Exposing Minorities: Domestic Photography and Cultural History in Post-Communist Poland, 1989-1996

21 March 2016, Sotheby’s Institute of Art, London

In 1994 the Jewish-Polish Shalom Foundation announced a photographic contest whose intention was to reconstruct the sociocultural histories of Polish-Jews who lived in the geographical region of Poland before, during and after the Second World War. Calling upon members of the public to submit their annotated domestic photographs for inclusion in the project, the Foundation’s initiative emerged shortly after the 1989 collapse of the communist regime in Poland, and alongside similar projects whose aim was to salvage Poland’s multicultural histories – histories the communist government had largely erased. Whereas existing scholarly literature in the field of photography studies tends to frame domestic photography with reference to the social behaviors prevalent in democratic states, I considered the Foundation’s project as a case study that sheds light on domestic photographic practices in a country that did not see democracy before 1989. My talk drew on research I carried out along with Marta Ziętkiewicz (the Institute of Fine Art at the Polish Academy of Sciences), and the findings presented intended to diversify some of the meanings and functions often associated with domestic photographic collections in current studies in the field.

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