Krystyna Ziach
Hermetic Portraits, text by Cees Straus, 2008 (English)
Trouw, October 1, 2008, newspaper, NL

By photographing women with closed eyes, Krystyna Ziach tries to express the deepest stirrings of her models
The women in Krystyna Ziach’s photographs have their eyes closed. They are not dead or asleep. What is enacted here though, is something which forces the viewer to make an effort to identify with the person portrayed. For she is looking inward, while at the same time trying to emanate her inner self. After a working period of four years, Ziach has assembled the women in a project and is showing almost the entire series at gallery Gist in Amsterdam. The project is said to be ‘virtually complete’ because Ziach herself does not know yet whether the last picture in the series has been taken. Until now she only worked in the summer months, when the daylight in her living room, converted into a small studio, is at its best. If next year she meets another model who inspires her, the series may be expanded.Krystyna Ziach (born in Cracow Poland in 1953 and schooled there in sculpting, but having lived in the Netherlands for over thirty years), is a photographer without wanting to be referred to as such. She’d rather be called a visual artist using photography - previously in installations - in one or more dimensions. She is not a portrait photographer either, since she is utterly dissatisfied with the bad shape this form of photography is in. Her approach may rather be called conceptual; by using traditional techniques (in this case analogue photography) she achieves a level where the initial idea is, as it were, theoretically becoming concrete. In other words: between the idea and the final image there are only a scant number of phases. Until recently she worked with normally exposed, meaning daylight, negative film, which was subsequently blown up to large sizes in the laboratory. Now that everywhere in the world the photo laboratories have turned to digital processing, Ziach cannot evade either having to deliver her images digitally. Yet in the final stage she still shuns all forms of manipulation that are made so easy by photoshop techniques. Nevertheless the viewer can get ‘under the skin’ of the portrayed models. With her camera Ziach closes in on people because of the self-chosen necessity of photographing them with a macro lens (which can capture the subject 1:1 at a distance of less than one meter) instead of using the traditional portrait lenses. The end result looks very ‘natural’ and reflects the natural way in which she works with her models. She chooses them mainly from among her friends and acquaintances; aesthetic aspects do not enter into it. From both sides, the maker’s as well, there must be an opening which makes it possible to approach each other at such an intimate level. She does not consciously look for the ‘best’ portrait, even though she wants to know what is going on inside of her people. A condition is that the model must be prepared to reach a form of tranquillity, a phase which precedes the showing of vulnerability and other highly personal traits. This working method is therefore a far cry from the regular, all too often recording photography in which the person portrayed turns his or her open eyes to the viewer on demand. Insofar as one classifies Ziach’s pictures in the category of the portrait, these should rather be called transformations of personalities. The concept of transformation has been the main theme in her work for years. Ziach’s women are in the middle of a thinly-layered landscape which can be seen by the perceptive viewer. And though she is now reasonably experienced in capturing this ‘landscape’, the results continue to differ widely. A recent experience is e.g. the double portrait of twins. Even for Krystyna Ziach this was an experience, because until then she had only made single portraits. The twins were the daughters of a good friend who told her that the two girls, contrary to what she might assume, were certainly no clones of each other. The girls, even though their exteriors look alike, are strongly at feud with each other. They fight hard with one another to develop their own identity. This hardly harmonious coexistence also shows in the final double portrait: it is perceptible that both girls inwardly cherish large differences. Such a picture not only reveals the persons portrayed, but also the inner stirrings of the maker rise to the surface.
Translation : Hanny Keulers