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Photography by Jarema Drozdowicz

Apr 09, 2018

Jarema is a Polish self-taught photographer who enjoys capturing curious situations as a way to escape routine, but without any intention to mock his sitters. In this way, Jarema's images are simple and carefully composed, where every single detail adds to the meaning of the scene. Coming from an ethnology background, Jarema posses the abilities to observe and decipher people, skills that he cleverly utilises when creating his portraits.

 

Following we present a nice conversation that we had with him:

 

am - First of all thank you very much for your contribution to our project. Can you please introduce yourself for us?

JD - My name is Jarema Drozdowicz and I come from Poznan in Western Poland. I graduated in cultural anthropology (actually it was called ethnology back then) and have no formal education in photography; which I consider is sometimes a good thing. I guess that having spent a couple of years studying the human complexity had a more profound impact on me than learning how to process images or what should or should not be included in a picture. I consider that my education was more about finding the right way of looking at people and things anyway. When speaking of technical skills I'm a total autodidact and still on my learning curve every single day. I work as an academic teacher now and see myself more as a researcher that accidentally owns a camera than a fully fledged photographer.

 

am - How did you start in photography?

JD - Well, it depends how you look at beginnings. I've got my first 35mm slr when I was about 12, but I had no clue how to use it or what to photograph. I played with the camera for some time and took some images but they were absolute rubbish even if you consider them as family photos. After few years I broke the camera and put it away. I had no one around to show me how it all works and how to use it as a tool. On the other hand, I felt a deep attraction towards visual arts, but I was more into movies at that time and found myself straight within the golden age of the VCR era. I watched almost everything - starting from kung fu flicks and ending with artsy experimental stuff. During that time however I developed a taste for certain colors and specific aesthetics. So, I had no camera but a head full of images. A true revelation came in late 1999 when I was in Vienna and visited an exhibition of works by Peter Beard. It was a true revelation for me. Never felt that standing before images, when done right, can arouse so much passion. It was a very emotional experience for me. There was no turning back from there. I took my old broken slr, got it repaired and went head on with reality. Then around twelve years ago I decided to get a new tool which was first a hybrid digital camera and used it for a while. Then switched to a semi-professional dslr, because you know "a bigger camera makes a more professional photographer". However I felt that still something was missing in those images. They were just too damn clean. Few years back I tried again film and it sticks with me today.

 

am - We can see a good sense of humour and irony in some of your photos, what attracts you about this?

JD - Rule number one: Never speak about Fight Club. Rule number two: Never take yourself too seriously. The humour comes out naturally in the scenes as I look more at people in a way I see myself. The irony helps me to distance from all of that jazz generated by the mundane routines, but clearly I don’t want to laugh at people or  present them in some ridiculous manner. I’d rather laugh with them. The more I photograph the more I know myself and the more auto ironic I become.

 

am - What inspires your work?

JD - Pretty much everything I encounter. First of all people in their singular and plural form. Places come second. Still having trouble to fit into nature. Those three things all together.

 

am - Who are your favourite photographers / artists?

JD - It all depends what I look for in images. For example wide angle black and white photography really appeals to me. In that case Bill Brandt, Josef Koudelka and Jeanloup Sieff are to be brought into attention. The problem is I really suck at wide angle black and white photography. Then again I like others with a distinctive visual language in both color and b&w, that use 50mm lenses as their prime tool. In this case it must be Ralph Gibson and Harry Gruyaert. I feel myself more comfortable in that area. On some other occasion, when it comes to bringing either emotions or what I consider as important, I recall portrait work by Edo Bertoglio, Richard Avedon or the mentioned Peter Beard for his fashion portraits and documentary work. Don McCullin and Fred Herzog are also very close along photographers with great general attitude in my opinion - those are John Free and the late Dennis Hopper. In art in general I like Jean-Michel's Basquiat's paintings and graffiti, as well all the Downtown 81 millieu. 80's pop art is my thing I guess.

 

am - What are your main interests as an artist?

JD - There's a difference for me between the power of single images of certain authors and their whole body of work. For example Alex Webb's picture of the border patrol is a perfect picture in a strict sense of the term. Everything is just about right there - the moment, the characters, the light, composition and even the hovering chopper. No to mention HCB - a true master of single striking images. Others like Raymond Depardon for example have an impressive archive of images but no single images that are for me truly iconic. Their power lies in persistence and endurance. This impresses me. Thus I myself shift now from portraits more towards documentary photography and long term projects, especially those tackling socially significant issues. This is the goal now. As a matter of fact I started such a project last year in Ireland and it's working title is “Temporary surface”. It's all about the passing of time, history and the forces of nature in a sort.

 

am - If you could travel and stay in a place for one year, where would you choose to go?

JD - Remember the scene from "Highlander" when Christopher Lambert answers the question where's he from to the police officer? "Lot's of places" he says. Thus there's hardly a single place I would like to stay but if I had the opportunity it would be rural Italy or the Far East, probably Japan again.

 

am - What’s your favourite movie?

JD - There are three movies I can watch over and over again: Michelangelo Antonioni's "The Passenger", Derek Jarman's "Caravaggio" and Mike Leigh's "Naked".

 

am - What is your favourite photo book?

JD - At the moment it would be Anders Petersen's "Cafe Lehmitz", but it changes over time. Raymond Depardon’s “Glasgow” is also worth mentioning.

 

am - Thank you very much for your time and your contribution to analog magazine.

JD - Thank you for the pleasant conversation.

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