In a world that runs at a fast pace it is a joy to meet someone who allows you to breathe and take your time. In the work of Joanna Skowrońska we found a moment of peace and reflection, immersed in both photography and music.
Joanna blends these two forms of art in her practice as she is in search of that connection between space and time. She mixes music and visual images, allowing her emotions to manifest in both mediums.
Hello Joanna and welcome to Lomography Magazine. What is your background, and what got you started with photography?
My father used to do photography. I owe him my first cameras and his first technical tips. As a 15-year-old I went to a boarding school and attended a music high school. I found a fantastic tutor there who ran darkroom and analogue photography classes. There I fell in love with black and white, the smell of fixative and the whole process of developing negatives and photos. There I took my first steps in pinhole photography.
When I chose my studies major, I hesitated between photography and music. I chose music because I had studied in this field since I was eight. It was very familiar to me. And photography has always been 'just' a hobby. After graduation, I felt that something was missing in my life. It was photography. I wanted to do something more with it. I decided to take the entrance exam to the Bydgoszcz Academy of Photography.
There, at the exam, I was invited to take part in the Master program in the Studio of Creative Photography and Techniques of the 19th Century. I worked with Marek Noniewicz for the whole year. It was a masterclass, so I had an amazing opportunity to learn from him. He is my master to this day and I am extremely grateful to him for the support he shows me on my artistic path.
What inspires you in analogue photography? And why do you choose to shoot with film?
Initially, I was inspired by the entire world around me. I remember taking pictures of literally everything. I was delighted with the softness and flexibility of these photographs. Errors that came at the beginning turned into artistic beauty, which I later tried to repeat or improve. I know it sounds weird, but I was obsessed with it. I think this photogenic error in analogue photography captivates me the most. Photographic film is very forgiving.
I also love black and white which is definitely more abstract. Today I am most inspired by nature and the human beings in it. I am trying to connect these two worlds. I rest the most when I separate myself from technology and everyday life. In my photographs, I give this escape to myself and to others.
How do you connect music and photography?
At the time when I was studying at the Bydgoszcz Academy of Photography, I was also studying MA studies in Music Theory. This time, despite the fact that it was difficult and abundant in many personal changes, was a creative breakthrough for me. I started to notice the similarities between the photos and the music. I felt this connection for the first time while listening to the 2nd movement of the 2nd Piano Concerto by Bela Bartok, looking at a photo taken by myself. Two completely different arts and they had a very similar effect on me. To this day, when I listen to this piece, I have one particular pinhole photo in front of my eyes. Taken with one of the Lomography cameras - Diana Multi Pinhole Operator! Since then, I have been looking for a way to combine the arts in my life.
Photography and music often evoke the same emotions, but when combined, they seem to have double power and have a double effect on a person. It is beautiful, among how many wonderful arts we live and what beauty we can surround ourselves with. Despite all the damage humans have been doing to this planet over the years, we have brought a lot of goodness here too. If anyone doubts this, please listen to Arvo Part, Philip Glass or Henryk Mikołaj Górecki, look at amazing visual arts: photos, graphics, paintings.
But back to the correspondence of arts, in my latest project "Recycled Arts and Thoughts", I combined a series of hand-colored analogue photographs with a musical recital composed of romantic songs by Fryderyk Chopin and Mieczysław Karłowicz. I sang these songs with the jazz guitarist Szymon Witczyński at the exhibition opening in Bydgoszcz (during the 8th Vintage Photo Festival).
We approached these pieces in a very original way, interpreting them not classically, but very lightly, highlighting the stories they carry. It was a very special event. But it is an exceptional work to combine these arts with each other because photography takes place in space and music takes place in time. I have to change my thinking about photography and transfer it from space to time so that it lasts with music.
What is your favorite technique for experimental photography?
I love the multiple exposures. I use it a lot in my portraits. I like to mix different plans to portray a person - to reflect their character, temperament or lifestyle. It takes a lot of psychological work to look at the photographed person, and see them with their own eyes. It gives great satisfaction.
I also use multiple expositions in landscape photography. Recently, I have also started to manually color my photos. It gives me other creative possibilities that I haven't used before. The recent exhibition "Recycled Arts and Thoughts" has been just such an example. I colored all the photos using watercolors.
What is the process behind blending painting and photography?
It is a very complex process. I take photos on negative, develop and scan them, and then print on fine art paper. Such paper works very well with watercolors, but it is very delicate, it requires precision and restraint in coloring. I have my favorite color palette and use it to dye my photos. Greens, yellows and sometimes purples dominate.
I could paint the picture to make it look like it was taken on LomoChrome Purple. I create fairy-tale landscapes. I paint with light and a brush. I love the moment when a photo is still wet and gives very vibrant colors. It’s just magical.
What's coming up for you in the future?
I continue to work with Szymon on another project that will connect music - Polish folk songs - with analogue animations made on 18x24 mm and 8 mm film negatives. The entire project will combine the history and place of women in Polish culture. This is a very important topic in most of the world's cultures. A woman should be clean, quiet and helpful. There is no place for our own "I". I do not understand this way of thinking and for years I have been trying to fight it by showing how absurd it is today.
I imagine animations very feminine, based on portraits, black and white with lots of photographic grain. I am tempted by coloring the works, but I will definitely change the color palette to one that unites the project with Polish folk art, which is extremely colorful. I think that I am transforming from a photographer and a singer into a performer. I hope to present the work to a wider audience in a few weeks.
Keep tagging your work with #HeyLomography, we love to see your works on socials. You can follow Joanna at joann.skowronska.