On Detective Stories, Crystals and Other Objects. The Applied Photography Exhibition

Exhibition opening: September 9, 2021, 5.30 p.m. – 8 p.m.

Many photographers of the post-war era got involved in projects related to applied photography; only a few specialized in this genre, while the vast majority accepted commercial assignments on the fringes of their regular photojournalistic or artistic activities. Authors often undervalued this part of their work because of its commercial dimension. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why the knowledge about this genre of photography is still insufficient. With this exhibition, we would like to draw attention to applied photography as a creative field and grant it equally important status.

In the Gallery of the Archeology of Photography Foundation, we are pleased to present fifty different works created between the 1950s and 1980s, and among them, photographs of flowers and industrial products, images used for the purposes of book covers (detective stories, popular science publications), postcards and interior decorations. They
include works by Maria Chrząszczowa, Zbigniew Dłubak, Mariusz Hermanowicz, Władysław Lemm, but also examples from new archives – such as that of Jan & Waldyna Fleischmann or Danuta Rago – which have been studied and taken care of by the Foundation since 2020.

As Maciej Szymanowicz mentions in his article accompanying the exhibition, the images create ‘a mosaic showing the various – mostly commercial – ways in which photography was used; in the era of Polish People’s Republic, they were described by the collective term of applied photography. This lexical solution allowed authorities to distance themselves from the language of the capitalist world; terms such as commercial photography were strongly associated with it at that time and started to be used more boldly to promote publications and exhibitions in the late era of Edward Gierek’s office.’ Postulates referring to the task of socialist advertising photography mainly emphasized its – more or less achievable – informational function.

The character of commercial photographs from this relevantly long period (although the majority of works presented in the exhibition date from the 1970s and 1980s) was also influenced, to a different extent, by technical limitations such as access to equipment and photographic materials, or the rare opportunity to shoot in a professional studio, as well as the lack of an organizational base in the form of advertising agencies and even such mundane obstacles as problems in obtaining props. Although many photographs were taken in the open air or at home, with the use of simple equipment and settings, they were based on intriguing ideas and brilliant solutions, both formal and technical. Some of the photographs in the exhibition constitute working materials (we present, among other pieces, reproductions from negatives before their final editing, as well as contact sheets with marks of the final crop) and thus they allow us to peep into their authors’ workshops and working methods.

The character of commercial photography in Poland, as Szymanowicz explains, was also associated with the fact that ‘in the state-owned economy, unable to deliver sufficient quantities of goods to the retail market, there was no need to develop sophisticated persuasion techniques.’ The lack of necessity to comply with complex advertising strategies and to strive for commercial success turned out to work in favor of photographic experiments.

Curator: Marta Przybyło
Collaboration: Anna Hornik, Oliwia Wałecka, Ewa Jadacka
Text accompanying the exhibition: Maciej Szymanowicz
Prepress: Karol Bagiński / FOTO-GRAFIKA
Text editing and proofreading: Julia Odnous-Pawlińska
Translation: Aleksandra Szymczyk
PR: Maja Sztenke (Steinke Communications)
Exhibition design and installation: Mateusz Wierzbicki (Willow Service)
Special thanks to: Karolina Puchała-Rojek, Piotr Fleischmann

On Detective Stories, Crystals and Other Objects.The Applied Photography Exhibition

Exhibition opening: September 9, 2021, 5.30 p.m. – 8 p.m.
The exhibition will run from September 10, 2021 to October 24, 2021

Opening hours: 
Tue.: 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.; Wed., Thu., Sat., Sun.: 11 a.m. – 7 p.m.

Archeology of Photography Foundation / Social Center for Photography
20 Chłodna St.
00-891 Warsaw


The project co-financed by the City of Warsaw.

The exhibition co-financed by the Culture Promotion Fund of The Ministry of Culture, National Heritage and Sport.

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