REVIEW: Closer by Tomasz Gudzowaty
By Elana Kates
Polish documentary photographer Tomasz Gudzowaty’s turns his lens towards enigmatic and primal creatures from far-flung parts of the earth in his recent book Closer. This collection of work features images of elephants, lions, cheetahs, wildebeests, and zebras photographed across the unfamiliar terrain of Sub-Saharan Africa. And equally mysterious—his work on the Antarctic Peninsula, where he photographed a remote emperor penguin colony. In Closer we witness strange and thrilling images that depict lives more organic and raw than our own. The book’s design is dramatically monolithic and printed on striking matte-black paper. Each page is rough and textural, an effect that mirrors the grainy and rugged quality of the images.
Gudzowaty describes his lengthy and difficult journey to the Weddell Sea where he photographed penguins in the book’s foreword. While there, Gudzowaty endured bitterly cold, sub-zero temperatures. And what for? “Because there are places on Earth that look as if Genesis only happened a short while ago. As if the creator still had his hands in the clay.” The photos confirm his observation, conveying a genuine feeling of the dawn of creation. Gudzowaty’s images are reverent and teeming with life nearly untouched by human hands. Huge crushes of penguins or zebras seem to pulse with energy. And Gudzowaty depicts their unforgiving cycle of life and death in its entirety. The result is atmospheric and moody and enthralling as well. Nearly primordial. Gudzowaty privileges us with a glimpse into something alien and unfamiliar.
In a message at the end of Closer, Gerhard Steidl implores readers: “Please don’t think that Tomasz Gudzowaty is in any way trying to take ‘close-up’ photographs. Tomasz is more concerned with the philosophical sense of ‘closer’—with coming closer to an answer” Gudzowaty delivers, showing us some of the subtleties of nature that exist apart from human intervention. And he does so with fascinating elegance.
Article © Elana Kates