Living Archives – the Project 2011-2016


     An exhibition of works by Julia Staniszewska and Zofia Rydet marks the launch of “Living Archives” – a major project by the Archeology of Photography Foundation that seeks to introduce classic Polish photographers into the wider context of the history of art and culture, by means of their oeuvres being reinterpreted by contemporary artists who offer new frameworks and readings of the lesser known or forgotten works. Tapping into the potential of private photographic collections as well as (starting next year) those stored in Warsaw institutions, the project also aims to enliven venues which are relatively inactive, or normally not associated with culture.

         This year’s program of “Living Archives” focuses on establishing links between the practice of a number of renowned photographers, among them Zofia Rydet, Zofia Chomętowska, Jerzy Lewczyński, Tadeusz Sumiński, Janusz Bąkowski, and that of contemporary artists who will develop their work around selected fragments of their archives: Julia Staniszewska has been invited to propose a subjective selection of photographs by Zofia Rydet; Nicolas Grospierre will create an installation in the studio of Tadeusz Sumiński; Krzysztof Pijarski will develop a project basing on the archive of Jerzy Lewczyński, Karolina Breguła will introduce the historical photographs of Zofia Chomętowska into the cityscape; Jakub Śwircz will prepare an artist’s book “American Woman”, likewise using the works of Chomętowska. Apart from gallery spaces, this wide range of projects is scheduled to take place in diverse venues, bringing photography into the urban environment and activating alternative sites – making art an accidental encounter, or even a challenging discovery.

     “Living Archives” is officially inaugurated with the exhibition “The Little Man / Anticipation” (11.03.11 – 22.04.11, Asymmetry Gallery) which brings together works by Zofia Rydet, a classic of Polish photography, and Julia Staniszewska, a talented emerging photographer. The starting point for the exhibition is an album by Zofia Rydet “The Little Man” (Mały człowiek), featuring a now definitive series of photographs of children, with graphic design by Wojciech Zamecznik. 40 works from the series, selected and arranged by Julia Staniszewska, will be on view at the Asymmetry Gallery. Juxtaposed with a set of staged photographs taken by Staniszewska in a fertility clinic, a fragment of Rydet’s oeuvre is thus offered a new, intriguing context. The program of the exhibition includes an artist’s talk.

     The long-term agenda for upcoming years consists of a series urban interventions, exhibitions, workshops, film screenings and publications as well as a major online project aimed at developing innovative strategies for opening up private and institutional photographic archives to new audiences and stimulating the urban environment. The project seeks to tap the latent potential of existing institutions, at the same time fostering the deeper involvement of the city’s residents. The scheduled events are intended to demonstrate that historical photographs and their narratives make a lively and fascinating tradition. “Living Archives” was made possible largely through the Foundation’s ongoing project “PhotoRegister” which offered a preliminary insight into Warsaw’s photographic collections (     

     Warsaw is a place where photography is yet to find its home. In spite of the growing interest of tourists and citizens, the city still lacks a museum or center for photography. “Living Archives” has the potential to change the situation by addressing this need in an original way, unprecedented in any Polish city, and offering an interesting alternative to festivals of photography. The gradual implementation of the project will at least partially satisfy the demand for a greater number of photography-related events in the capital. At the same time, with the intention of avoiding clear-cut divisions between the specific medium and the broader field of culture, the planned events will involve collaborations with artists working in various media.


“Living Archives” takes place in Warsaw, the European Capital of Culture 2016 candidate.

In 2011 the project has been made possible through the kind support of the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage.


Living Archives – Schedule for the first half of 2011:

Krzysztof Pijarski / Jerzy Lewczyński “Jl” – Archeology of Photography (28.04.11-10.06.11, Asymmetry Gallery)

Nicolas Grospierre / Tadeusz Sumiński “The Photograph that Grows” (May-June, the former studio of Tadeusz Sumiński, Koszykowa Street).

Jakub Śwircz / Zofia Chomętowska, “American Woman”, (mid-June, Cud nad Wisłą club).


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