While working on the documentary photography series There is No Such Thing as an Innocent Eye, which documented synagogues and houses of worship in Poland that no longer fulfill a sacred function, I used a topographical approach. The series might be characterized as a visual typology, although because of the uniqueness of each building due to destruction, reconstruction, or renovation for new, profane purposes, I felt it was important to understand it as an
à rebours typological presentation. To differentiate the resulting book from
a typical photo album, I use the metaphor of a field guide: photos of the objects are accompanied by descriptions of their histories, as well as fragments of conversations I had with people observing my photographic process.
Photographing Józef Piłat’s work Jewish Shop in Dębska Wola, at the National Museum in Kielce, my attention was drawn to his way of presenting the human figures. While the sculpture was undertaken at the suggestion of the director of the museum at the time, its execution testifies to the artist’s emotional engagement with the subject matter – the lives of the individuals depicted. These figures of Orthodox Jews – a woman and two men, one older and one younger – were sculpted with unusual attentiveness. It’s clear, for example, that the woman is wearing a wig, which is a rare occurrence in this type of folk art. I decided to use a macro lens placed as close to these carved faces as possible, so viewers would be confronted with the artist’s emotions. My satisfaction with the outcome spurred me to repeat the technique in documenting subsequent objects in my work for TRACES.