Review: Poland - In Search of Diamonds by Tomasz Wiech


Book Reviews, Photobooks




“Polish greyness has particular tones,” writes Michał Olszewski in one of the texts in Poland - In Search of Diamonds by Tomasz Wiech, “and there’s more madness in it than elsewhere, more energy, more rage and unresolved despair, so much of which has soaked into the ground that it scrambles out at every opportunity. Greyness lined with madness is an explosive mixture. Polish autumn depression is a state which doesn’t have much in common with Oblomov’s past indolence.” Elsewhere, the author writes of “smells of burning plastic, yet another of the new smells of Poland.” I have never been to Poland, but these sentences certainly seem like an apt description of the world Wiech has (re-(?))created in the book. (more)

Wiech documents the new, post-Communist/EU Poland with a good eye for the absurd in the seemingly banal (Olszewski again: “Boredom excites us.”). A somewhat nondescript building (a pizza parlor) with four sections of oddly yellow and blue roofs stands in the middle of what looks like a wasteland. An inflatable Santa Claus is mostly collapsed in a yard selling Christmas trees. A Clear-Channel owned, unused display for advertizing that has seen better days occupies the measly lawn in front of a building that also has seen better days (possibly a longer time ago). As a matter of fact, there appears an awful lot of attempts to imbue a landscape that doesn’t seem quite ready for it with cheerfulness - which makes these attempts just all the more absurd and sad.

What the diamonds might be that someone seems to be searching for we’re never told. Presumably, they might just be the elusive diamonds we are all looking for (if, that is, we’re “lucky” enough to live in a consumerist society), the diamonds made to dangle in front of our faces, so we donkeys can go on and buy another car or apply for a better job or even just shop to get the economy back on its feet (since, oddly, that’s part of our responsibilities, even though we never signed up for that).

Poland - In Search of Diamonds lives from the combination of Wiech’s photographs and Olszewski’s short texts, which are interspersed in the book. While trying to catch up with the West, it seems artists in Poland are still able to see the absurd - and laugh about it. It’s a wonderful little book. Unfortunately, I don’t know which bookstores might carry it - emailing the photographer (versus his website) might be the easiest way to get a copy.

Poland. In Search of Diamonds, photographs by Tomasz Wiech, text by Michał Olszewski, self-published, 2012