Sylwia Kowalczyk | Temporal portraits

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In Temporal | Portraits my subjects, all anonymous, contemporary Europeans, unconsciously strike similar poses when confronted with having their portrait made, in a manner reminiscent of their predecessors posing for portraits centuries ago. 

Nowadays we have become conditioned by the media not to regard a photograph of a stranger as worthy of attention unless it is of a celebrity. But in many Renaissance and Baroque portraits we do not know the subject’s identity and it does not seem to matter to us, in opposition to our contemporary celebrity obsession.

Our personal way of seeing things can be determined by the baggage of education and cultural background but also by a personal experience or even a neurological disorder.

Prosopagnosics (sufferers of ‘face blindness’) develop highly elaborate means of discerning another person’s identity without actually recognising their face. The sufferer is not able to recognise people by their facial features in three-dimensional form, however when presented with a two-dimensional portrait the problem goes away.  I am concentrating on little details of my subjects in front of the camera (a lock of hair, a wave of profile). The individuals are remembered by those indicators rather than their facial features.



Sylwia Kowalczyk received an MA in graphic design and photography at Krakow Academy of Fine Arts and subsequently graduated with an MFA in Photography from the Edinburgh College of Art in 2010. Her work has been recognised in awards such as Fresh Faced and Wild Eyed (the Photographers’s Gallery’s pick of the best graduates in Britain), and reGeneration 2 as one of the most promising 80 young photographers in the world, the latter curated by William A. Ewing and Nathalie Herschdorfer, which is also an exhibition still touring the world and is published as a book by Thames and Hudson and Aperture Foundation. She lives and works in Scotland.