensitivity and willingness to explore the visual language.
At the moment I am committed to a rather strict realistic approach to the visual style of my images, but as my friend says, all the symbols I was always fascinated with are there. Because of this the whole work is possibly less obvious to read, which is fine with me.
I believe this nakedness, this rape of the real the camera allows me to do, is the true strength of photography – the bare fact, the here and now, transfigured into a perfect lie, so close to the truth and yet still such an obvious lie, just a bunch of pixels on your screen, is fascinating.
My artist statement is always a struggle to keep some sort of a balance, a game in which I want to see and understand more about myself and the reasons that made me work the way I did, but still keep the conclusions to myself and invite the viewer to explore the work by himself. It’s difficult, as my proficiency lies within the image, not the word, but getting outside this comfort zone for a moment is somehow refreshing. The things I say and write have been different a year ago, and most likely will be different in a year time, but the approach of organic observation, both of the world and myself, is a core of my practice, and has been for many years.
I hope the images from my last project, ‘Good times’ in which I wanted to touch on the atmosphere of crisis in London, that accompany this text, show you what I mean clearer than my words. That would be ideal.”