A Sea of Images

As I am digesting Andy Grundberg’s article in New York Times, my memories go back to the times when the National Geographic was most admired, yet simply unobtainable magazine. Growing up in Poland, we had very limited access to Western publications. Yet, over the years, that particular magazine was the epitome of photographic quality and the best example of travel photography.

When I began to photograph, I dreamed about having my images printed in such magazine. The influence of National Georgraphic on my work was unquestionable and it definitely had impact on my desire to make “eye pleasing” and overwhelmingly (I see it now) postcard like photographs. Over the years, my attitude towards the magazine changed. I no longer believe in the the full authenticity of the featured photographs and stories. Steve McCurry’s altered images affected in my eyes the credibility of National Geographic. The magazine though did have impact on the direction of my work. I no longer craved seeing oversaturated, colourful photographs depicting exotic places.

Nowadays National Geographic strangely reminds me of Instagram and Google. All colourful and inviting, implying the same concept on today’s audience, images that not necessarily represent the reality, just a snapshot of a moment, moment that is fabricated to give the viewer the absolute positive feeling and perhaps to influence some sort of a decision.

When I travel, I am as guilty as many others for making photographs of my destination points. There is this carnal desire in me to make a photograph depicting a dreamlike place, driven by some desire to collect them. I am partial in making endless images of sunsets and often make them by using interchangeably my camera and my cell phone.

Joanna Kurowski, 2020, Countryside sunsets series

Some of the photographs I take for myself. Some, I have to shamelessly admit, I take for for social media followers. The social media had entered my life few years ago and as a photographer I take advantage of it as much as I can. I post some of my work but I also follow other photographers and communicate with selected ones as I strongly believe that you are as good a photographer as your most recent work.

As I become more informed about contemporary photography and explore further works of my influencers, I realize that photography manipulation is quite common in works of many photographers. While I try to minimize post production work in my images, I understand that photography manipulation might be necessary for certain industries and certain genres of photography. Marketing and advertising can serve as such examples as shown below where a photograph of a building I made recently was used for the promotional purposes.

Joanna Kurowski, 2020, Systemair series

The concept of re-photography is one that I became particularly re-interested in recently, mainly due to the fact that I can perhaps use previously made images and use them in a different context to represent entirely different narrative. I am currently working on concepts how to incorporate re-photography into my research project.

When it comes to my audience, I have three streams, my client, the general public and myself. Each of them has access to various photographs and the critique is valuable, as it impacts my critical thinking about my future work. I used to be very shy about asking for comments about my work; nowadays, I recognize the value of critical analysis and ask for it more openly. Sometimes, it takes one, seemingly innocent comment to visualize significance of it in relation to my future work production.