Katarzyna Kubiak, born in 1984, is a Polish photographer based in Warsaw. She is one of the founders of the Streetical Collective which, as of yet, aims to promote the “street” genre, mainly in Poland.
Statement: When it comes to street photography, I focus on details while searching for new inspirations and new things I can learn. I lead a not-so-exciting life behind the desk in a public administration office, however, after working hours, I turn into a superhero wannabe for my beloved daughter.
My work was presented at exhibitions both in Poland and abroad: Greece (Blank Wall Galery-Travelers Exhibition) and Germany (Gudberg Nerger Galery Word Street Photography Exhibition).
- Warsaw Insider
- World Street Photography Book
- Leica Street Photo Poland 2016
- MIFA – Moscow International Foto Awards 2016 (Honorable Mention)
- DEBUTS 2016– Book and Exhibition
- IPA–The International Photography Awards 2015 (Honorable Mention)
You can find Katarzyna Kubiak on the Web:
What is your first childhood memory?
The childhood was not a pleasant time for me. Over time, I try not to think of those days. I remember when together with my mum we were picking fruits of the rowan and then with a needle and a thread we strung those beads to create necklaces. We were sitting on the grass in the park next to our house. I want to save this memory because it is of great value to me.
Are you still learning who you are?
Sure, but it’s rather the hard way. It is always most difficult for me to accept my weaknesses, or to admit to myself that there are things in life that I’m totally not suited for. I think it’s cool to discover something new in oneself, even if it is not always good.
What got you involved in photography in the first place?
I started to photograph by coincidence, somewhere around 2014. I call it a coincidence, although I do not believe in such things. I took my first photos with a phone. Later on, someone convinced me to buy a camera. It all flowed naturally, but in the end, I feel it was something that gives me now a lot of satisfaction and pleasure.
Who are you when no one is looking at you?
When I’m alone, I am a very pensive person. Very often I am somewhere sunk in thoughts, sometimes losing long hours. But it’s ok because I belong to the people who feel good about themselves, so I completely don’t mind it (smiling).
Ansel Adams once said: You bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books you have read, the music you have heard, the people you have loved. Could you tell us about your favorite photographs, books, music, and people who are closest to you?
Well… I just love music, and I’m totally addicted to movies. I absolutely agree with that quote and speaking about my favorite things – they are changing all the time. It probably depends on what is happening in my life; depends on my mood, on what just started to fascinate me in photography, music or in cinema.
I like documentary films. I remember watching the movie “Man on Wire” on TV. The way how the character talked about his passion and what his friends have said resulted in a continuous stream of my tears. Same with “Lost in Translation”, where everything is so subtle, even invisible. Also, “Life of Pi” which we tried to interpret later with my colleague. “Mon Ro,” which I love for music. Also, “Belgica”, “Whiplash”, and way more. I also watch a lot of mind-boggling movies, mostly by myself, because usually, no one wants to join me then. Perhaps that is why I am fascinated with photography breaking some social norms, strange, even “dirty”. I do not like “nice pictures” that most people like to watch.
For me, the real beauty is elsewhere. From people, or to be specific, women who fascinate me, I would definitely mention Frida, whose creativity and the personality I have admired for a long time. As a model of feminine beauty, I admire Monica Bellucci. She is the essence of femininity for me. I do not have much time for books, but I try not to neglect this matter. I still buy new ones, and then I start to read a few at a time. Currently, I read three at the same time. But I have no favorite authors. The books are usually recommended by my friends or sometimes happens that I find some good one on the Internet and I immediately want to have it.
When it comes to people close to my heart, it is definitely my daughter. We are learning from each other all the time, she is constantly changing. It is difficult to be a wise parent of a teenager because sometimes no solution is good. I raise her by myself, so things become more and more complicated. I have just a few friends, but all are the wonderful ones. I do not even have to mention them here, because they know this well and how important they are to me.
There’s a thin line between invading people’s privacy and taking their photographs. Why do ethics matter?
It’s a difficult question. For each of us, that thin line is somewhere else. As for me, I’m just trying not to present people in unfavorable situations, but there we can discuss what that means for anyone. For instance, I may shoot with the goodwill attitude but the person being photographed may feel just uncomfortable with the output.
Like always in life, what matters is empathy. I think those who really love photography tend to put this border in the right place.
Bruce Gilden claims that photography is a voyeuristic medium. Does it resonate with you?
Yes, I can agree with that. I think that every photographer has something to do with the voyeurism. I don’t know why, but maybe something is wrong with us I hope is quite normal. Why do we want to go so deep in someone’s life?
Have you ever acted rude in front of people you have tried to photograph?
No. I never had any major troubles.
Have you ever been following your subject that the person could eventually think you’re a stalker or a pervert?
No, it also didn’t happen to me. Probably because I’m very impatient. If I did not succeed, I just move on, and apparently, it was supposed to be like this.
Gloria Steinem once said that the truth will set you free, but first, it will piss you off. Are you getting nervous when someone goes deeper and scrutinizes your work?
Yes, surely the first feeling is usually the irritation. That’s probably a normal reaction, I suppose. Then comes the reflection, whether it was worth taking these words personally. If you think it over, then you actually feel better, but you need to be mature to do that. But sure, there are people whose opinion I don’t care about completely (laughter).
What if you take images for a couple of years and don’t get a positive audience reaction? Would you be still taking them?
I have a lot of luck in this matter, if I may call it luck. I photograph just for 3 years now and, as of yet, lots of people’s reactions were positive from the very start.
As I remember we were starting at the same time. I recently talked to one of my friends about this and that it may be frustrating. He still photographs anyway because he just loves it. I think it could apply to me, too but I cannot be sure. If this happens to me in the following years of my photographic adventure, I will gladly answer this question again.
Do you often get jealous of someone’s achievements?
Not often, but sometimes happens to me. I believe that it is a normal human reaction. This positive jealousy mobilizes me. I wonder then “how did she or he took that photo”, “when I’ll do something like that”. I then get such a small kick in the ass and I know how much it is to learn and get to know.
If you could wake up tomorrow in the body of another artist, who would you choose and why?
At first, I wanted to write that it would be Frida, but if I woke up chained to the bed, I couldn’t do much (laughter). Maybe I would choose Vivian Maier. She was crazily intriguing. I would like to feel what she was thinking and see how she was looking at the world. This would be an interesting experience.
What artist made the most impact on you and why?
I will not mention any names at the moment because there is no such artist, I think. My aspirations are constantly changing. Probably the life is the greatest “artist”, the one that has the most influence on me, and certainly the way I perceive the world.
If you could have personally witnessed a perfect street scene at the right decisive moment, what would you want to have seen?
It’s hard to imagine such a scene for me. I know that there would be for sure something very strange happening (laughter).
If you could witness and photograph any historical moment of the past, present – or future – what would it be?
I have no idea… Maybe it would be something from the past like landing on the Moon? (laughter).
What’s on your photography bucket list this year?
Currently, I work on a single documentary project, and I actually learn how to do it. By the end of the year, it should be finished. My goal is not to be embarrassed at the first time at least (laughter).
What do you like to do outside of photography?
As I said before, I love cinema, music and my friends. I also like sports and try to do anything every time I find any leisure moment. But perhaps the most important thing for me is to travel. As long as the time and money let me, I immediately pack my backpack and go for an adventure.
Blind and live forever or be able to see and die in a couple of years?
I don’t know if I would like to live forever. Probably not. However, it’s hard for me to answer that question unequivocally. I just don’t know.
What do you want your tombstone to say?
Hmm… I don’t know how to answer that question at the moment.
About Arek Rataj
“You Can Shoot. Can You Talk?” is a series of interviews created by Arek Rataj. He is a Qatar-based journalist, contemporary photographer and educator.
Arek was born in a small industrial district in communist Poland under the Soviet Union dictatorship. In midst of this human misery, political hypocrisy, environmental dirt and ugliness, he became particularly sensitive for all signs of beauty and transcendence.
You can find Arek Rataj on the Web:
All the pictures in this post are copyrighted Katarzyna Kubiak. Their reproduction, even in part, is forbidden without the explicit approval of the rightful owners.