Piotr Zbierski 

Untitled, White Elephants, Pass by me. 


About the artist

Polish photographer Piotr Zbierski recently received a Leica award for his work. His images do not belong in any particular place: most cannot be precisely pinpointed elsewhere than in his own intimate territory. When brought together, they form a kind of galaxy, in the middle of which Piotr Zbierski stands. Between him and the other side of the camera, the distance is very short, as if to embrace the reality, draw it into his nebula and envelop it in extreme contrasts. Whether shot in daylight or by night, his pictures are only just pierced in a very few places by splinters of light - a ray of sun, a candle, a reflection. The character looks the photographer straight in the eye, which makes him just as present in the image as his subject, as if both were walking a thin, precariously balanced tightrope, merely preserved by the instant of the photograph.


Most of your pictures have no real  location: it's difficult to figure out where they were taken. Once gathered together, they seem to form a kind of galaxy, in which you stand in the middle. How do you photograph, is your photography very much related to travelling? Is it the foreign and unknown that attract uou, or could you be equally drawn to your close environment?
My photographs have been taken in different places; they are related to each other not by the concrete time and place which usually stays abstract, but on the level of emotion and atmosphere. I imagine my work as a story about the balance between inconsistent states and feelings. Photography is my way of communication, and with it I can build the story based on the borderline between imagination, fantasy and reality. I’m showing the perspective of life that is transformed by emotions and nostalgia.
In recent years, I travelled a lot, taking pictures of people that inspired me, people that I met on the way. In a sense, it has become a diary. The thing that was my main idea was that the spectators of my work can identify with it, feel the pictures like memories of the present.
The impression of seeing people as a stranger - both in meeting them by chance and without any knowledge of them as people, and also looking at them without any simple definition of them - gives me the personal possibility to see what is most pure and important for my work. I prefer to experience people on a human level without any preconception of them, to allow myself the possibility of living through the pictures, because the feeling of the experience is necessary for me to create the photographs.

The characters you photograph are always quite close to the camera, and if not, there is always an element in the close foreground (a shadow, branches, etc.). Why do you think you frame this way? Is this proximity a necessity?
I think many of my photographs come from tension and attempt to break down the fear. Photography is an intimate medium, it allows you to express yourself but first of all it allows you to be closer to life and the people around you. Photography is really not about being original, but about being authentic. There are many great photographers working in many so-called “styles”. And most of them are different from each other, because it is not about stylistics, but about the reason for taking pictures. I found it important to be close enough both to take the picture and to really experience, even when it’s impossible to connect.

They often look at you directly, hence at the viewer. There is a very physical tension in your photographs. As if you and the character were walking the same thin rope, that the balance is there but fragile, merely preserved by the instant of the photograph. Is there a feeling of urgency when you photograph? An extreme presence of the moment?
For me, photography is a way to project the interior onto the exterior. Taking pictures is always a big experience for me, usually I’m very emotional taking them, I forget about other things. Photography, to me, is much more about looking for something than a means of saying “Congratulations, you have found the key.” In many of them, I feel like I’m in fact photographing myself through portraits of others.

Your photographs are enveloped in a very dark atmosphere, even when taken in daylight, and pierced with sparkles of light – be it a ray of sun, a candle, a reflection. How do you use contrast? Your work is sometimes reminiscent of painting, with whites and blacks seeming to stretch across the surface of the image in large, solid expanses. Are you deliberately seeking to create this pictorial feeling?
I think that it’s important to sort out the information and to show only as much as is necessary. To concentrate on specific parts, single faces, gestures, to restrict. I prefer to hide or reorder information than to reveal it. I like to use cameras that distort the image, and when shooting, do everything I can to avoid destroying the view. I need to achieve this balance. I take photographs that are based on the author’s emotions, but not in the autobiographical way. In a sense, I talk about my own doubts through images of others I shoot, but on an imaginary level; the capacity to touch reality, but not to describe it in an autobiographical manner. Somebody once said: it’s not a big deal to say “night” - the thing is to create the feeling of night without using that word. That’s what I’m trying to do in a way: my photographs are based on reality, but they are not reality.

Limited edition, numbered and signed. 

Selected shows and awards

Love has to be reinvented + Pass by me, Dedo Gallery, Cracow, Poland, 2013
White Elephants, Vizii Festival, Kiev, Ukraine, 2013
Leica Oscar Barnack Newcomer Award, 2012
Shortlisted in Terry O'Neill Awards 2011, England
Pass by me, Leica Gallery Salzburg, Salzburg, Austria, 2012
White Elephants, Mieszkanie Gepperta, Tiff Festival, Wroclaw, Poland, 2011
White Elephants – pass by me, Photovisa III, Krasnodar, Russia, 2011
White Elephants slideshow, Encountros da Imagem 2011, Braga, Portugal, 2011
White Elephants 2, Café Foto 102, Fotofestival in Lodz, Poland, 2011     
Voice On, Klub Pauza,  Photomonth in Cracow, Poland, 2011

Kiyosato Museum of Photographic Arts, Japan

Selected publications

Featured links


& order

Piotr Zbierski 
Untitled, White Elephants, Pass by me.


Technical information

Pigment print on Hahnemühle Photo Rag paper - limited edition, numbered and signed certificate.


30 x 30 cm, Edition of 100

By the same artist

Piotr Zbierski

By the same curator

ART LIGUE for "Bon Marché", Paris