The Katowice JazzArt Festival 2020 promised to be amazing. At the invitation of Martyna van Nieuwland / Katowice Miasto Ogrodów, I was supposed to move into the space of the sounds of jazz and make a series of portraits of the artists taking part in the festival. I called it Faces of JazzArt. It was a beautiful proposition, because I was able to realise the theme within the framework of my One People Story project, on film, with a medium-format analogue camera, consistent with the whole series I have been creating since 2012 (you can find information about the project HERE).

At the beginning of March 2020, there was a concert weekend called before and then.. we remember what happened. All concerts were cancelled and my project was put on hold.
Over the following months, whenever possible, intimate events were held as part of the festival or artists gave concerts to the exclusion of the public, in front of the camera. In both 2020 and 2021, the festival took place between lockdowns, in a reduced version.

In order to be able to realise the initial objectives of this collaboration, I adapted to the changed conditions and took some portraits in 2020 and some in 2021.

Among those who stood in front of my lens then were Mikołaj Trzaska, Macio Moretti, Joanna Duda, Morris Kliphuis, Pola Dwurnik and Christopher Dell. And it is this meeting with Christopher that I would like to mention.

In spring 2021, Christopher Dell comes to Katowice for an artist residency as part of the festival. He is a German musician, a vibraphonist, but also an urbanist. As part of his residency, he is to spend a few days in my city. The time is not easy, the public spaces are closed, but Christopher has his time filled to the brim. He explores the urban space, talks to architects, musicians and artists, and creates a solo improvisation. He also finds time to meet with me, so I have the chance to portray him.

The portraits in the One People Story series are created quite spontaneously. I arrange the photo set in response to a situation, a place, a character I have met. In Christopher’s case, I knew that I wanted his portrait to be created with Katowice in the background; after all, the context of the city for an urbanist is obvious.

We meet in a building on Sejm Śląski Square, so I suggest we go outside and find a suitable set in the area. At the last minute I take a stool. Christopher is a tall man and I don’t want to photograph him from my lower perspective 😉
We don’t look for a place for long, we put the stool at the corner of Ligonia and Sienkiewicza streets, I ask Christopher to sit down. For a while I set the parameters in the camera, measure the light, frame. After a while, I count to three… and it’s done.
Another portrait is created, but I prefer this one.

sesja portretowa wizerunkowa biznesowa Katowice Śląsk Studio Portretowe Joanna Nowicka marka osobista sesje fotograficzne Christopher Dell One People Story

The same day or the next, we spend a pleasant time in my Portrait Studio, which has replaced a café to us. We drink coffee and talk together with a few people, enjoying this spontaneous meeting, at a time so unfavourable for meetings.

Some time later I develop the negatives, print this photograph on my favourite paper cardboard and send it to Berlin to Christopher. When I ask for an address to send the portrait – no, I don’t mean by email 😉 – I usually spring a surprise. And this time it is the same.

sesja portretowa wizerunkowa biznesowa Katowice Śląsk Studio Portretowe Joanna Nowicka marka osobista sesje fotograficzne Christopher Dell One People Story

This is where the story could have ended, but another pleasant thing happened to me. More than a year later, I was contacted by the editor-in-chief of the German magazine JazzPodium. He wanted to publish Christopher’s portrait on the cover.
Among our arrangements, I was assured that the editors would make every effort to publish the photograph in its original frame, i.e. square. I was very keen on this. I treat each photograph in this series as a closed collection. This includes the frame, which is created by scanning a slightly larger area than just the frame of the photograph. I frame precisely when taking the photograph and do not crop it later.

My joy was great when this edition arrived from Germany. I think that keeping the full frame, arranging it on the cover and draping it in colour, looks great. The magazine was published in October 2022.

sesja portretowa wizerunkowa biznesowa Katowice Śląsk Studio Portretowe Joanna Nowicka marka osobista sesje fotograficzne Christopher Dell One People Story

You know you need portraits to grow your brand and business, but completely clueless on how to go about it?
No problem. We’ll talk and everything will become clear.

An indispensable part of the cooperation is the creation of a concept for the shooting. Even if we are only talking about working on a single portrait. I need to know what your plans for publications are, whether the photos are to go on a website or be published in a trade magazine – the context is important. I ask about the company’s visual identity and branded graphic materials. But also about your style preferences and aesthetics. I want to know your vision and be sure that the style I work will suit you.

We can meet in person or online, talk on the phone, the important thing is that we discuss the details. Sometimes clients are surprised at how many questions I ask at this stage but, the better I understand what you need and what your expectations are, the more accurately I can convey this in the photographs.

I implement all the gathered information into the ideas for the photographs – the conversation stimulates my imagination, I replace words with images, so that at this stage I already propose specific solutions.
We build the scenario of the session, i.e. we plan the approximate final number of shots, we determine how they will differ from one another having at our disposal the light, the neutral background and its colours or the scenery of the place and, of course, the outfits, which can be more or less formal.

If I’m working with a team, we’re looking for a common denominator, a certain key that is visually shared by the whole team.

Photographs for business are meant to fulfil very specific tasks. To help you with your business and its development, to represent you in all kinds of publications, to carry a certain story that you want to convey to your audience.

So the work of preparing them should be precise. Of course, I also leave room for spontaneity during the shoot, and I’m open to ideas that come up at the photo creation stage. But certainly, good preparation will guarantee that the session time will be used to the full, effectively, and that the results will meet your expectations.

If you want to find more texts in this series, click on the CATEGORY “don’t be afraid of a photo shoot” or HERE.

sesja portretowa wizerunkowa biznesowa modowa kobieca Katowice Śląsk Studio Portretowe  Joanna Nowicka marka osobista sesje fotograficzne

It is 2018 and Martin Fejer from the Est&Ost press agency writes to me and commissions me to take portraits of Szczepan Twardoch. The photos gonna be used as illustrations for an interview in the German newspaper Die Tageszeitung, on the occasion of the publication in Germany of the novel The King – with the German title Der Boxer. He also put me in touch with the journalist Philipp Fritz, who is to do this interview.

A few hours before the interview and shooting, I meet Philipp in Katowice and we start our collaboration with…. coffee. Philipp is German but speaks excellent Polish.
I take my companion to Gliwice, where we have an appointment with Szczepan Twardoch.
The journey is fun, to say the least. We drive in my car, hurtling down the road in total fog. It is January, but there is no snow. And I tell the story the whole way: we left Katowice, we enter Chorzów. We have passed Chorzów, we are passing through Świętochłowice. And now we’re in Ruda Śląska and we’re about to enter Zabrze. And then it’s on to Gliwice.
Philipp stared at the completely unchanging landscape – white milk. Once in a while he commented: yes, I believe the cities are there.

We meet Szczepan Twardoch in a restaurant outside the centre of Gliwice. We chat for a while to agree on a plan of action – first I will take photos, then the gentlemen will talk.

sesja portretowa wizerunkowa biznesowa Katowice Śląsk Studio Portretowe  Joanna Nowicka marka osobista sesje fotograficzne Szczepan Twardoch

As is usually the case when making reportage portraits, many elements are unpredictable. It’s not always possible to plan a session like this in advance, you just find certain conditions and have to work out what to do. I was inspired by the fog and the landscape, which colour-wise turned out to be consistent with Szczepan’s outfit.
I took a few photographs changing the scenery slightly, but this is the one that finally made it to publication.

And working with Szczepan was very good – he was involved and patient, so I was still able to take an additional analogue portrait, for my One People Story project (about project HERE). As is my usual custom, when I have developed the negative and the photograph is ready, printed on beautiful matte cardboard, I want to give it to the portrait’s character. So, a few months later, I went to an author meeting and gave this photograph to Szczepan.

sesja portretowa wizerunkowa biznesowa Katowice Śląsk Studio Portretowe  Joanna Nowicka marka osobista sesje fotograficzne Szczepan Twardoch

But back to the session in Gliwice: at the end, we took a backstage photo together, and some time later I received the information about the publication.

sesja portretowa wizerunkowa biznesowa Katowice Śląsk Studio Portretowe  Joanna Nowicka marka osobista sesje fotograficzne Szczepan Twardoch

There is also an interesting thread about Martin Fejer – this was the second shooting I took for his agency, but we didn’t have the chance to meet in person until last year (2023). Martin lives in Budapest and on the occasion of my artist residency in Hungary we finally had the chance to see each other.

And Szczepan’s portrait brought with it another interesting surprise. A few months ago – six years after publication – I am found online by a client whose attention is caught by this photograph. The client likes the portrait so much that decides to offer me a collaboration.

sesja portretowa wizerunkowa biznesowa Katowice Śląsk Studio Portretowe  Joanna Nowicka marka osobista sesje fotograficzne Szczepan Twardoch

zdjęcia z wakacji telefonem fotografia mobilna Katowice Śląsk Studio Portretowe Joanna Nowicka sesje fotograficzne

In the years when I worked as a photojournalist, I took all the equipment I was using at the time everywhere – my camera plus a couple of lenses packed in a sizable bag.

Too hard…

I remember holidays in Greece where I was carrying this heavy equipment with me everywhere. I took pictures of the sights, lots of souvenir shots.
When I arrived, I reselected the shots, prepared the selected ones and… abandoned them on the disk. I don’t remember if I ever showed them to anyone, although of course I could have made a holiday photo book (as some of my friends do) and had a super souvenir. It didn’t occur to me at the time, I didn’t feel the need to do so. The photos there were no different from the views available on the internet.

Before my next holiday trip, I already knew that taking all my kit wasn’t a good idea. I realised that by carrying so much gear every day at work and then on holiday, I didn’t make me feel that I was relaxing. The kilos weighing down my back, the constant attention to my gear to keep it safe. It just didn’t make sense.

Then I decided to bet on… two cameras 😉

zdjęcia z wakacji telefonem fotografia mobilna Katowice Śląsk Studio Portretowe Joanna Nowicka sesje fotograficzne

Mobile photography

The first is, of course, the one on my phone. It is a diary for capturing curiosities, nature and photos with the people I meet on my travels. When I changed my phone I made sure it had a better camera. I like to frame vertically and I run the best shots through Snapseed, a free photo editing programme on my phone.

The photographs that decorate this text were taken with my phone, during my recent holiday in Italy, and the forest and mountain frames during weekend trips to the Beskidy Mountains. For my needs of keeping a visual diary of the places I visited, they are completely sufficient.

Analogue photography

The second is my medium format analogue camera, which I have in a completely basic version: one lens, one cassette, I throw a few ISO 400 negatives in my bag – that is, with a fair tolerance for different lighting variations.

It’s a pleasure to catch situations, people, places that fit wonderfully into my One People Story series (take a peek – the link to the website is HERE). The photographs are on the one hand a reflection of a journey, on the other hand part of a larger project.

I happen to take just a few frames and that for me is very ok. I am not in a hurry with this kind of photography, I am not chasing tourist attractions, I am trying to see and explore, and above all – to be.

The holiday season is approaching, so choose whatever equipment you are most comfortable with and enjoy your time off.

zdjęcia z wakacji telefonem fotografia mobilna Katowice Śląsk Studio Portretowe Joanna Nowicka sesje fotograficzne

I remember our first meeting. It was in 2021, as part of the Art in the Service of Spirit and Body (Sztuka w Służbie Życia i Ciała) series organised by the Art for Life Foundation (Fundacja Sztuka dla Życia). My Portrait Studio was hosting a photo shoot entitled Portrait of a Woman. You entered the studio beaming with joy and turbo energy, you indicated that you were very excited about the session and looking forward to it, and that as soon as you finish treatment, your wound heals, you absolutely want a portrait with that scar. At that time you were in the middle of chemotherapy, bald, without eyebrows and eyelashes and just before your mastectomy. You were suffering from breast cancer.
I admit, your attitude made an electrifying impression on me. Did you have absolutely no worries, doubts, fears about immortalising yourself in such an image?

Let me start by saying that the workshops I attended (also as part of the before mentioned series) contributed very positively to the progress of my treatment. The weekly trips to the Academy of Fine Arts in Katowice, where we did wonderful things acting through art, is what I love in hundred percent. Art allowed me to get through my illness more easily.
I looked in the mirror and saw my face completely naked, with no hair, eyebrows or eyelashes, and I realised that this could be a stage image. I was able to turn this into action and I regret at the moment that I took so few photos of myself at that time. I know now that if I had to shave my head as part of some artistic endeavour, I would do it without a problem. When hair grows back, it’s like a person is born again. I love change, it’s a part of my character.

So if you hadn’t attended the workshop would you not have turned up for the session, or would you have turned up but with a slightly different attitude?

I probably would have come, but one thing stemmed from the other, I treated the session like a reward. I was already interested in photography then, but maybe I was more reluctant to expose myself than I am now.

Exactly, because it must be mentioned that you experiment with your image, you create montage photographs, processed self-portraits. You show yourself, sometimes your nakedness, clearly the stereotypical ‘pretty look’ is not a priority in your work. You use yourself as a material.

I love turpitude in art, so I can do anything with myself and I’m fine with it. I love myself in every look and appearance. This character trait, has helped me to accept my new look. For many women, losing their hair during treatment is the end of the world, they lock themselves away at home, they don’t want to show themselves in public. I walked around with a bald head the whole period of chemotherapy and it didn’t bother me at all, in fact I felt like a mythical, strong amazon. Besides, it was a temporary state and I saw shaving my head as a gesture of standing up to fight, I felt like a warrior.

How did you accept the situation – the cancer treatment and consequently the loss of your breasts? How did you work with yourself to accept what had happened and – changed but happy – move on?

For me, experiencing cancer was not a negative thing. It has built me up, made me even stronger, opened me up more to art. For example, I recently took part in a body celebration class in nudity. It’s brilliant, this shamanic strength and power of women is very uplifting.

I’m not thinking about breast reconstruction. I love the asymmetry, and I can’t stand artificiality, I won’t do anything that is unnatural. I have accepted the changes. And the new folds of fat, because skinny I used to be. I’m different, I’m older, I’m more mature and it’s a natural process. You can’t look the same as you used to when you were 20. You can’t fight against time.

A year later we met again in my Studio and did what you announced. The result was a portrait with a visible mastectomy scar. I remember, you talked about your body then with complete acceptance and tenderness. Was it always like that? Have you always treated yourself well and accepted your appearance? Did this perhaps change when confronted with the difficult experience of oncology?

I was a fat kid as a child, my relationships with my peers were not good, so as a result I became a slacker. And what is funny, till today I have been left with an aversion to sport, PE was my weak point.
I created my own world, I read a lot of books, I was a good girl, a perfect child. In the eighth grade I grew and got slimmer a lot, thus it was easier with self-acceptance, but in fact I was never very complimentary.

And over the years I felt, now in adulthood, that something was wrong, I noticed that I wasn’t making myself happy, that I was getting along with everyone around me without taking care of myself. And it finally blew up. On the occasion of my divorce I went through therapy, I went from a pupa to a butterfly, I blossomed, I felt alive. That was in the early 2000s.

My childhood experiences have influenced my adult life: I’m not a herd person, I’m an individualist.
And nowadays I just take care of myself, I try to eat well and moderately. I’m greedy for life, I want more and more of it. Evidently the madness turns on in me at a ripe old age! I started hiking, I travel, I want to be close to nature, I want to feel life, I catch every opportunity.

But ultimately it was art that made me accept myself totally. I got to know performance theatre, real theatre, without artifice, falseness, and this art form seems the most authentic to me and I felt part of it. There is a fine line between art and life, for example, like Marina Abramović or Frida Kahlo. I am inspired by women artists, strong personalities.

I am not afraid of old age, I know how I want to live. I can’t bear to despair, to wallow in my sorrows. My character is so brilliantly constructed that if something bothers me, I get out of it, I change the situation like clothes. I need to have inner peace, then I feel good.

This is an extraordinary quality. When we are faced with a difficult change that requires us to rearrange the blocks and put a piece of our lives back together, accepting that the new helps us to move on. Do you share your own experiences to help others?

I deal with women who are going through what I went through and I see that talking about my approach to the situation helps them. They look at pictures of me from that time and become convinced that it might be worth facing their new image. I am approached by colleagues, or their friends, for words of support and advice. For example, I once gave a tour of the oncology department in Gliwice to a friend who was just starting treatment.

You can’t just shut yourself up at home and not talk about what you’re struggling with. I have encountered great kindness and words of support from people at a time when I really needed it, people want to help. For example, a neighbour brought me a homemade cake. And my friends were planning a trip to Morocco together for the time when I finish my treatment. So it’s not possible to hide, to pretend nothing is happening, to sit alone at home.

I can already express what I think, feel and expect, I can fight for myself. I am a tangible living example that it is possible to go through this process and live a normal life.

If there is someone who is reading our conversation and needs support on topics related to cancer treatment, can they reach out to you?

Yes, I am ready to help, happy to talk and share my experience. You can write to:

Thank you Gabrysia for an inspiring talk, I wish you all the best!

The portrait above is part of a series entitled Beautiful People.

Imagine you see an interesting person in the street and you intuitively feel that it would be a beautiful portrait. Nothing easier – walk up, introduce yourself, ask if you can.

If only it were that easy… Many photographers have a big problem with it.

Fears are triggered: I don’t know how he’ll react; he might think I have bad intentions; he’ll float me away; he won’t give me a chance to finish my sentence; I won’t convince, I’ll get entangled and come across as a fool.

Do you know it? I’ve been portraying for years, and I still happen to feel this way.

When clients come to my studio for the headshots or portraits, it is always their initiative. When I want to do a portrait for my project, I arrange the situation, it’s my idea and it’s up to me.

A portrait is about meeting, establishing a relationship deeper than just a passing conversation.
For a portrait to have a chance to be good, deep, in my opinion, I should open myself up first. The photographer begins this relationship. I try to be honest, straightforward and curious about the other person. I stand in this openness, hoping not to be met with strong opposition.

In the portraiture, personality is important to me; what is outside is a manifestation of what is inside. I try to capture character, a certain trait, those qualities that have caught my eye and enthralled me. This means that I get close (not only in the physical sense), I speak openly about what I see, I arrange the situation as simply as possible. I want my intentions to be clear and the situation to be real. I won’t be able to make an interesting portrait if I don’t establish an understanding with the person I want to portray.

If I’m photographing for the One People Story project, the situation happens here and now, which sometimes makes me act by surprise. These are spontaneous street encounters or in the context of being together – at a concert, event, etc. I always get in contact with the person photographed and get back to them as I complete the process of creating an analogue image.
On the other hand, if I invite someone to participate in the Beautiful People series, there is a little more time to think things through before we meet in my Portrait Studio. I always let the person know how to prepare for the session, we start the session with coffee, there is time for conversation. I am committed to making the person feel comfortable in the space of my Studio, I take things slowly.

How to start? By smiling, introducing yourself, specifying what you want to do. I always ensure my intentions are good, I have nothing photographically to hide and you can have a glance at what I do on my website.

Have I ever met a definite rejection? No, but it will probably happen to me sooner or later. It is not a rule that people always say ‘yes’. Luckily, I hear a lot of good words: “you made me happy”, “I was very surprised but happy”, “you made my day, I felt great”.
Then I experience joy, too. I feel that we are entering some kind of exchange process, I feel excited and curious what we will create together.

I’m learning to listen to my intuition, it cannot, after all, give me wrong cues. If it signals that it is this character and this moment, I know that by being a coward I will lose the chance of a nice meeting and a good portrait. How many times it happened… I think there are still more portraits that have only existed in my imagination than these that have finally been created.
I hope to reverse this result one day.

Header photo by Eric van Nieuwland.

Hi Marta! We met this year (2024) in my Portrait Studio thanks to the Cykl w Służbie Ducha i Ciała (Art in the Service of Spirit and Body Cycle) organised by the Sztuka Dla Życia (Art for Life) Foundation. You took part in a photo session called Portrait of a Woman, for women experiencing cancer.
Please tell us your story.

I got ill at the age of 31 and was diagnosed with breast cancer. At first I was given infusion chemotherapy and then underwent a mastectomy with the removal of lymph nodes. Despite this treatment, I still had some cancer cells in my body, so another chemotherapy was implemented, this time with tablets and hormone therapy. While I got through the first chemotherapy reasonably well – I lost my hair and was weakened, the second one swept me away. I was in pain and had numerous side effects, which I have been battling with to this day.
I was diagnosed in 2020, the treatment lasted almost two years.

You caught my attention with your openness, joy and courage – you wanted to photograph yourself in such a way that the absence of one breast was visible. Didn’t you hesitate at all?

I’ve had the idea of doing a portrait session for a long time, even before I got sick. Well, I didn’t do it at that time and I’m glad I finally got in front of the lens. I noticed on my friend’s social media profile a post from last year’s Portrait of a Woman session and an announcement about the next edition. I wrote straight away registering my desire to participate.
I had no reluctance. I knew that sooner or later these photographs would be published, so I came with a message for others. I wanted to tell women that they have nothing to be ashamed of. They are fighting a hard battle for life, they shouldn’t worry about losing their hair. Even the loss of a breast – reconstruction can be done, we have the right to do it and it can be fixed somehow. Life is the most important thing.
So taking part in the photo shoot – it took me 30 seconds to decide! – I wanted to ensure that even after such experiences, a woman still remains a woman, with all her femininity – her smile, her happiness, her passions. Appearance changes in life, I used to be very slim, then I weighed more, and now that weight will fluctuate too, because I’m on a strong hormone treatment. But I’m not going to hide under baggy clothes, being a bit chubby doesn’t mean you can’t wear a dress. If I feel good about myself, that’s the most important thing. Self-acceptance is important, especially as there are things beyond our control.

You sound like you accept yourself unconditionally. Has it always been this way, or has it only been your time of illness that has turned your attention to the fact that there are important things and more important things?

I didn’t have that before. I used to pay a lot of attention to how I looked and had trouble with it. But I have a feeling it’s because of other people. I had a hard time in primary school and then in middle school. I have a big burn scar, it takes up half of my chest. At the age of three and a half I spilled boiling water on myself and my plastic shirt stuck to my skin causing these scars as a result.
So I was rather scapegoated at school, I didn’t have it easy.

So we have had similar experiences. When I was a few years old, I pulled a pan of hot oil down on myself. I burned half my face on the border with my eye and my cleavage. The doctors told my parents that I would have a series of plastic surgeries because the scars would be considerable. By some lucky coincidence, my parents got hold of a medicine which, as a foam, solidified on the burned skin in such a way that no dressings had to be made. Changing them, and thus disturbing the skin, could cause scarring. The result is that, with the exception of a small mark on the clavicle, the rest of the skin has regenerated 100 per cent.
But leaving my experience, and coming back to you – both the burn and the cancer are the same side of the chest?

Yes. After the burn, the doctors said to wait until I grew up, mature and my breasts grew, because then a skin transplant would be possible. I waited until I was 15 to do that. And then, when I started to find out what it was going to look like, that the skin would have to be taken from my leg, I decided that I didn’t want it. That I accepted this scar and my appearance. I wore blouses with deep necklines, not caring about the comments of others. Definitely my self-esteem went up a lot.
Later, I experienced a shake-up of my self-esteem again, contributed to by my ex-husband, from whom I eventually left, for myself and my child.
At the moment, after my oncology experience and the loss of my burned breast, I don’t pay attention to the little things – the extra kilos, for example – I know what this is due to. It’s not my carelessness, it’s the result of treatment. I have my limit of kilos that I don’t want to exceed, but I also don’t tire myself out at the gym.

You mentioned that you decided to have breast reconstruction.

Yes, I have decided. It won’t be perfect, there will definitely be differences between the breasts, but that’s okay.

But no scar removal?

No, no, it’s already my trademark! It makes me stand out, that’s who I am.
I feel sad when I see women trying to cover up their imperfections. While I was being treated, sitting in the hospital waiting my turn, I met a lady in the waiting room, about 70 years old. I had an uncovered bald head and a T-shirt that showed the absence of one breast. The lady (I later found out that she had undergone a double-sided mastectomy) came up to me and asked – how come I wasn’t ashamed, that I was sitting completely unbothered and not covering myself. I told her that for me it’s nothing terrible. On the contrary, it is the result of the fact that I am fighting for my life, that I have stood up to this fight. Then we saw each other again, this time she came up to me and hugged me and thanked me for being able to look at this case and herself from a completely different perspective. She pointed out that maybe she wouldn’t cover herself up so much by drowning in wide clothes anymore, that what others say might not matter.
Yes, because it’s not those others who are fighting, it’s me who was fighting, the lady was fighting and that was the most important thing. And not the stares of others.
Sometimes I wore a kerchief on my head, always some fancy one, with big bows, in flowers, foxgloves. I wasn’t hiding, I didn’t want to be a grey mouse, I wanted to feel good and use the situation to add colour.
I was only sick for a moment, I told myself. What you have in your head has a colossal impact on how the healing process goes.

My impression is that you now draw your self-esteem from inside you, rather than conditioning it by what’s on the outside.

Yes, but there’s no denying that the illness affected relationships. It tightened the bond with my friends and my sister but it also verified many other relationships, quite a few people left, my relationship didn’t survive. Well, my appearance turned out to be more important…. But I know that I won’t be with anyone just because I have to (because I might not find anyone else anymore), but because I want to. I have a few more kilos, I feel good about it. I look the way I look.
I started to fulfill my dreams, I took my illness as a warning not to put anything off. I recently returned from a trip together with my sister, we had never done this before.
My 16-year-old son has gone through an accelerated course of adulthood, sometimes he feels different, but it doesn’t bother him. We are both different.

I saw on social media that you are running a fundraiser for your cause. Tell us more about it.

I used to think I could handle everything myself. Life has verified that. Illness is one thing, but it’s still important what happens afterwards. I have to have regular checkups and I’m constantly on medication. Chemo has ruined my teeth, which I want to heal.
Therefore, I decided to set up an account with the Alivia Foundation and run an oncology donation, thanks to which I do not have to worry about money for necessary expenses related to the consequences of the disease. I am grateful to the donors for these contributions.

Marta thank you very much for your honest conversation and I wish you all the best.

Marta’s fundraising link:

I work sometimes with clients who were disappointed with their cooperation with the previous photographer and were not satisfied with the result of the photo shoot.

Photography is an absolutely democratic field, it can be practised by anyone and at any level of commitment – occasionally, as a hobby or professionally. You don’t need any school or certificate of qualification to practice this profession. In fact, everyone takes photographs.
So, how can you find the perfect photographer to work with?

Most often clients come to me through recommendations. They already know who I am and what I do. Nevertheless, I make sure they have seen my portfolio.
I work in a certain style and convention. This doesn’t mean that I can’t shoot differently, it just means that my style is what I do best. If you see my portraits and you like them and you know that it is something you want, the chances of me meeting your expectations increase.

You don’t have to know anything about photography of course, the like/dislike category is already a good start. The reception of photography is always correlated with our sense of aesthetics and taste, so the chances of you being satisfied with the result are bigger if you simply like the photographer’s work.
But it’s definitely worth checking a few things before you order a photo shoot.

Creating my brand and running my photography business professionally, I take care of my development, high quality of photographs, professional cooperation with clients. This is the sum of experience gathered over a dozen years of practice.
So check the experience of the photographer you want to cooperate with, how long he/she has been on the business.
Of course, everyone started out once and you can’t build up professional experience any other way than through practice. It’s a known fact. But it’s just good to know that you are entering a cooperation with someone who has had a few assignments in a particular field, not a few hundred.

My first years in the profession I worked as a photojournalist. Since then I have covered a great variety of subjects, so I feel I could shoot in many areas of photography. However, I am a fan of specialisation.
Investing in the specific photographic equipment, improving skills, gaining experience by concentrating on a narrower branch of photography all mean that over time a photographer is seen as a specialist in his/her field.

So if you want to do a photo shoot of your products, find a photographer who specialises in product photography. He or she will be able to manage photographing, for example, shiny, reflective objects, and will have ideas and materials for arranging the scenery. A portrait photographer, on the other hand, in addition to technical skills related to, for example, studio lighting, should also have interpersonal skills – be able to create a friendly atmosphere and good relationships as these skills will affect your comfort on set.
Each field of photography requires to put accents in a different area, so choosing a specialisation is conducive to the pursuit of mastery.

And finally, it is a good idea to talk to the photographer first, either by phone or in person. A good relationship is important. If you feel that you understand each other well, the conversation is productive and the collaboration will deliver what you expect you can proceed to discuss the details.

Conclusion: portfolio, experience, photographer’s specialisation and good energy between you and photographer – pay attention to these elements before you decide for a photo shoot.

When I have a few negatives to develop, I order the chemicals and work in the darkroom.
To my surprise and disappointment when it turned out that I wasn’t able to order Tetenal black and white emulsion…. this company has stopped producing it.

Despite the changing times, analogue photography is still going strong. Just because more opportunities and tools are arriving doesn’t mean it’s the end of old techniques. It just means that we have more possibilities and tools.
Even so, there is sometimes some turbulence among manufacturers of analogue photography supplies, some items disappear from the market, others return.

This time, sadly, Tetenal. Their products have never let me down, which is important when it comes to this delicate matter of developing negatives.

Sometimes I hear the question – why do you still want to work in the darkroom? I’m fascinated by this form of image creation.
I’m using this method for my long-term One People Story project (you can read more about it HERE).

The medium-format analogue Hasselblad is often the only camera (not counting my phone) I carry with me. Photographs are taken spontaneously, in response to an interesting scene or character or an intriguing situation. Unhurriedly and without pressure.
I also take photographs, as part of One People Story, for a specific commission. For example the Faces of JazzArt series, portraits of musicians taking part in the Katowice JazzArt Festival. Or photos I took in Veszprem, Hungary, during an artist residency that was part of the European Capital of Culture Veszprem-Balaton 2023.

What I like most about the whole process of creating analogue photography is slowness. For me, is to keep the balance in response to commercial photography, where I operate within a strict timeframe. And complete freedom in form and content.

So how do I do it?

The Hasselblad is a camera that makes 6cm by 6cm squares, on film (in my case monochrome). So on one film I have 12 photos available.
I usually take one picture of a person/situation/scene. It’s a bit risky, but you have to admit that I give each frame a lot of care – light measuring equipment, precise framing – but it can also happen spontaneously, guided only by my intuition. Both ways usually do not fail me.

When I have a few negatives made, I develop them, which I always do myself. I don’t like to outsource this process, there have been times when the negatives have been scratched, badly washed or with fingerprints.
I don’t need a darkroom to develop the negatives, all I need is a special piece of fabric, forming a sealed tent in which the film can be safely pulled from the spool and wound onto the spool of the correx. The correx is a container, also impervious to light, in which I make chemical baths to develop the film.

I pour the prepared mixture – that is developer (I worked with Tetenal Ultrafin) and fixer (Tetenal SuperFix) mixed in the right proportions – into the correx one by one. First the developer, then stopping the development with e.g. water, then the fixer and finally a longer rinse in water to get rid of any residual chemicals. The whole process usually takes about 45 minutes.

Afterwards, the film needs to dry. I just hang it up and wait until it is completely dry.

There are two ways to go at this point. Continue the process of making photographs in the darkroom (enlarger + chemicals + photographic paper), or use a hybrid solution of scanning the films and printing the photographs.
I worked many hours in the darkroom making prints myself. This is how I created my first portraits or city photos, between 2001 and 2006.
Nowadays, I choose the second solution. I scan the films – always with the original frame of the negative, so it’s always a full, original frame, work on them tonally in Lightroom, then print.

Printing the One People Story series is an important part of the whole. I chose acid-free paper for this project, a completely matte cardstock that beautifully accentuates the softness of these photographs and gives the drab blacks.
I print the squares in a 10 cm by 10 cm format and keep them in a Black Box, produced especially for this collection. If I want to gift a square to the person portrayed, I pack it in a black envelope with the project logo, also produced especially for this series.

Despite the digitisation, I attach more importance to showing these photographs in person than online. I have created a one-photo gallery on my website and I update it every other Monday. What for? At the moment there are more than 250 photographs in the collection. No one can handle clicking through such a number 😉 It’s better to focus on one image and see a larger number on exhibition. I also slowly feel ready to show this story in a book.

Again, I invite you to visit the project page HERE, you can take a look at the portfolio and see two videos. Go ahead!

What about chemicals then?
I work on Ilford negatives, so I decided to try out the chemistry of the same manufacturer. I am currently waiting for the shipment 🙂

In my previous text on self-acceptance (link) I focused on the asymmetry of the body, especially the face. I showed something that is completely natural, but arouses a lot of self-criticism in people.

That text I started with the sentence:
“What are the most common words I hear when clients cross the door of my Portrait Studio? I am unphotogenic, I don’t like myself in photos, I hate photos.”
I want to develop this thread.
Because these are the words that are usually said in the beginning. After that, it only gets worse.

What a snout.
Square head.
Fat cow.
Sorry, unfortunately I’m terrible photo material.
My best time is over.
Poor nose.
Unfortunately I have to look at myself.
Jeeeez, I’m round.
I have a pizza-like face.
I won’t smile. I hate my smile.
These shoulders are a nightmare.
I look like a four-door wardrobe.
My hands I have to hide, I have terrible nails.
Unfortunately I have one eye higher, it looks bad.
Wouldn’t it be possible to improve these ears? They’re ugly.
What a belly! I look like I’m pregnant.
Unfortunately there is nothing I can do with my hair, a tragedy.
I don’t know what can be done with me. Rather nothing.
The photos are great, but me in them – terrible.
Well, unfortunately I have a difficult face, I don’t know how you can deal with it.
I’m not a model.
I don’t like myself with my hair down.
I look like an old man.
I fucking can’t look at myself.

And I could go on and on.…

I often feel helpless when I hear such words. They are not covered by reality, the objective one. Interestingly, whenever I work with a team and the participants of a session have the opportunity to see their colleague, they react completely differently, much more favourably, they point out shots they like, I hear admiration and approval. And often the comment: well you’re great, but I’m terrible.

Sometimes I feel angry or even sad that people speak so badly about themselves. Imagine talking to yourself like that every day. You repeat these ‘truths’ reassuring yourself that you are right. You see yourself this way, you don’t accept that it could be different.
This lacks tenderness, gentleness and understanding of yourself. An acceptance of weakness, an acceptance that sometimes you feel better and sometimes worse. There is no connection with your body.
Instead, there is ruthless criticism.

Tiredness, hectic daily life, lack of time for yourself, for sleep, for sport, poor food, clumsy outfits.
All these things affect how you feel, how you perceive yourself and, consequently, how you talk about yourself. I’m far from giving advice and I will not do so. I don’t judge these behaviours. I know that they result from experiences, cultural and upbringing influences, lifestyles. Instead, I dream that people look at each other more gently, that they give themselves some time and tenderness.
That’s probably why it’s a priority for me to make the people who visit my Studio safe and at ease as I try to create a friendly environment to at least minimise the frequent discomfort of being in front of the lens.

I have this quote (I can’t remember whose words it is) prominently displayed in my studio: “Practice speaking well of yourself”.
And with that I will leave you.

Photographs: portraits of women were created in my Portrait Studio – including Magda Daniłoś an advocate of ‘Be afraid but do’ and self-kindness. The portrait of the man was taken for the Kosciuschko brand in the space of the Porcelain Factory in Katowice.