The Intimacy of Joanna Szproch’s Photography

Published 06th Apr 2020, Written by veronica

Joanna Szproch sheds light on the ordinary as she captures the beauty in regular moments. Her photos are raw but gentle, intimate exploration of human connections.

The subjects in Joanna Szproch’s photographic world are often people close to her, or herself. She finds inspiration in her own encounters with other people and the human ability to feel and connect with one another.

All photos in this article are by Joanna Szproch

How do you define your work?

My work could be described as something between innocent and vulgar, trashy and kitschy, romantic and brutal, old school and experimental. My focus is on my own experience as sensitive person far from the strict definitions – because they only constrain my ways of perception and expression. 

By creating something between real and fantasy I’m discovering image poetry of the ordinary. Which might be a form of a fairy tale therapy.

 

You’ve stated that you work with intuition to express ‘color,’ what does this mean, and how is it shown in your work?

Color is my main stimulus; it feeds my visual cravings. It’s a characteristic that defines my gaze; I have a sense of it and comes so naturally that I could say that I was born this way.

Apart from its obvious aesthetic quality, it is the intuition to transmit some emotional quality subconsciously… the atmosphere, the charm of the situation. That might be one of the factors that make my ordinary situations feel so magical.

Why did photography become your medium of choice?

Photography is the medium that I understand the best; it’s been a true passion since my childhood – my dad invited me to a darkroom in the tiny bathroom in our tiny flat and showed the magic of it.  

I would say that I “feel” it, but there is also some intellectual part of it that I want to pursue… While painting needs a long-going process, making a photo takes a small fracture of time, and even of the relativity of perspectives, it freezes factual moments. It’s so multilayered, I am still getting surprised by the medium and it’s still a source of discovery and creative fuel.

 

For your artistic practice, you prefer an analog approach – why is that?

For me, digital photography and its virtual accessibility somehow diminish the value of a picture. The automatization of it means that there’s no need for much knowledge or material investment. That is why we are flooded with photos that look nice but lack real substance. I realized that now, even more, the factor of value in the image is the whole context of creating it; the concept, style, and the entire procedure behind it.

 

In your recent project​, BODYWHOLENESS, you combined the mediums photography and performance art to portray the human as a holistic being – not just a surface. How was it exploring these two mediums together?

In this performance, Mateusz Czyczerski, a choreographer from the LGBT scene in Poland, was blindfolded, stumbling on rocks on the ground while I was filming him on VHS, which was simultaneously transmitted on the beamer. Allowing the audience to see two perspectives: the two of us interacting and my very close perspective of seeing him through the camera.

This was my first performance experience, and it gave me a completely different view of photographing and filming. Usually, when shooting, I am only thinking about the situation that I am capturing. There, I was present and mindful, I was in the body, and I felt a physical sensation.

At some point, I witnessed the awakening of awareness, that there is a part of a devouring mother in me. I wanted to help him, but then the realization came that I wasn’t allowed to intervene. It was a stream of confusing feelings of compassion, guilt, and responsibility. 

Let’s see what our future will bring, but I hope we will continue to work with Mateusz on Bodywholeness 2.0 and this time we aim to deepen these spectator/subject – dominant/submissive relations.

BODYWHOLENESS

What draws you to explore personal stories like the one in @smilefomedaddy, about female friendship and identity, or like on #SorryNotSingle where you portray your romantic relationship?

I want to rediscover the importance of our connectivity and confront it with the recent tendency of hyper-individualism. We are not self-sufficient; we are all interdependent. At the same time, we are limited cognitively by the subjectivity of our experiences, and we create a culture that helps us to coexist, partly cutting us off from our inherent roots. I am trying to return to these roots by focusing on the integral role of the body, feelings, and mind. 

In #SorryNotSingle, referring to an annoying Tinder campaign, I argue that comfort is what makes us unhappy, but it’s still worth being in a relationship even if you have to compromise some of your freedom. It’s a story about the romantic relationship with a pinch of my rebelliousness. I try to de-stereotype it with my pink glasses on.

In @smilefomedaddy, me and my muse and friend Patrycja, discovered that our girlish fantasies converged and that we could recreate them together. The project spans over ten years and is about our transformation from princesses into queens of life. Now we’re turning this into a book.

Photo by Joanna Szproch

Photo by Joanna Szproch

You’ve said that you don’t belong in either the traditional nor queer practice, that you are rather in between and willing to “feel that gap” – what is this gap, and how does it feel?

For me, it’s a waste of time figuring out which category I belong in, as well as making up my own category. Labels are just another layer preventing me from confronting my vulnerabilities and having an honest conversation about them: my fear of rejection and abandonment, need for social approval, feeling of not being enough, or yearning for being loved. 

I mean, the more names and the more distinctions, the bigger the chance for the “gap.” There will always be things that are different for each individual that would need an individual name. I seek for something which would help us to identify what we all have in common, gender, and genitals neutrally. In the end, we all have brains, hearts, nipples, and butts with the same needs of rice, toilet paper, and love.

Photo by Joanna Szproch

In a world where female nipples are censored, exploring subjects like female identities and sexualities almost automatically becomes political, what are your thoughts on this?

In my artistic practice, I try to represent my perspective and avoid referring to any political dogma. Focusing on the injustice of the world is unproductive and discouraging; we need to focus on growing our resilience. It’s better to embrace ways to feel the pride of being a woman. Also, the “Free the Nipple” movement is, for me, a first-world problem. 

I give zero fuck, and I am not here to please others. I will not be ashamed to talk openly about the things that we were shamed for too long; for having nipples or vaginas and that they were reserved just for male pleasure. I will take back my body and allow myself to have pleasure.

Photo by Joanna Szproch

How do you see your art evolve in the future? 

In the current circumstances, it is quite challenging to think about the future. I never wished for any disastrous situation like this to happen, although I silently hoped for people’s awakening for a long time. We are spiritual beings, we have to unify, but recent tendencies have instead been the opposite – we are only getting more polarized. Perhaps only a catastrophe can make us take a step back to rethink our humanity.

But, I still have some plans scheduled, I want to continue teaching, I want to publish my @smileformedaddy book as soon as possible – there are other projects waiting.

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