If you would like to see more of her work, be sure to check out Issue 011 of beautiful.bizarre – hardcopy and digital versions are available in our online shop or alternatively, find your nearest stockist here.
Natalia: There is an almost medieval feel to some of your series of photography – why do you choose this style?
Agnieszka: When I was a little girl I created in my head stories and I made them real with the children who I invited to create this story with me. I was always a tragic figure who either died out of love, I was an angel with wings tacked, or was while waiting for a knight in the enchanted tower. I always managed to organize a group of children who follow my instructions… around a character who already suffered from feelings. I know is sound strange but its true! I have no idea where such visions in such a small child [came from], because I was around 4-5 years old. It was holiday time, of course, in an idyllic landscape of forests and streams – because I come from the darkest zone – the city in which there were then only mines, steel mills and industrial plants and millions people around. So I grew up between two worlds – dreams and grey, the harsh reality of the concrete of the city. I teetered between these two poles.
I fled to the church time to time, because it was beautiful and there I truly felt myself – [I felt] that in a place like this I’m close with the Absolute [God]. It was my priority – feel [close to the] Absolute like Joanna D’arc even. I didn’t know then about her – I just see now exactly same flow and aura of need. To be close to the Absolute. Beautiful music, paintings, sculptures. It was a world to which I longed and which I regarded it as my own. As a young child I was studying old oil paintings and studied every particular and implementation. I was in love with these medieval forms. It was all so beautiful – [the opposite to] those I saw on the street around me – millions of uniforms ready to fulfil their duties without questions (people did not ask questions, they [acted as] passive consumers of reality. They dressed the same, copied one another in behaviour – any otherness is perceived through the prism of “mismatch”). I lived so deeply in the world of art and dreams that they had become naturally a part of me.
N: Have you found new aspects of inspiration seep in over time? New muses, perhaps?
A: I love classical music – Mozart is my angel – I play the piano, composes songs, I used to play on stage quite a lot in the past – I thought I’d be just a musician. It happened otherwise. Purpose [and Life] threw me with emigration and because I did not have a chance to create music, nor to paint oil paintings (I had too little space and light in my new premises) I started photographing. I studied philosophy, psychology – I know about the human condition and its possibilities too much, so I fight with myself every day – between the instinct of survival, and reaching higher [levels of] flight in my life. I treat art like a key to contact the Absolute – through the creation of this I feel closer to this great, inconceivable energy. Please do not think that I’m obsessed *laughs* – OK maybe a little bit when I create my photographs *chuckles*. My muse is “innocence”. If I find its essence in a human – no matter how they look – I fall in love with them. Spiritually. I find in them the same part of me that wants to be closer to reconstitute the Absolute here, on the Earth. Man is part of nature – he destroys nature, “building new,” but not knowing that the same time destroys himself. It creates an artificial creation that gives less than [is taken].
N: It’s interesting that you describe a lack of space or light to grow a lot of your artistic pathways, which lead to your real discovery of photography. Can you explain a bit more about how this came about?
A: I came from Poland to Wales because I wanted to be completely anonymous. I know it sounds strange, but when I left the Polish me I was “recognized in the street” and it was annoying . I wanted to start new life. I’ll try to explain: When I played and wrote music – I had a plan to help promotion and I got to the most famous (then) reality show in Poland – from 180,000 people they chose 12 (it was 14 years ago, when these programmes only entered the media market and were quite different) – a Big Brother reality show. It meant that I could not be free, because I was still viewed through the prism of the program – not just on the street! I therefore I did not want to be even a popular musician any more. I wanted to have peace of mind. That’s why I [emigrated], but abroad I had a hard time; I didn’t know anyone in the new country and I had been brought up “sheltered” – I had thrown myself in the deep water, where I learned to swim. My great house had turned to a small room on emigration in which I had…no room for creativity, for which I longed. That’s why I started photographs, because photography does not require space.
N: Do you wish you were a part of the worlds you create?
A: I am [definitely the] worlds that I create.
N: Do you have any favourite costume designers and/or make-up artists that you work with?
A: All people with passion and heart *smiles broadly*
N: Often your work causes the viewer to feel like they are looking at a moment frozen in time as part of a bigger story. Are there any ongoing themes or storylines throughout your work?
A: This is my confession and biography. I’m talking about my emotions on my life through my work. I’m not afraid to be honest, because life is too short to pretend. All people in the world share the same feelings, even if they turn it into their denial.
N: Did you have much support to be creative while growing up?
A: Yes, definitely. My family always supports me. My mother is a painter, poet and writer. My dad was a musician. I grew up in an artistic vein, where my uncles and aunts also – sculptors, painters and thinkers showed me that you can be free and happy following the voice of the heart. However, my biggest consoler and friend is my sister Violetta. It is thanks to her did not give up.
N: Was there a particular time in your life when you were close to giving up?
A: Life was hard for me. When I went to the UK I felt like a tree which [had been] cut off at the roots. My dreams, plans – I had to forget about everything and create new ones. Adapt among people who did not understand my world. Live between the type of people who were happy with sufficient subsistence at a minimum – the feeding of the body only. I was lost. It’s not like that just in the UK – generally people do not understand the existence of an idealist, they all make projections of their own philosophy on the second person. No contact with people such as myself resulted in the creation of a series of questions in me – whether it is something wrong with me that means I do not fit into this reality. Idealism loses, but I can not be different – I can not be against myself. My sister and family generally supported me in this matter. The question of questions is if I’m worth anything at all, if my existence makes sense, and whether I should just study law or business and not to ask so many questions *laughs*
N: Well speaking as one of your fans, I believe there are many people in the world who believe you are worth a lot. Focusing more on the works themselves I have to ask: How do you pick your models?
A: I believe in fate. My models have their stories – I identify with each of them. They portray me, and I present them. We are the one on the canvas of my work – it’s one person. My models are from many, many different countries. It’s amazing and I feel like I’m part of this world without any borders…
N: You yourself are also often a model, aren’t you?
A: I learned photography [based] on self-portraits. I used myself to create projects that I had in my head, because I did not know anyone then and had no other model. [It] was my first steps into photography – self-portraits. I learned by myself play with light, composition, colour. I was a model in the past (when I was very young!), and therefore I didn’t have problem [with] posing. I’m a make-up artist as well. When I played music concerts I sewed [my own] clothes [for when I was] on stage, so I hadn’t – and I haven’t – a problem with creating something for a photo shoot. Self-sufficient! *laughs* I do not have any assistants. Now I collaborate with fashion designers, models, make-up artists – rarely – but the styling still leave for myself. Photo sessions, for me, are too intimate to invite more people. [Sessions] are a confession of two souls with one voice.
N: And what about locations? Some of them truly seem out of this world!
A: With the location is like with people – you pass on the street seeing thousands only crowd of grey crowd but if you haven for deals and you look to everyone individually, know their stories, you see something beautiful. Then begins a fairy tale. We must learn to “see”. I’m watching. I’m looking. The beauty can live in the middle of “nothing” but only for a heart that can feel and is not afraid to feel.
N: What would you say has been your most memorable photo shoot so far this year?
A: It was this when I was taking pictures and I cried. I sometimes have those moments; I’m crying during a photo shoot. I experience it all very deeply. What I see sometimes when taking pictures is so beautiful, it can put me in a state of “high – ecstasy”. I am then really unreal for reality *grins*. It’s that moment when my dreams become material – real. And my dreams and reality are as one. It is a moment: “furor divinus” [“the divine madness”]. It’s the moment in which I feel the Absolute in me.
N: Do you have any aims for the future?
A: I just want to be happy, so [I will] just continue to do what I feel at this moment.
N: What about exhibitions?
A: I was never was interesting in this [aspect]. Call me stupid, but I just don’t want to waste my time with promotion rather than creat[ing] something that is more important to me. I need an agent or something because I just haven’t time and energy to do it. I have had many opportunities to have exhibitions in many different countries – letters gone without answers because I just jump to another one. I’m really bad in this way – I’m not a businesswoman at all!
N: Well, if that changes we will be the first to see your work! Thank you for taking the time speak with beautiful.bizarre, Angieszka.