Having graduated from university with a degree in politics, specialising in journalism, Michal Solarski moved from Poland (his home country) to London, where he’s been based for the past 15 years. A photographer whose work takes cues from his journalistic introduction to the medium, today, he works somewhere in the grey area between fine art and documentary photography, recalling memories and experiences from his youth.
Michal’s discovery of his in-between genre occurred when he moved to London: “I could not dream of working as a journalist,” he recalls, “my English was quite limited at that time.” Photojournalism then emerged as a good compromise but that too didn’t quite fit the bill. “I think it failed because I was never really driven enough to be a journalist in the first place… I want to create something more personal.”
Personal, is now exactly what Michal’s portfolio is, with most of his series harking back to his youth and the places he grew up. In a work titled Hungarian Sea, he returned to the place him and his family used to spend summers together. Every year, they would make the 300-mile drive south to the Hungarian Lake Balaton, the largest in Central Europe. “For us, coming from sad, cold, and almost monochromatically grey Poland, it was like a window to the world,” he recalls, a notion now replicated in his sunny, warm imagery taken all these years later.
Michal initiated the project upon the discovery of a snapshot of him and his sister, one of the only photos to chronicle those holidays. “That triggered my interest in going there again to create what my parents failed to do. I tried to see the world through the eyes of a little boy who used to holiday there with his parents and sister over twenty years ago,” he explains. Travelling there with no structure in mind, he instead, aimed to capture the atmosphere: “The places, colours, and the kind of people I remembered from years ago. I tried to imagine being a little boy and capture what I saw around me on film. I spent days wandering around from dawn till dusk looking at people, and if there was something about the way they looked, or the situation they were in, which triggered my emotions, I would press the shutter.”
Perhaps the most concrete example of Michal’s introspective photographic approach, however, is Cut It Short, made in collaboration with another Polish photographer Tomasz Liboska. The two spent their teenage years together, and so for the series, they revisited their the small town of Cieszyn in southern Poland. They worked with two models who impersonated them in photos to recreate specific memories and experiences in a work of autobiographical fiction.
Through photography, Michal tells us, he becomes a different person. “I think [it] forces me to step out of my comfort zone. I’m a very reserved person and working on my art projects somehow pushes me to interact with people more.” In turn, it becomes a cathartic and exploratory process, allowing him to recreate times of old, reminisce and live in those moments once again.
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