Wojciech Plewiński


A must-know photographer

Wojciech Plewiński’s name is associated primarily with portraits of young women published on the covers of the Przekrój weekly. Plewiński became famous also as an excellent theatre photographer: his archives are full of pictures documenting almost entire post-war history of Polish theatre. But this perspective misses the heart of his work, for it is not portraits of young women or even documenting theatre performances which determine the quality of his output, but photojournalism and cycles without specific themes, collected over the years and resulting from a careful observation of the surrounding world. Wojciech Plewiński belongs to the most important representatives of the post-war generation of photographers, endowed with an extremely alert and sensitive eye, almost devoid of irony. He is a close cousin of the French humanist photographers from the 1950s, Robert Doisneau, Edouard Boubat, at times of Henri Cartier-Bresson. However, his visual language changed over time, became a bit sharper. Plewiński started to distil abstract compositions out of landscape.

In his photos, Wojciech Plewiński usually tells a little story: it would be a waste of time to look here for grand events, political rallies from the 1950s or 1960s, images from party congresses or industrial strikes; only the first visit of Pope John Paul II was meticulously documented by him. Plewiński tells the story of humans and their immediate surroundings. He photographs faces, silhouettes, farmyards and apartments, he documents his own city, that is Kraków – although he was born in Warsaw in 1928 – and his private life. Years later you can see a clear change of emphasis: coming to the fore are cycles of photographs which could not have been published for various reasons, often connected with censorship, for they showed an unadorned Poland, smeared with mud and still drowning in post-war ruin; this fate befell such cycles as those made during the construction of the Katowice Steelworks or on the Recovered Territories. Also the strictly private photographs acquire a more universal significance; from the current perspective it becomes obvious that they accurately reflect not only the life of an individual creature: photos from stays on the Biebrza River, portraits of peasants, notes from hunting, numerous observations of his own face – all these make up a story about man as such.

The virtual exhibition is a space where we present the most interesting achievements of Wojciech Plewiński. It consists of 13 cycles selected from his great output. The photos come from almost all periods of Plewiński’s impressive photographic career, from 1957 to 2003. We present these photojournalistic works in a new version, re-edited to highlight Plewiński’s range of expression and to give a more comprehensive idea about the scale of talent and achievements of this well-known, but still underappreciated artist, a leading representative of photographers active in the second half of the last century.

Wojciech Nowicki

Wojciech Plewiński’s portraits are from his family archive. Photo credits: Gabriela Faryaszewska, Magdalena Korsak, Barbara Kozłowska, Zofia Nasierowska, Wacław Nowak, Filip Plewiński, Joanna Plewińska, Wojciech Plewiński, Maciej Plewiński, Marek Straszewski, Stefan Wierzbowski.