1 December 2012

Uganda: Living in the Moment

Renowned Dutch photographic artist, Michel Szulc Krzyzanowski, was recently in Kampala to photograph a project called 'What the World Has Never Seen' that seeks to document people who are willing to showcase what nobody has ever seen.

Besides Kampala, seven other cities, Buenos Aires, Istanbul, New York, Soppong (Thailand), Jerusalem, Moscow, and Amsterdam are involved. The project is centred on privacy, intimacy, and how technology has impacted the world today.

The aim is to initiate debate on the way people associate, how their values on intimacy, honesty and privacy have changed. People with surprising answers will be documented photographically and be published in an exclusive limited edition luxury photo book in 2013 and in exhibitions in participating cities.

Krzyzanowski says the advent of technology and social media has grossly affected the way people interact socially, and this has killed the intimacy the people used to enjoy. People say they have virtual friends and they interact more but that can never beat the physical meetings the people used to enjoy before, he says. He believes young people have come off worse.

"Are we still in control and do people still hold the values that were so dear before the onset of technological gadgets."

Questions like that are central to Krzyzanowski because of the attitude he takes to life and his work. He compares his work to drug addiction.

"To turn into a successful autonomous photographer, one must give up everything in life including the little comforts of life," he recently said during a lecturer to students of the Margaret Trowell School of Industrial and Fine Arts at Makerere University.

For him, work, work, and work, is not a pain; it is pleasure. To reach his level, he has given up everything, including love and personal possessions.

"Basically I live like a Budhist," he explains. "This means that the past and the future are of no interest so much. The important thing is the actual moment I live in. So I organize my whole life based on this philosophy," says Krzyzanowski.

"For example to be completely living in the moment as much as possible, I even gave up to live in a permanent home," says the photographer who has travelled all over the world in search of picturesque locations for his autonomous conceptual photographs of special people or situations.

For the last seven years, Krzyzanowski has lived like a nomad; not knowing where he will go, what will happen. There is nothing that he leaves behind to worry him. He is not married and has chosen not to have children.

"If you came to see me, you would leave behind your home or even your dog. And these things would stay in your heart while you are here, so you are not 100% here," he explains in an interview.

Krzyzanowski says his attitude enables him to experience things with a 100% free mind. It is harmonious feeling.

"It gives a very high quality to my life, and everything I experience is very deep, very pure," he says.

But there is also logic to Krzyzanowski's attitude to his work. In 2004, he says, he asked himself where exactly he felt happiest, was it in his house or during his travels? His heart chose the latter, and so he sold the last permanent home he owned in Spain.

Krzyzanowski was born in 1949 in the Dutch town of Oosterhout.

He reckons his professional breakthrough was when he turned six and his father gave him his first camera. From then he has been taking pictures and after graduating from St Joost, an Art academy in Breda, The Netherlands, he chose autonomous photography because he likes doing what he wants and he always works basing on his own ideas, initiative and creativity.

Over the decades, Krzyzanowski has dealt with various genres of photography including sequences, vista series, Photoshop series, and many other photo projects.

Photo Projects:

His photo projects have always been global in nature and he chooses subjects or topics which have a universal appeal such as love. His projects are also about complex concepts and follow the changes in time. They are always about people because when "you do projects about people, you become of meaning to them. If I can become of meaning to you, I confirm my existence."

His deep sense of social responsibility combined with his interest in people has always led him to produce social documentary photography and his works have been exhibited in museums and galleries and purchased by art collections.

"My projects are always ideological in nature and educational. Every project is exciting and the most exciting is the one I am doing at that very moment," he says.

Krzyzanowski says in order to do projects that attract worldwide attention; you have got to do 'top spot'--work like a sportsman preparing for the Olympics.

Asked whether he can recall one of the most exciting projects he has worked on over the last four decades, he says, he never lives in the past because for him, "To live in the moment, you get the best."

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