During his trip to Greece, Tadeusz Sumiński was in Athens and visited the Spinalonga island. The images from Athens mainly present the Acropolis. A lot of these pictures were later used in prof. Kazimierz Michałowski’s book Acropolis, next to photographs by Edward Hartwig. The album was released by the Arkady publishing house in 1964.
Throughout three years (1962-1964), the African edition of “Polska” delivered copious reports from industrial complexes accompanied by Sumiński’s photographs, such as Zamech in Elbląg, the Wristwatch Factory in Błonie, Polfa Pharmaceutical Works in Warsaw, or the Nitrogen Plant in Mościce. Magazine’s editors eagerly presented general images of people at work with machines, or factory halls, rather than details or repetitive sequences of products. Sumiński’s own prints testify to formal explorations, with photographs characterized by painstakingly arranged composition, reality seen at a close distance, and a focus on captivating details such as parts of mechanical equipment or industry products. Photographs of cigarettes that resemble a honeycomb in the Czyżyny factory, steel elements in the Pafawag plant, or close-ups of parts of watches in the industrial unit in Błonie, all border on abstraction.
During his 1957 trip, Sumiński visited such cities as Rome, Florence, Venice, Siena, Assisi, and Monte Casino. These photographs, taken while travelling and not related to any professional commission, reflect the author’s true interests – images of landscapes and architecture dominate, paired with occasional street shots and portraits.
He was a documentary photographer, worked as a fashion photographer, made numerous shots of industrial details. However, as he was heading towards the end of his artistic work, Tadeusz Sumiński confessed that the only consequent occurrence in his photographic work was that he remained faithful to his favorite topic, landscape.
Photographs presented in this gallery come from the second half of the sixties and seventies, the time when Sumiński is an independent and distinguished photographer. He travels in the Mediterranean area, the Balkans, Africa, the Black Sea shore and Mongolian steppes. He comes back with hundreds of colorful impressions of the unfamiliarly structured landscape, also the landscape influenced by human activity. In Turkey he finds a brutalist restaurant embedded in an idyllic beach or a dromedary herdsman among endless bushes of tamarisk. In Georgia he photographs ruins lost on mountain slopes, in Moscow – reflexes on golden domes of Orthodox churches. Travelling in Africa he maunders through ports, where he finds dramatic sunsets, as well as Polish details.
These photographs were taken during Sumiński’s short trip to Mongolia in September 1966. They were taken in the Töv Province (also in Ulan Bator, the capital), the Khangai Mountains and in the Gobi desert. Apart from landscapes – the author’s favourite subject, the collection also includes numerous portraits.
The photographs of Warsaw from the 70s mainly show architecture, with special focus on housing estates and expressways. Having done professional work for for over ten years, Sumiński was now a freelance photographer. The presented photographs show, among others, the housing estates: Piaski, Sady Żoliborskie, Za Żelazną Bramą, or Szwoleżerów.
The 1950s in Warsaw were a period of accelerated modernization. The main streets and squares in the downtown were finally cleared of rubble, while shopping and social life gathered pace in the newly built neighbourhoods. Sumiński’s earliest negatives offer a fascinating insight the city’s life and the pastimes of its residents. A ski-jumping contest on a hill in Mokotów, socializing at the MDM café, shopping at a street book stall and at a fabric store all form a – polished up? – image of prosperity and abundance of both basic and luxury goods. In 1955, Sumiński documented two events that recast Warsaw as a modern European capital: the inauguration of the Joseph Stalin Palace of Culture and Science (22 July) and the 5th World Festival of Youth and Students (31 July – 15 August).
Warsaw press of the 1950s was particularly sensitive to the issue of shop windows, which were found to be decrepit, unattractive and poorly lit. Magazines such as Architektura urged shop personnel to install canopies, awnings and window displays that would pull the customer straight from the street into the shop. Sumiński’s photographs offer a survey of window displays created using the simplest materials available: paper, cardboard, and the wares themselves. The press criticized also the perceived scarcity of neon signs that would give Warsaw a truly metropolitan appearance. ‘We long for colour in architecture ... We grumble about the sadness of our dull evenings. We demand colourful neon signs!’ Aleksander Kobzdej wrote in the first issue of Projekt. Among the items photographed by Sumiński were the neon signs of the PZU insurance company and the WKD commuter train, a restaurant signboard, and a jewellery shop window display.
The Ochota, Śródmieście and Powiśle stations of the Warszawska Kolej Dojazdowa commuter train were opened in December 1963, after the railway line had been moved from Nowogrodzka Street to a cross-town tunnel. Sumiński’s photographs come across as much more than just portraits of railroad architecture. The modern structures designed by Arseniusz Romanowicz have already been put to the test of usage: the platform is filled with a crowd of passengers, the Zajazd bar is so packed its windows have gotten all foggy, two persons have hidden in telephone booths, and there is a queue at the ticket office.