The landscape of the eastern borderlands of Poland provided inspiration for Zofia Chometowska’s earliest photographs, it was there that the artist made her iconic and often-reproduced works such as “The Laundress”. This “exotic Poland”, as the author termed it, was a popular subject among the photographers of the interwar period, Chometowska however was perhaps the only one able to capture the diversity of themes and multiplicity of histories found in the region.
Though the works do not make up a consistent series, a common theme binds them strongly, making it possible to present them jointly. All photographs were taken in the 1940s, in locations personally close to Chometowska – such as in the vicinity of Prochonsk (the family estate of the Drucki-Lubecki) or Dobroslawki (the estate of the Chometowski family).
Zofia Chomętowska with her children: Piotr and Gabriella, and her sister Ludwika Bogurska, arrived in South America in late 1947. Their final destination was Buenos Aires, where some of her distant relatives lived already. The city astonished the entire family upon the first encounter. Chomętowska photographed everything, as was her habit. Starting with the spectacular process of unloading the family’s European Mercedes from the ship to the land, through the busy wide streets, modern cars, to the impressive and novel natural landscapes. Soon after making it to Buenos Aires, she tried working as a professional photographer. She obtained a special permission to photograph Evita Peron and the manifestation of the General Confederation of Labour. Her pictures, however, would very quickly become more and more private and homely. The themes dominating her photographs from the ‘60s include family – predominantly her beautiful daughter, as well as the new, Argentina-born generation of the Chomętowski family.
Chometowska did not abandon photography after the end of the Second World War. A large part of the existing substantial collection of prints, showing the ruins and the reconstruction of Warsaw, was included in the first post-war exhibition at Warsaw’s National Museum titled “Warsaw Accuses!” (May-June 1945). This landmark presentation, which later became an international traveling show, was a strong statement (in the political sense also) about the condition of the Polish capital after the war. Excepting Tadeusz Przypkowski, Chometowska was the author of the largest number of prints. The photographic section of the show also featured works by Maria Chrzaszczowa, and, in its subsequent installments, by Edward Falkowski.
Chometowska’s photographs taken between 1945-1946 and titled “Warsaw Lives” testify to the unusual development of the author’s documentary talent and the attempt at moving away from easy emotions or the banal. The complete series of photographs is currently in the collection of Warsaw Historical Museum.
Zofia Chomętowska most probably made two automobile expeditions across Europe. The first one still as Drucka-Lubecka, which was her maiden name, the second one in 1929 being a honeymoon trip with Jakub Chomętowski. It appears, that the main destination of this journey was Italy, with Venice, Florence, Pisa, Rome and Pompeii in particular. While travelling to the Eternal City, Zofia Chomętowska visited not only Austria and Tyrol, but also Budapest. Most certainly she went to Tunis and Zagreb as well. Today, it is difficult to reconstruct a map of the two expeditions. Negatives, often mixed up by the author herself, do not always allow for accurate identification and dating, the reorganizing process is still taking place. Chomętowska’s early photographs from across Europe arouse curiosity and interest, amongst them we can find unordinary framing of streets and people, far from the typical tourist photos registering always the same places and buildings. One of the things that fascinates the viewer in Chomętowska’s photographs, is the courage and boldness in documenting the alien reality.
In 1936 Mieczysław Orłowicz – head of the Department of Tourism in the Ministry of Transport announced an anonymous contest granting a photographer’s position. The goal was to capture cities and small towns across Poland for propaganda purposes. The winning photographs were to be used as ornaments in railway compartments as well as illustrations in various publications of the Ministry of Transport.
Using a ”Crow” alias, Zofia Chomętowska sent a portfolio of hers, which was most liked among all the entries. Chomętowska often joked about Orłowicz discovering her identity, where he would exclaim in disbelief ”What, a woman! You can’t possibly manage this type of work!”. Yet, the female photographer had managed and performed this job superbly, creating a whole series of photographs. Nearly fifteen hundred of them were redeveloped by the Foundation. All of the positives identified as the Ministry of Transport Project were scanned and archived within the Digital Heritage program financed by the National Audiovisual Institute.
"Archivo privado" means ‘private archive’ in Spanish and that’s how the box of negatives entrusted to the Foundation in 2010 was annotated: "Archivo privado de negativos de Sophie Drucka-Lubecka de Chomętowski". Part of the archive are snapshots from Zofia Chomętowska and her family’s private life – a private archive in the strict sense of the word. Archivo Privado comprises images from 1930s Polesie, showing the interiors of the Porochońsk country house, various outdoor activities, car trips and hunting parties – the life, in short, of the landed gentry of the era.
The collection includes also photographs made after 1947 in Argentina, where the author settled. These are usually images of family leisure: swimming, canoeing, or travelling by car.