Gazing at Photographs

I look at world around me with growing fascination for the discovery of the invisible connection that holds my gaze over the specific subject or a moment that I want to preserve. Since I remember I have been fascinated with observing and capturing speed in my photographs (hence becoming a sports photographer). At the same time, I love observing people, their environment, their interactions and I am becoming more and more fascinated with discovering that connection between spaces and living bodies.

Joanna Kurowski 2020, Football Mom series

I think by definition, we photographers are voyeurs in some shape or form, whether we like to admit it or not. I feel I definitely am when I photograph people. I want to see the very personal, intimate, unique side of them. That’s my intent before I click the shutter. For me it is about showing different ways of human form and the connection to the world. That difference in each of us is very fascinating for me and that’s what catches my attention. 

I sometimes struggle with my own approach to photographing certain subjects as my sensitive side takes over. This is especially visible when I am on the sidelines photographing sports. I do struggle to photograph injured players as I feel strongly that I would be crossing the ethics of sports photography and I view such photographs (if they exist) as not for general public consumption.

As I am reading this week’s posts and publications related to the art of looking, James Elkins “Your Eyes” has proven to be a great influence on my current way of seeing. Now I am experimenting with forcing myself to look from a different perspective and it became obvious to me how differently I look at my surroundings and my subjects now compared to weeks ago. I examine the co-existence of my subject and the background. I look for unspoken narrative. I look at an image and walk away. Then I look at it again and discover a story I didn’t see before. I become curious about pushing my boundaries. I find it is not easy to do especially when I take my personal beliefs and comfort level into consideration. But I make the decision to start with myself.

Being naturally introverted, I find it very hard to relax in front of the camera. Yet at the same time, the camera fascinates me and I so want to venture into self portraiture. I feel this will help me make stronger portraits of others in the future. I have to thank my fellow student Len for being so open and sharing his intimate and very personal photographs. His self portraits and photographs of his family, as uncomfortable at times to look at, made me realize that challenging my personal levels of ethics and acceptance can lead me to a very different, yet satisfying, work in the future.

Joanna Kurowski 2020, Self Portrait series

I had my portraits taken in the past by female and male photographers and I felt the difference in allowing male vs female photographers access to my personal space. After photographing myself and growing my own formation of self-identity, I will experiment more as I feel I am just scratching the surface at the moment. This has proven to be a very challenging, yet fruitful exercise. As I continue to work on Football Mom portraits, I will be interested in using that experience to transform my future work, which I believe will lead to stronger identity of my subjects.