No 4 (68) 2006
October - December

The Travel Diary

The photographic style by Andrzej Jerzy Lech have changed since the late 90’s when the artist started working on a monumental series wherever he was showing up. He has always tried to leave his fleeting trace in the form of recording the defined locations he had selected himself.

Krzysztof Jurecki

B. in 1960. Art historian, AICA member. Lecturer at the Łódź Academy of Arts and Design.

Krzysztof Jurecki

This form of the sublime art – reaching purposefully and with admiration to the “craftsmanship”, i.e., the 19th century photography, then inferior to art – has been presented in Poland in the series of exhibitions entitled The Travel Diary. Andrzej Lech has been showing extraordinary places, nevertheless already seen by all who visited them. He has succeeded in grasping the form of the poetic “empty” spaces, dense with meaning and symbols. He has not been interested in people since his concept is far from the “staged photography”, as well as from the commercial oriented report. What has the artist searched for in his diary? For the fulfillment of the specific state of mind; first of all, the completeness of existence. He has been filling in with his spiritual energy all the places that have ever moved him. This type of documentary photography has been popular all over the world, though it is hard to find out one’s own formula to differ from the hard-faced, architectonic concept rooted in both; the 19th century document, and the achievements by Bechers that have marked a strong imprint of conceptualism on the photographic medium. Andrzej has been successful in overcoming all these obstacles by being a humble traveler, the 19th century nature lover, who takes delight in God forgotten places. This method was first applied by Atget in the late 19th century, though Lech has been more painting oriented, if not pictorial. He makes his individual prints unique by toning and dyeing them in tea. One should mention at this point that Andrzej Lech had serious artistic achievements as early as the 80’s. He has deliberately stripped his photography off its basic attributes, such as the time and place of making. This has been best illustrated in the Warka, Amsterdam, Kazanlyk.. series (1986) and in the 1912 Swiss Calendar (1987) where he introduce the idea of the “photographic reincarnation”. This problem has been extremely vital in the history of photography. Lech has followed in the footsteps by Minor White and was – most likely – the very first Polish photographer who felt at ease in the area of philosophy and art guided by the idea of karma. Earlier, Andrzej discovered for the benefit of the Polish photography both; the classic in-between-the wars American modernism typical of Edward Weston, as well as – through Bork Sousedik, his photography teacher at the State Fine Arts Academy in Ostrava – Czech masters, for example Josef Sudek. This was vital because in Poland, so far, there has been no interest in the American achievements that initiated main trends in the world photography as early as the beginning of the 20th century. The above can be also referred to the Czech photography. This “permanent cultural exchange” is still one of the strongest trends shaping our photography. Lech was the one who propagated and made a fashion of using old cameras to recover the 19th century climate. As observed by Walter Benjamin, a sharp thinker, this fashion has been disappearing along with the photographic gear modernization, including photographic optics. The artist has deliberately come back to the 19th century photography. For a couple of years, in the 80’s of the 20’s century, he selectively took from the neo vanguard tradition, taking part in the “elementary photography “ program launched by the “Foto-Medium-Art” Wrocław gallery. On the other hand, the idea of art by Lech has been related to the literature by Jorge Borhes, his liking to create the maze like situations and never ending narrations. Further, he has made use of his own texts; travel diaries and letters written to Robert Michel, a translator and the artist’s friend living in Paris. This has strongly complemented a visual side of the photographs by Lech. His texts have been very good, describing life and customs, written in a specific style. Thus, his photographs have revealed the sense of simulation, removing the attributes so far intrinsic to the medium, and the author himself, as the subject. This has been a conscious defense of the “authentic photography” against the pseudo art and all embracing mass culture. The very form of defending our values and our world has been convincing for me. The photographic output by Andrzej Lech, accompanied by the sublime theoretical thought, has been one of the largest Polish achievements after the World War 2nd and its waiting for the world to discover it.