Intuitive, observant and meandering, the practice of Polish photographer Paweł Jaśkiewicz focuses on space, objects and architecture, uncovering what is hidden from ordinary view. Finding new ways of seeing has always been an important part of an artist’s toolkit, and often there comes a time when you start seeing everything through the perspective of your medium. In his project The Simplified Topography of Malta, Paweł captures the points where human architecture and nature meets as he walks along one of the smallest countries in the world, not even half the size of fellow mini republic Singapore.
“My relationship with photography is very strong. I can’t imagine functioning without it now. I’m cropping the world all the time, thinking about photography,” Paweł tells It’s Nice That. “In nearly every project I’ve been using my favourite Mamiya 7 camera – both format and type is to my liking. The only disadvantage is the rising price of negatives, but as long as I can afford to, I will work this way.”
Paweł’s practice, supported by his experiences in University of Arts in Poznań, Central Saint Martins and Magnum workshops in Tokyo with Antoine D’agata and Jacob Aue Sobol, is one of reiteration, coming back over and over again to previous photographs to find details that he’s missed. “I want to bring out the scene or an object, bring it out from chaos, which often happens nearby in the background,” Paweł says. “I like giving new meanings, comparing places and items I meet on the road. It is a continuous observation of reality that I’m experiencing.”
This sort of approach can be seen in The Simplified Topography of Malta, which started as a spontaneous idea. Paweł didn’t come into the project with an specific idea of what he wanted to document – this was something to be developed according to his observations, almost like a reverse-research project. This intuitive approach, far from snapshot due to his recursive process, also means that the project doesn’t fall squarely under the usual taxonomies of photography; not exactly portraiture, not exactly traditional documentary. If anything, it is architectural, but in the way that architecture can reveal much about social structures and people’s relationship to topography.
“I spent lots of time walking and walking, looking for its own meaning. Staying close to the suburbs, trying to get away from the obvious,” Paweł says. “Malta is a very touristic place, but I think that I have managed to show the island stretched away from it. I was surprised by how contrasting the city is.” Walking along the shore in one of the biggest districts on the island, Paweł encountered a number of abandoned pools and closed resorts. “I also had the impression that Malta is always under construction, there are many places where people are building, renovating and transforming,” he says.
In capturing the island in this way, Paweł’s intention was to avoid imposing predisposed meanings or a “thesis” that the photographer might latch on to, tinting their experience through that particular predetermined lens. The result is a series of photographs of empty urban landscapes, but the points of interests lie in the details. Rock formations preserved between a skyscraper and a parking lot, the gradual rusting of pathway beams and hints of life where architecture meets nature.
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