“I was born on this land. As a young man, I explored various areas. getting to know the Kielce region on foot and by bike. I also began to develop a growing sense of identity with it. All this caused me to focus on the land between the Vistula and Pilica rivers as my area of action. It was my land, my artistic homeland. I resolved to work here, and have remained faithful to this rule all my life. Of course, I also travelled widely around Poland and the world. I took delight in the scenery, but I kept returning to the Kielce region.”
Paweł Pierściński (1938–2017)
Photographer, publicist, critic, community activist, and theoretician of photography, initiator of the Polish landscape photographers’ movement, curator of major Polish exhibitions of landscape photography, editor and co-author of photography albums, including Masters of Polish Landscape Photography (2000), and Kielce School of Landscape (2002). Initiator, organiser and animator of the artistic movement known as the Kielce School of Landscape. Pierściński earned his diploma in civil engineering at the Warsaw University of Technology (1962).
He photographed from 1952 and debuted as a photographer in 1955. He was a member of the Union of Polish Art Photographers (ZPAF) from 1964, an honorary member of ZPAF (from 1982), Honorary Chairman of the Świętokrzyskie ZPAF Branch in Kielce, and an honorary member of many photographic associations in Poland.
Paweł Pierściński had more than 250 solo shows and participated in over 600 group exhibitions in Poland and abroad. His oeuvre and activity earned him a number medals, awards and diplomas. Pierściński published over a dozen photographic albums featuring
Paweł Pierściński “Self-portrait on Mount Klonówka”, 1984
Paweł Pierściński had more than 250 solo shows and participated in over 600 group exhibitions in Poland and abroad.
his own works (including: Structures, 1982, Between the Vistula and Pilica, 2001, The Świętokrzyskie Land, 2004). His photographs have been widely reproduced in world photography almanacs (e.g. Photography Year Book, Photographis, Fotojahrbuch International, FIAP Almanach) and in professional photo journals in many countries, and can be found in private collections and museums worldwide (e.g. The French Museum of Photography in Bièvres, The Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow, and the Museum of the History of Photography in Krakow). Pierściński published nearly 600 texts, critical studies, reviews and forewords to exhibition catalogues (including non-serial publications, monographs and source-based publications). His most noteworthy theoretical writings include texts that discuss the activity of the Kielce School of Landscape, as well as those that analyse the history and recent achievements of Polish landscape photography. His first non-serial publication was the brochure Kielce School of Landscape (Kielce 1976), which explained the central ideas behind the Kielce’s aesthetic movement. Pierściński’s other
major writings include: Kielce Photography in 1978–1988(An Almanach of Photography, Kielce 1989), Polish Landscape Photography (album Masters of Polish Landscape, Kielce 2000), Kielce School of Landscape (album, Kielce 2002) and a book of poems, The Hill (Kielce 2005). His other publications include: Landscape Time, an anthology of his own writings (Krakow 2004), his autobiography Paweł Pierściński. Work 1955-2005 (Kielce 2007), Fields of Landscape. Memories (Kielce 2009), and Photographers 1946-2006. A Biographical Dictionary of Polish Photographers (Warsaw 2006), edited by Pierściński.
Pierściński’s work as a photographer and community activist earned him state decorations, including an Officer’s Cross and a Knight’s Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta, a Silver Medal for Merit to Culture, and honorary decorations of The International Federation of Photographic Art (FIAP) in Geneva: AFIAP, EFIAP and EsFIAP.
Biography based on a biographical note prepared by Paweł Pierściński.
He travelled with his camera around Poland, especially his beloved Kielce region, from the 1950s almost until the end of his life. He photographed big cities, visited tiny settlements, and travelled kilometres of dirt roads. He examined every building, industrial plant, tree, field, every view from many sides. Sometimes, you get the impression that he repositioned his camera by centimetres to extract the essence of the scene.
He was not only a documentary photographer, but also an artist, who tirelessly experimented with the photographic medium. He used various photographic techniques, such as isohelia, relief and photomontage. The checkerboard-like and striped Świętokrzyskie fields, as transformed by Pierściński, have long become the classics of Polish art photography.
In encyclopaedic terms, his biography consists of several hundred solo and group shows and dozens of curated exhibitions. His output comprises dozen or so albums, countless critical texts, forewords to photographic albums, works in Polish and foreign collections, and promoting the beauty of Polish landscape through what is known as the Kielce School of Landscape. As Pierściński said in a 2017 interview for Gazeta Wyborcza, “I was born on this land. As a young man, I explored various areas. getting to know the Kielce region on foot and by bike. I also began to develop a growing sense
of identity with it. All this caused me to focus on the land between the Vistula and Pilica rivers as my area of action. It was my land, my artistic homeland. I resolved to work here, and have remained faithful to this rule all my life. Of course, I also travelled widely around Poland and the world. I took delight in the scenery, but I kept returning to the Kielce region.”
What seems to be crucial in Pierściński’s attitude is his boundless dedication to photography and his belief in its power to preserve the picture of reality and to convey the associated emotions. He returned to the same places many times, at different times of the year. Today, thanks to his now archival photographs, we can trace back Poland’s development, the restoration of monuments and the construction of new housing estates. And there are also the people. As it seems, Paweł Pierściński’s photography is a constant search for people and traces of their activity. It is also a continuous search for oneself and the possibility of leaving behind visual evidence of a changing world.
Katarzyna Sagatowska, Monika Szewczyk-Wittek
Multiple Views – text published in Pismo. Magazyn Opinii No. 11/2020