Every single photo is a result of a certain manipulation – interview with Igor Pisuk by Martin Čulík

Igor Pisuk is young and very talented documentary photographer from Poland. He has reached experience from world famous and reputable documentary photographers. He graduated from University of Art (Łódź Film School, Poland), study branch – Photography. His contemporary performance is about inner feeling of life. His feelings and emotions as a unique personal story are visually transformed into excellent book titled as Deceitful Reverence. Photos from this book can be seen in this interview.

How did you find medium of photography, it means, when did you feel an effort to express yourself by the photos?

I first started taking pictures when I got a camera from my dad at high school. Yet for a longer period of time, even after I got to the film school, photography hasn’t really become vital for me. During that time for many years I had a huge alcohol problem. Drinking was destructive, it shut down my emotions, suspended me in an unreal vegetative state. The real breakthrough came after many months of drinking when I decided to go to therapy in a closed institution. After I left it, one evening I saw my emaciated reflection in a bathroom mirror. I barely could recognise myself. I was a sack of skin and bones, a ghost. I grabbed my camera and took a self portrait to remember it, to come closer to my fears and emotions, to name them, domesticate them, work through them. It was the beginning of “Deceitful Reverence” on which I worked for the next 6 years.

You have graduated in „Master Degree in photography at the cinematography Department, from the Film School in Lodz, Poland„. Did you meet there with such lecturers who leaded you to the photography of your interest or did you study it by yourself?

At school I learned history of photography, various techniques etc. still, it was the sobering up experience and projecting my emotions on the outward world that meant the most. It helped me to work out my own personal visual language and to decide how and what do I want to tell by the means of photography.

How do you imagine documentary photography? What is your opinion on it?

First of all, I don’t believe in anything like objectivism in photography or traditional notion of documentary photography suggesting that what we see on a picture is somehow a trustworthy depiction of reality. The idea of an “image” itself says how an image is just a flat reflection of what is photography’s subject, and it is just a registration of a one milisecond. The same object taken by various different photographers will look completely different. One will choose a telephoto lense, and another can choose wide angle, and another might chose medium format; one will decide for colour, another for B&W. The variety of elements and choices, and the way a photograph is made means tons of little decisions which will deliver photographers vision. Every single photo is a result of a certain manipulation. Photography even if it’s telling the truth, it’s lying.

Yet the type of photography I like the most and find most enriching is personal photography. There are type of photos where photographers try to say something about themselves and surrounding reality in the most sincere way. It’s a never ending attempt to reach for primordial emotions. I revere the most the type of photography where I can see photographer’s sensitivity and sincerity of his work.

I think that the work of Antoine D’Agata and Jacob Aue Sobol is your favourite and you are mostly influenced by them. Do you plan to express and create your emotions in this photography concept in the follow?

Actually, they are not my favorite photographers. But it’s true that I especially adore JA Sobol’s cycle “Sabine”, which is about love. It’s a very personal, moving and beautiful depiction of a relationship.

Please, describe us your cooperation with the world famous documentary photographer Anders Petersen. Are you still in cooperation and in contact?

When I lived in Stockholm, I’ve become an assistant of Anders Petersen. I worked for him between years 2016 and 2017. I was responsible mainly for preparation of digital files for exhibitions and book publication. It was a tremendously exhaustive period, but also an important life experience.

Who are your other favourite photographers, which are your favourite photo-series that motivate you in present work?

I like many photographers like Daidō Moriyama, J. A. Sobol, Leif Sandberg, Sohrab Hura, JH Engström. But to me, photography is too personal to think about influences and I try to focus mainly on my own experiences and to choose subjects that move me. I think photography has to be possibly most sincere and free of influences. One has to answer oneself a question what is your vision, what do you want to talk about and what fascinates us. If you can find this in surrounding reality or yourself, the work, the way I see it, will transpire emotions. This is what I’m looking for in photography all the time.

Do you feel any difference between black and white and colour photography from the point of view of author´s visual details expression?

Personally I like mixing colour and black and white photography. B&W is more abstract graphic-like, it’s minimalistic and evokes surreal atmosphere. On the other hand, colour seems more “realistic”, after all, we see the world in colour. It can also stress and evoke the aura, states we are in, emotions. In my cycle there’s a lot of reds, which for me is very organic, lively, expresses strong feelings.

How do you feel expressive presentation of intimacy and nakedness in documentary photography?

I have no problem with that. I think intimacy and nudity are a part of our lives. We are born naked, we make love naked, we wash naked. Nudity is revealing ourselves, shaking off masks. It’s a part of our life, which shouldn’t be a taboo. But I still think majority of nudity comes from male photographers and their patriarchal gaze at women seeing them as submissive, defenceless creatures. I want to see more work from men and women talking about themselves. In my book I try to balance both perspectives. I show myself not as macho, I reveal to the viewer my feelings and the way I see my fragile body, anxieties, loneliness, love for my girlfriend, whole spectrum of emotions.

You are regularly participant in various exhibitions, you published your work in various magazines, you have participated in some interesting successful competitions and you have reached Grants and Awards. Do you take these awards as motivation in further work? 

Yes. It’s always nice if someone appreciates of your work.

Is the environment of your life suitable for your working performance, or have you also another job?

I just try survive haha, sometimes I pay my rent from awards, sometimes I work as dog walker, cleaner etc..

Do you feel yourself more than freelance photographer or do you have ambitions to take photos also for journals, magazines or agencies?

I have never got a commission for a commercial work, but if they allowed me to keep my style, it could be an interesting experience. Why not?

Can you present us your latest book „Deceitful Reverence“.

The book has just been published. The premiere was in the end of November 2018. I  have been working on it for 6 years. It is a very personal story of experiencing life after quitting with alcohol. It’s divided into three parts. In the first one self-portraits dominate; also, looking for my identity. It is a moment fulfilled with the feelings of loneliness, feeling lost, falling down, alienation, depression and hope. The second part is a kind of visual diary from experiencing reality: it encounters with people, nature, small details that I preserved in pictures. The third part is about love, intimacy, desire, overstepping one’s boundaries, about corporeality, about losing oneself in the feeling of love. The author of opening essay, very beautiful and personal, is my girlfriend Agata Pyzik. The book has been graphically put together by Aneta Kowalczyk, who ideally composed it. She put together a thick, “harsh” type of paper with transparent one and the colour pictures has been printed on a glossy, thick paper. The book despite its freshness has already brought me a lot of comments and quite emotional ones at that, and some strong reactions, which is the best what it could happen to me.

It can be purchased at the publisher BlowUp Press and also through my website www.igorpisuk.com or docphotomagazine.com.

Do you have some special message for people around the world by your photos?

No I don’t. I’m happy if my photography can touch someone.

Do you actually participate on any other interesting photo ideas or projects?

Yes, but it’s too soon to talk about it.

Translation by Agata Pyzik. All photographs © Igor Pisuk.

Igor Pisuk (*1984) based in Warsaw (Poland) | graduated with a Master Degree in Photography from the Łódź Film School | laureate of the DEBUTS 2014 promoting the most talented emerging photographers | finalist of the Leica Oskar Barnack Newcomer Award (2015), Grand Prix Fotofestiwal Łódź (2018) and the winner of the 2015 Warsaw Photo Days | his photographs have been exhibited during numerous photo festivals and published in several books and magazines, including Mono Volume Two (London: Gomma Books, 2015), among otherswww.igorpisuk.com.