Once upon a time, in a kingdom far away… there were no Google maps or drones, cameras needed film, and if you wanted to see things from a bird’s eye perspective, you had to fly.
I remember the sensation when I first took off. The dynamics of takeoff, the sharpening of senses. It was real! Horizon was at arm’s length. I wanted to go straight at it. When I landed, I felt the Earth stop. I knew that I was going to do it again and again.
As soon as I learned my way around the sky, I started taking my camera with me. It was easier to show what I was seeing from up above than talk about it. I wanted to keep a bit of the magic for myself. I landed with something more than just photographs. Straight from the landing patch I ran to the photo lab to get my film developed. In my imagination, the images were abstract compositions in vivid colors. I picked up prints and had to confront my expectations with photographic reality... I showed the pics to my loved ones, which was like taking them into the sky with me. Each one of them was stunned by something else. I remember how my grandma, who’s an artist, reacted. She said it was a finished project for a tapestry. She was excited and sad at the same time, not seeing any point in weaving something that can be photographed.
When photo albums of the great masters became available on the Polish market and the Internet filled up with photographs, the images in my head faded. I thought it made no sense to take pictures which had already been taken. My photos lost their novelty. I was jealous. I, too, wanted to go to exotic, inaccessible places, preferably across the ocean. I imagined myself on a light aircraft with a local pilot, flying over a waterfall or a volcano and later stunning everyone with my pictures. I looked for a place that would be sufficiently amazing. I combed through books and the net and felt that this was not my way. I would only be copying others, while my greatest joy always lied in discovering the world on my own.
Photography is not my goal, but a side effect of my passion. Was I born in a wrong place, a century too late?
If I lived in Los Angeles, I would enjoy the sunny, spotless sky, the ocean and the mountainous desert on an everyday basis. But I have lived all my life in a place with unpredictable weather. In Poland, summers can be either hot or rainy, and winters snowy and freezing or damp and windy. They last a few days or several weeks, morphing into the next season. This means that my surroundings can be spectacular not only for someone from L.A., but also for me! The landscape is alive, the scenery changes throughout the year and that’s what I am trying to record. When I think about it, the colours in my mind become vivid again and my mental battery is charged for future flights.
That is why I like flying so much. I can do it almost every day and it is never the same. It simply brings me joy. I take off, leave everything behind and find myself in another dimension. I feel like a gardener cultivating his garden and visiting its most secret spots. I return to them from time to time. I see them change. By photographing changes, I photograph time.
Nature was the first subject I took on. Soon I started wondering: what am I really looking at? Is this a natural forest or no more than a timber plantation set up for industrial purposes? These questions gave a start to the Side Effects project, which touches upon universal features of human civilization through a series of local, ordinary Polish landscapes and spaces. I visit some of them regularly, waiting many years for the right moment. Then there are those I rediscover or see for the first time. I have been flying around Gdynia since 1996 and it still puzzles me. I take most of my pictures after starting from my backyard.
The Seasons series was - as part of the Side Effects project - awarded the World Press Photo 2015 second prize in the long-term projects category, and was included in the photo book „Side Effects” published in 2014.