Introduction to Joseph Podlesnik’s photography

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Today I am very pleased to present the work of Joseph Podlesnik. As always this piece, an introduction to his work, will initiate SnappedAway In Depth Series of posts: first an interview, then an opportunity to showcase one project and finally a selection of one photo picked from the images published, which will be later printed on a t-shirt.

Here is a photographer whose work stopped me with the strength of its silence. Joseph Podlesnik’s images seem to be confident without being pushy. It’s almost like he does not care about our opinions or ideas, he just does what needs to be done, following his intuition, keeping a close eye on where the work itself will lead him. Absorbing this type needs to be a slow deliberate process, almost mirroring the creative process itself. There will be no sudden explosions, no sharable “Look at this cool vintage/hipster/sexy thing”, we are talking slow, considered, subtle work here. Based on what I just said, you would expect a consistent, almost monolithic style, but this is not the case. The unexpected variety of approaches, style and points of view is probably the first thing you notice, and I really like that. It is a difficult thing to achieve, as one is always risking slipping into meaningless chaos, the unified method is easier and safer. There will of course be certain aspects of the work that remain there – like very limited presence of people for example and love for geometric precision.

One would not expect a sense of dark, twisted humour, but here it is. The catastrophe of this carefully trimmed monstrosity, faintly resembling an atomic mushroom (the sun behind it only helping), rendered in gentle shades of grey – a sudden transportation back in time, this curious mixture is funny but look beneath the surface and there is so much more. A careful observation of the state of mind , those desolate  concrete surfaces resembling a desert, an emotional desert, and the photographer, nodding to the classic “documentary” style does his own thing, looking at personal obsessions rather that a Farm Security Administration assigned topic, but with utmost seriousness and precision.

And than this funky beast comes along. How different to the previous. An attractive eye catcher, but yet again, layered like an old school birthday cake. The cold precision of steel actually renders the reflection less readable, the mechanical pattern obscures the scene (are not patterns suppose to be the epitome of easy predictability? Not with Joseph.), one can not be sure, is that a row of toilets, are we in a theme park, or is this mass of colour something else? I really like how the attractive eye catcher leaves me feeling rather uneasy.

Ah, the surfaces. Every photographer goes through that, which only makes it more difficult to do, since competition is fierce. The heavy concrete wall, covered in marks of the past, imprinted it would seem forever, shooting up from the corner, to reveal another concrete monster not far away back. What makes it work for me is the little fluffy cloud, a touch of lightness, a gentle smile trying to balance the deadly mass out.

Now this inside-outside projection, let us stop for a second here. An image becoming the heart of the house, its core so to speak, the house just being a frame exactly the same like the one next to it, but the image on the screen giving it personality – a mass produced illusion of uniqueness, captured in the frame of the window, framed by the photograph’s edge. Those three frames and three entities involved – the person living there, the TV content and photographer as another content producer – and were are we then? Another step back is required – we, the niche audience, are an audience as well, there is no getting away from it. The difference is in  the choice of where the perception is turned to, Joseph seems to say here. We are still “watching the TV” if you excuse the horrible pun, but obviously the context makes it have a very different grip on us, makes it right again. So is this dark grainy ugly thing a shimmer of hope then? Nice one, Joseph.

Another image that feels like it is coming from a different photographer, just like all we have seen so far. This time the atmosphere is full of midday light, peaceful greenery and bright sky. But even here, the contrast between the trees fighting for space and the houses pushing in is a silent struggle. Nature vs culture? There is no silence here, take a good look at all the branches for a moment and they turn into swirls of energy, a dancing conquest scraping for light. The photographers elevated vantage point is also quite interesting, a bit of a ego shining through, we can almost here the artist as he smirks, stealing the light himself.

We jump again to a scene in a different mood. No brightness here, it takes an effort to even look around the frame, the wide angle stretch, the heavy shadows, the uphill struggle. A simple pavement scene suddenly becomes an impossible task to take in. Joseph seems to be a master of pulling his own feelings into the scene.

I really like this. A moment of irony but at the same time a welcome break. The obvious cartoonish flower next to not-so-obvious bunch – is that a plastic imitation? A shadow of the real thing? A playful venture into criticising one’s own medium, especially with that shadow in the corner. A heavy blow, delivered with a plastic flower.

By now you must have gotten used to Joseph changing his style every two minutes. Here I feel a faint echo of Meyerovitz’s more silent moments. Or it may be just me. Nonetheless, the central axis is so tasty, everything clinging to that metal pole, to the source of light. And yes, the chair, of course, Ikea’s iconic design. Let’s have a seat and look, slowly, at this overwhelming richness of stuff, all this symbols interacting, every little bit overflowing with its own secrets. And yet, it is so clean and empty. How is that, Joseph? What have you done?

More textured surfaces, more contrast, more angels of view. The longing to just hit the road, the dream of the holy mountain, ah yes. Of course, the Behemoth is pink. Of course. And that tiny window. Yes please.

I feel I have said enough. I should just leave you with Joseph. Enjoy the stillness of his brilliant mind.

If you enjoyed reading this post stay with us for more of Joseph Podlesnik’s photography. Also you might want to check his website to find out more about his work.

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