Krzysztof Gierałtowski was one of Poland’s most sought-after photographers. His work can now be found in a Musée d’Art Moderne Paris, and MOMA

Light and Shade

‘Leathers from Bulgaria’ – Krzysztof Gierałtowski’s fashion shoot for Ty i Ja magazine, #127, 1970

‘Leathers from Bulgaria’ – Krzysztof Gierałtowski’s fashion shoot for Ty i Ja magazine, #127, 1970

For many years Krzysztof Gierałtowski was one of Poland’s most sought-after photographers and his work can now be found in the collections of Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, and moma, New York. He shot a huge range of Polish stars, artists and thinkers, including Nobel laureate Wisława Szymborska and award-winning director Krzysztof Kieślowski.

Born in Warsaw in 1938, Gierałtowski studied at the prestigious Łódź Film School. He received funding from the Dutch Ministry of Culture, the French Government, the US Information Agency and the Fondation pour une Entraide Intellectuelle Européenne. Throughout the 60s and 70s he collaborated with cult magazine Ty i ja and photographed collections for Poland’s top fashion houses.

His distinctive, dramatic style was down to no little technical skill. He became an expert in experimental lighting and form and pushed the boundaries of photography of that period. His figures have a sculptural quality to them while the interplay of light and shade, and a prevailing atmosphere of terror and ritual are all common themes. Gierałtowski chose unusual locations for his outdoor shoots, such as the mountains of Bulgaria, with their rugged rocks, stone buildings and looming shadows. The models in Gierałtowski’s photographs appear to be in a constant battle against the colossal structures and nature around them, almost as though they have been forced into the photograph. However they always reign over their environment, like statues of Greek gods. The models are haughty and have been scaled up in size, giving them an imperious and superhuman air.

The clothes featured in Gierałtowski’s photographs are always much bulkier and more geometrically shaped than in reality. Gierałtowski loved clashes so shapes and textures contrast with the natural landscapes and large urban structures around them. He photographed a folk collection for Moda Polska against an urban backdrop of steel and glass skyscrapers, neon lights and expensive new cars. In the photographs, clothed silhouettes mingle with the bulky modernistic exterior of Warsaw’s first self-service supermarket, Supersam. 

Paulina Latham