Leica 6×7 Gallery is pleased to present a project by the debuting photographer and traveler Patryk Bułhak, entitled “Closed”.
The 20th century was not an easy one for Iran, and the 21st century has not started any better. The country’s prominent position on the American list of the “axis of evil” was certainly not likely to bring about any improvement in the situation. Patryk Bułhak was there before the sanctions were lifted, at a time when tourists were rare in the region, though in any case he tended to avoid the most famous places. Through his work, he tells the story of everyday life in Iran, and the ordinary people he met while there. He spoke with these people and spent a lot of time interacting with them in order to better understand their stories.
On the island of Hormoz in the Persian Gulf, he captured shots of Bandari women standing in front of the lens. Before the photo shoot, there was a discussion about whether they could be photographed at all. Bandari women cover their faces with metal masks decorated with colorful materials.
Patryk’s travels took him to the Zagros Mountains, where he met with shepherds and their families, living with them and participating in their daily routines, while communicating mainly through body language He went to Hormoz with newly met friends from Tehran to watch the dawn, and later found himself at a house party in Esfahan. Throughout these adventures, he was meeting and befriending ordinary people in various places around the country.
It was during these travels that Patryk learned that, although foreigners can come to visit Iran, the Iranians do not generally have passports and traveling abroad is heavily restricted. The borders remain closed to them. This information resonated in Patryk and inspired him to start work on his project. The free and ordinary everyday life that he had previously observed in Iran, suddenly became an illusion. He realized that the horizons were limited and narrow.
– Why do you go to Iran, with no set subject in mind and no fixed aims?
I know where I am going to and what I might expect to find, but very often things are different once I am there, and so I try to let the subject find me. I don’t confine myself to aims set in advance, but when I am in a place, when I am meeting people and they start talking, that’s when I can feel my subject finding me, rather than the other way around.
– What about the photos? Do you go with a project in mind?
I usually choose the destination carefully, but then go with the flow once I am there. I don’t attend any special events. I also do not delude myself that I can tell any new or unusual truth about the country itself, about the nation. But I can look someone in the eyes. I can catch the moment.
– How do you communicate with people?
In the cities there is always someone who speaks English. But the most important things are energy, calmness, understanding and respect for other people’s intimate space. And then there are also gestures, and there are eyes…
– Do you make a lot of eye contact?
As much as possible as they tell you a great deal. But I also want people to know that I’m curious, as all human beings are, and that I won’t hurt them. There is no better language than speaking with your eyes, it’s universal. I also try to look into the eyes of nature; it reveals a lot about where I am.
– The languages are different, are the people as different?
They are both similar and completely different at the same time. Sometimes they seem to be as close neighbors, but other times I have the impression that we were born on different planets. There are things you can do, and some things you are expected to do; there are various problems, needs and dreams. I am a visitor there, but I come with respect and everything is important to me. It is possible that we will make an instant connection, but it Is just as likely that I will have to undergo many hours of negotiating before I am able to take a picture.
– Did you travel long distances?
It was never about kilometers, it was about getting from A to B. Something might happen just around the corner, in the next apartment, or hundreds of miles away. Only these kilometers are counted differently; you have to measure the time and convert things into days – two days on the road, a week, a month.
– Why “Closed”?
We can enter and leave the country; they cannot. They are open-minded and curious, but they can move only within the boundaries that someone has set. However, they can travel in their imagination, based on what they have heard from foreign visitors. It is a bit like thing used to be here…
PATRYK BUŁHAK (1977) is a photographer and traveler who lives and works in Warsaw. He graduated from the Academy of Photography in Warsaw. His work focuses on the human attitude towards the world, in the context of complicated sociocultural relations. In 2016 he became the winner of the DEBUTS awards organized by doc! Photo magazine for talented emerging photographers. Photographs from his latest project were shown, among other places, at the Luisa Catucci Gallery in Berlin and at various post-competition exhibitions.
Exhibition in the Leica 6×7 Gallery in Warsaw
Opening (with the artist): 01.08 (Thursday), at 7 PM
Exhibition on display: 02.08 – 15.09
Meeting with the artist: 12.09 (Thursday), at 6.30 PM (chaired by Joanna Kinowska)