Photographer Zuza Krajewska's fragile portraits of Polish young offenders

Date
20 February 2017
Reading Time
2 minute read

Zuza Krajewska first took a photo on her 15th birthday when her father bought her a Zenith camera. In the years since, the Warsaw-based photographer has had her images published in magazines including PHOTO, Szum, Elle, Harper Bazaar, Marie Claire, Glamour, Mens Health, InStyle, Playboy, made commercial images for fashion clients and showed in individual and group exhibitions for Centre for Contemporary Art in Warsaw – CSW Zamek Ujazdowski, the National Museum in Warsaw, BWA Gallery in Sopot, BWA Gallery in Warsaw, BWA Gallery in Wroclaw and Raster Gallery in Warsaw.

Zuza’s Imago is an intimate look at life behind the walls of a borstal in Studzieniec, Poland. “Firstly, I was afraid the authorities and the supervisor would be against the project but it turned out they were helpful and treated my visits as a part of the therapy,” the photographer tells It’s Nice That.

Zuza stayed at the young offender’s institution photographing the boys living there for over a month, a duration which allowed her to build a story heavy with the complexities of young manhood. “At the beginning, the boys were very disrespectful but I think I have become an important person to some of them. Despite their violent childhood and intimidating attitude towards me, they were only children. I believe motherhood instinct and trust in people conquered fear and doubts. Nevertheless, we had difficult times,” Zuza admits.

“I could keep talking about the boys for hours. It was deeply moving to discover how wonderful people they are and how badly they might end up because of their family background and the social environment they come from. We are in touch and I am doing my best to help them,” she says. Now, the Imago series is being published into a book by Kahl Editions in Paris which will launch in the coming months along with an exhibition. “All their stories I have heard and remember will be included,” Zuza says. “I believe the final results, such as sold works and money for boys, surprised them all. Hopefully arising a feeling of hope, which will motivate them longer in life.” 

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Zuza Krajewska: Adrian and Andrzej twins

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Zuza Krajewska: Dominik cleaning after dinner

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Zuza Krajewska: Tutor’s birthday

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Zuza Krajewska: Assembly

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Zuza Krajewska: Zemo and his horse Fairytale

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Zuza Krajewska: Fat kitchen portrait

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Zuza Krajewska: Dawid the carpenter

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Zuza Krajewska: Cleaning the garden

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Zuza Krajewska: Dominik evening bath

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Zuza Krajewska: Oscar I am sorry for

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Zuza Krajewska: Mateusz and his birds

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Zuza Krajewska: Baltazar incjection

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Zuza Krajewska: Bird

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Zuza Krajewska: Cigarette break

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Zuza Krajewska: Sunday chess

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About the Author

Bryony Stone

Bryony joined It's Nice That as Deputy Editor in August 2016, following roles at Mother, Secret Cinema, LAW, Rollacoaster and Wonderland. She later became Acting Editor at It's Nice That, before leaving in late 2018.

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