By: Isabelle Von Arx
MUSÉE: On your website you say that photography answers questions that aren’t being asked. Would you say you began photographing in order to find those answers?
AGNIESKA: I started taking self portraits at the age of 18, and I turned 45 years old this summer. Early on I recognized that the camera was not only a tool to show the viewer what the world “looked like,” but rather “what does it say?” I am interested in photographs that engage the viewer in a conversation. Since I use a 4X5 view camera with a tripod for all of my photographs each image takes a long time to compose. I spend a minimum of half hour to one hour on a single image. It's very important that the “unbelievable” becomes believable when the shutter clicks.
M: What do you feel that an alternative process brings to an image and its storytelling abilities?
A: Palladium, Van Dykes, and cyanotypes are processes which are the very foundation of photography. When I use them I really feel like I am performing an ancient ceremony. In this digital age I feel that using these processes encourages people to learn more about the history of photography. When I use these processes I feel at liberty to play. Whether it be allowing brush strokes to show in the final image or experimenting with different surfaces to print on. Also I am in love with the idea of using contact frames and natural sunlight to make an image with these light sensitive materials. It stills feels like magic!
M: In all of your travels, where have you felt the most at home?
A: I was born in Warsaw, Poland, and grew up in Boston, Massachusetts. My parents are first generation in the U.S. In my adult life I have made friendships with people from all over world. As a result I have been able to visit and experience many places in the world. But I still smile when the IcelandAir stewardess announces “velkomin heim,” which means “welcome home” in Icelandic, when the wheels hits the tarmac in Keflavik airport. I feel lucky to live here. Gender equality and women's rights are the reason I feel lucky to call Iceland my home. Also there exists a calm and quiet with nature that is unparalleled in Iceland.
M: Have you noticed any reoccurring themes in your work?
A: A deep connection to nature and the animal world. As a woman, I am a strong, sensual, character in the stories I create.
The WCW Questionairre
How would you describe your creative process in one word? Narrative.
If you could teach one, one hour class on anything, what would it be? A class in self portraits using a camera as a tool for storytelling. I would share work by visual artists that have created self portraits throughout history. Encourage class discussion about what motivates artists. Ask students what do they see when they view the artwork? Discuss composition, use of natural light and most importantly, “What are they trying to say?”
What was the last book you read or film you saw that inspired you? I saw “The Revenant” recently and it really made an impression on me visually. A few scenes in the film were just breathtaking and truly inspirational. The last book that I read which I really loved was “Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman,” by Japanese author Haruki Murakami.
What is the most played song in your iTunes Library? The Best of the Ramones album, especially “Do you Remember Rock and Roll Radio” is on repeat.
How do you take your coffee? I prefer instant coffee with non-dairy powder creamer plus stevia. On weekends, I indulge with an old French press I found in the trash.