Krzysztof Vorbrodt Ph.d. Biologist
I was born on 27th of December 1929 in Vilnius. My father was an actor and theatre director, he also worked in stage design and was an amateur painter and photographer. My mother once sat as a model for Marian Dederka’s portrait Mona Lisa. We had photographs by Dederkas and Bulhak at home.
In July 1939, on the occasion of a holiday trip into the Beskidy mountains, father, at the time a theatre director in Sosnowiec, bought me a 4×6½ Kodak camera, and instructed me how to develop ortochromatic film in red light, as well as how to make contact sheets. When the war came, father, being an army reserve soldier, was drafted, and vanished without a trace. He was last seen in a zone that was shortly after occupied by the Red Army.
I spent the war in Sosnowiec. We had to give away the Kodak. I then constructed a makeshift one-lens camera from cardboard which was enough to capture still lives using bromide paper as negatives, and to develop contacts sheets. At this time I dreamed of a camera that was yet to be invented: a 35 mm reflex camera with a mirror system resembling a pentaprism.
In the years 1945-50 I attended a high school in Sosnowiec. I got a 6×9 box camera as a names-day gift and began photographing family, friends, but also trees in blossom, cats and dogs. With a borrowed Retina I photographed the professors during classes, and then made it all into an album.
In the years 1950-56 I studied biology at the Jagiellonian University in Kraków. I tried to make a year long sick leave shorter by painting with watercolors and photographing the landscapes seen from the window of the tuberculosis sanatorium on Gubalowka mountain. Towards the end of the course I gained access to my dream camera — a Praktika purchased by the university — which I used for macro photographs of insects and microscopic shots that I later included in my MA thesis in Biology, which was eventually published.
From 1956 to 1973 I worked at the Institute of Oncology in Gliwice, first in the histochemistry laboratory, where I used photography as a research tool, then I went on to head the laboratory of microscopic photography. I have published several scientific papers in the field of histochemistry and obtained a PhD in it.
I spent my first savings on a Praktina with rings, then came telephoto lenses. On holidays I photographed landscapes, more often however, I would go ‘hunting with a camera’. In 1963, for a photograph of a fawn on the edge of a forest, I received an honorable mention in the Small Formats competition. I began taking a serious interest in photography with the arrival of color materials. I started using microscopic images for artistic purposes. Color images obtained with an interference microscope proved particularly thought-provoking, resembling curious creatures from the poems of Boleslaw Lesmian or pseudo-landscapes of other planets. I also added color according to my preferences using the solarization method.
In 1964 I became a member of the Photography Association in Gliwice and immediately started participating in lectures, monthly competitions, and exhibitions organized by the Association. Soon after I was elected its president for one term of office. From then on I participated in numerous photographic exhibitions in Poland, and abroad—for which I did not have to submit the participatory fee required, in the then inaccessible foreign currency. I exhibited nature photographs, shots of animals, landscapes, portraits and nudes, as well as the aforementioned color microscope photographs, which were my favorite subject. I also made photographic collages from the microscopic ‘landscapes’ livened up with human figures, usually nude. Apart from that I created slideshows – color slide sets accompanied by sound that illustrated analogies between microscopic and macroscopic worlds, as well as montages of slides and narrow-gauge film, such as growing crystals seen under a microscope set against a backdrop of mountain ranges.
In 1974-75 I was a scientist at the Institute of Non-Ferrous Metals, in Gliwice, where I worked on microbiological leaching of metals. When I officially voiced my dissatisfaction with the amendments to the constitution of People’s Republic of Poland, made by Edward Gierek, I was given notice several days later. For the next year and a half I made a living doing odd photographic jobs, and obtained a diploma as a certified photographer.
Since 1977 I have been working full time as a photography expert at the Silesian Polytechic. Before long I gained recognition among the scientist-educators who made up the ‘clientele’ of our photography lab (…). I was a member of the Scientific Photography Section of the Association of Polish Art Photographers, and applied for membership in the Association of Polish Art Photographers. (…)
Towards the end of the 1970s, I began working on a series of photo-collages, initially based on color microphotographs of crystals, later on photographs of snow-covered branches, autumn leaves, or even animals. Ultimately I arrived at large-format ornamental compositions I first named Photo-carpets [Foto-dywany] and then, after Stanislaw Lem, Symmetriads [Symetriady], as I liked to think of them as fragments of some other universe, more attractive than the surrounding reality. I also made black-and-white compositions of this kind which I later colored using watercolors. I have submitted the Symmetriads to the Golden Amber [Zlocisty Jantar] contest held in Gdansk, to the exhibition (and catalogue) produced by FASF — Polish Amateur Photography in the Years 1944-1984 [Polska fotografia amatorska w latach 1944-1984] — as well as to a number of solo shows in Gliwice, Walbrzych, Miechow, and Bielsko-Biala.