December 8: Photography is an art of minutiae. The lens is exactingly particular and the shutter abruptly instant.
Polish experimental filmmaker Bogdan Dziworski, born on this date in 1941 in Łódź, was also a photographer, for which he was recognised in his home country while the rest of the world knew him only for his avant-garde cinema.
Dziworski is featured in a solo exhibition Blende f/5.6 Glückliche Momente (‘Aperture f/5.6: Auspicious Moments’) that runs until Dec 21, 2018 at Galerie Hilaneh von Kories, Belziger Straße 35, 10823 Berlin, part of EMOP Berlin: European Month of Photography 2018.
His contrasty black and white humanist imagery documents life in mid-to-late century Polish cities. Made with a wry sense of humour and with compassion his pictures offer candid insights:
My photography from that time was never staged. It is flânerie. Day after day I walked and photographed, sometimes for up to eight hours. [Fellow filmmaker] Zbigniew Rybczynski said, wherever I go, something interesting happens. So it was with me. At first, nothing happens. Then, only if you have the patience, you begin to dance with reality. When everything is over, the normal person says “goodbye,” and that’s when you have to take pictures! You need to seek a precise moment in which reality sets the stage. After much practice you can anticipate it by fractions of seconds. You need to be lucky. And I was.
It is his discovery of little details and mundane incidents that make his pictures so entertaining, and it is just such minutiae that we find in the exhibition Dennoch Köstlich Amüsiert. Über die Schönholzer Heide und ihre versteckten Geschichten (‘Still Deliciously Amused: About Schönholzer Heide and its Hidden Histories’) by Mari Boman which she has just opened at Schoenholz Brasserie, Wolfshagener Str. 87, 13178 Berlin, to 31 December 2018.
The public park Schönholzer Heide in Pankow, Berlin has a multilayered history about which you can read a little more over at Paul Scraton’s blog Under a Grey Sky: originally a mulberry plantation for the palace of Schönhausen, it has hosted a fair ground, film studio, health retreat, war bunkers, theatre, public bath, rubbish tip, and hosts graveyards as well as an adventure playground and a soviet war memorial; the final resting place of over 13,000 of the 80,000 Red Army soldiers who died during the final battle for Berlin in WW2.
There is fun here, and tragedy. The park, with its woods, open grounds and avenue of cherry trees gifted from Japan, is used today for recreation, and Boman’s imagery is an exercise in optic archaeology to discover the remains of these these past activities. The project is funded by the local government of Pankow, Berlin.
As to the title of the exhibition, it is drawn from the song well known in Berlin; Bolle reiste jüngst zu Pfingsten, a song about Bolle who visited Luna park there. In the year of the Olympic Games, 1936, Schönholzer Heide was home to the largest amusement park in Berlin, with a waterslide, artificial mountains and ghost train, an open-air stage and huge restaurants such as the Alt-Berlin, the Rheinlandsälen and Oberbeyern. There have since even been efforts to revive the the July-August Fliegenfest—the origin of which was a guild parade of silk serge-weavers who named their festival for the flies that gathered around the rims of their glasses of wheat beer—though its resurrection was short-lived. There is little evidence of this ‘Dreamland’ in the 35 hectare Schönholzer Heide.
Despite getting into all sorts of trouble, Bolle enjoyed himself (‘Dennoch Köstlich Amüsiert’). We read signs of trouble and amusement in these images without seeing Bolle himself, nor any other soul. During WW2 Luna Park became “Luna Camp” for foreign forced labourers working in the nearby weapons and ammunition factories. More than 100 prisoners, including 12 infants or small children, died at the camp between 1942 and 1945, before the survivors were freed by the Red Army.
The two photographers are on the surface quite different; Boman shows no people directly, while Dziworski’s imagery is populated. However it is the close scrutiny on the part of both, in an observational approach, that they have in common.
Dziworski has the filmmaker’s eye for the human narrative of the moment, while Boman’s psychogeography discovers within the urban fabric an interweaving of history and chance. Both exercise the dérive, an urban wandering that is a powerful action to which photography is well suited as catalyst and recorder.
Most striking in Dziworski’s encounters on the street is his awareness of human interaction, and particularly between the sexes, with an extraordinary capacity to intersect their sightlines so that we are made complicit in moments of realisation, of assertions of power, or the frisson of attraction.
His work adopts the neorealism and point-of-view of Polish Film School works, and some of his images, all without titles, would welcome those of some of his fellow filmmakers; Andrzej Wajda‘s ‘Ashes and Diamonds’ (Popiół i diament 1958); Andrzej Munk‘s ‘Man on the Tracks’ (Człowiek na torze, 1956), or ‘Bad Luck’ (Zezowate szczęście, 1959); Wojciech Has‘ ‘Farewells’ (Pożegnania, 1958) or, most poignantly his ‘How to Be Loved’ (Jak być kochaną, 1963); and equally Kazimierz Kutz‘ ‘Nobody’s Calling’ (Nikt nie woła, 1960)
Dziworski’s photographic work only received notice in the 1980s but prior to that he was on the verge of acceptance into Magnum photo agency when opportunities led him into a life in cinema. Born in in 1941, photographer, cine-camera operator, director and screenwriter, Dziworski graduated from the Operational Department of PWSTiF in 1965. In 1994 he was awarded with a PhD, and received professor degree in 2002. In 2014, he was decorated with the Gold Medal of Merit of Culture, Gloria Artis. Former Dean of the Faculty of Radio and Television University of Silesia in Katowice, he is the author of 40 or more short films, medium-length and feature films and exhibitions.
Mari Boman is a Finnish-born Berlin-based photographer with a BA in Photography with Human Rights from University of Roehampton, London. Apart from her research based photography practice Mari also engages in community photography projects of which Dennoch Köstlich Amüsiert. Über die Schönholzer Heide und ihre versteckten Geschichten is a recent example.