In an age where flashy, photoshopped-to-the-gills pictures of doe-eyed children dominate the world of art photography, it’s refreshing to see that someone’s still whetted to the basics. Portraits in black and white squares. Silver gelatin prints.
Rosalind Solomon’s Polish Shadow shows that there’s still a lot of legs left in the traditional, and that the true variables of making a great photograph are found in subjects and composition, rather than post-processing.
Solomon’s pictures of Poland show a nation emerging from history’s shackles. The book begins with scene setters; grey pictures of farming communities, a man smoking on a horse-drawn carriage, two young toughies with their motorcycle and pistol.
While the backgrounds and landscapes in the book reveal a country still bruised by war, Solomon’s portraits describe a populace that’s regenerating itself into something entirely new. And the editing of the book traces this emergence, concluding with a series of pictures of teenage lovers.
But the meat of the book are portraits like this; a man in front of a wall of skulls, a woman at her desk, her back turned to a blank frame and neckless violin.
© Copyright 2006 Rosalind Solomon
There are many ways in which a photographer can fail when photographing the wider world. The knife-edge of exoticization is perilous on both sides. On one is beautification for beauty’s sake, and the other looks something like blurry pictures from a warzone.
As a global portraitist, Solomon plays it right up the middle. The book feels like an open hand, one saying, “these people are Poland, in farms and cities, young and old.” The plainness of the pictures may soften the wows, but there are still fireworks here. Many of the faces feel found – from another age, yet somehow recognizable.
It’s these little explosions of recognition (of a face, of a tablecloth, of a kind of weathered wood roughly-hewn into a cross) that connect this book to something that actually exists, that’s real and true and unassailable, and that now, through Solomon’s lens and strobe, is just beginning to come out of the shadows.