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Katarzyna Widmanska is a Fine Art, Portrait & Fashion Photographer from Poland. With a background across the Arts, Katarzyna’s photographic works play with chiaroscuro like a painter, with artifice like a theatre director and with a velvety richness and excess that feels at home within a Baz Luhrmann blockbuster. Underlying this is a cheeky nod towards issues surrounding feminine identities that seem to blow apart your traditional female typecast and reanimate her with a Frankenstein hue. For Issue 013 of beautiful.bizarre it was a pleasure to discuss Madonnas, dominatrix, true love and rabbit holes with this enigmatic artist..
b.b: Katarzyna, for this conversation we have a virtual location. . . I think for you we’d have to be in a location somewhere between pure imagination and the real world. I’m thinking it’s the ruins of an old church or an old theatre. We could be sitting on ornate thrones . . . or perhaps we’re chained to them. We might of just conducted a séance or perhaps we actually are in the afterlife. Your work seems to sit in the spaces between all of this . . .
I can’t help but think your childhood was filled with folk lore, fairytales and religious iconography. I’m curious. . . If you as a five year old could see your work today, what do you think she’d think? Would it be familiar to her? Frightening to her? How much of her wonderland is in your work?
KW: I’d love to look at my pictures as a 5 year old Kasia. Unfortunately, I can only guess but I think there’s a lot of her wonderland there. I always liked strange and twisted pictures. I think it wouldn’t frighten her… maybe just a little bit. I grew up in an artistic family, as my parents are jewellery designers. My childhood was filled with art and ghosts. I would often go to museums, exhibitions and other artist’s ateliers.
As for the ghosts, grandma’s sister was Medium – yes she was calling spirits – It frightened the hell out of me but maybe it made me more sensitive to feel and see more. I was particularly drawn to fairytales, especially the strange or horrific ones from Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen but my favorite one from the beginning has always been Alice in Wonderland. I could read this book repeatedly it fascinated so much. Maybe because every time I kept on reading it I went deeper and deeper down the rabbit hole.
b.b: There’s a poetic sense of irony in your work that marries so well with your chosen medium. On the one hand, your themes explore darkness, the unknown, the supernatural, and yet photography is all about the magic of light and the manipulation of it. Tell me about how light and dark play out in your work?
KW: In shadows, you can hide untold secrets and I prefer to hide rather than to reveal. Light & darkness are the essence of photography but first they are essence of painting. I had very good teachers like Rembrandt or Vermeer. Five years of art studies left a mark as well. Balancing the shadows, lights and mid-tones is the best way to create mood and atmosphere. Some people say that my photography is very close to painting and I agree because I’ve learned about light from the Masters.
b.b: Your Madonnas series takes my breath away. Traditionally she’s seen as a symbol of purity and the essence of motherhood. Your Madonnas also seem to have a sense of Joan of Arc about them. They wear their adornments like shields and I can’t quite believe that they’re Virgins. What does the Madonna represent to you? How have you redressed her?
KW: The main genesis of the Madonnas series is very personal, so it remains my secret. I can say however, that it is some kind of tribute or homage to her.
I come from a very religious country. In Poland, the cult of Virgin