An Interview With: Paulina Golebiewska

Who are you and where did you study?

My name is Paulina, I am a Polish girl living in Dublin, Ireland. I have just graduated with a BA in Photography at the Dublin Institute of Technology. 

What is your artist statement for the body of work “Sister“?

Sister is a project which examines the relationships between three sisters and the position of siblings in family structures. It reflects on the notion of the family constellation by Walter Toman and family systems theory by Murray Bowen- two psychiatrists and pioneers of family therapy in the 1960s America. The starting point for this project were the images of my late grandmother and her girlfriends taken in the 1940s Poland. Those photographs have inspired me to explore the bonds between my two sisters and myself, but also to examine the idea of comfort in family relationships as a form of resistance to the outside world.

Your photographs are very narrative and seem to deliberately leave ambiguities in the viewers mind. Why do you think this is important?

This is really true. Ambiguity and narrative are what I am looking for. I love cinema and the idea that through something fictional and staged, something true about life can be told. This is why my project oscillates between fiction and 'reality'. While doing this project, I've discovered interesting things about the siblings position and family relationships. I thought that leaving some ideas behind and narrowing the whole project to the personal story about me and my two sisters might be too limiting. The more sides to the story, the better.

Somehow I got stuck thinking about the massive migration from Syria and the general idea of war that comes unexpected to ordinary people. When looking at all those old images of my grandmother and her girlfriends taken in the early 1940s, I discovered that also during the war, these young Polish girls yearned for something banal like wearing a dress in a sunny day. They simply wanted to be young and happy. Of course, the darker side to this story is the fact that at the time they posed for these happy pictures, others were dying in the concentration camps, delivered often by trains. How does it relate to what is happening in the world right now? This is the question I am asking myself. And of course, the idea of the 'comfort in family relationships as a form of resistance to the outside world' is to me a lost battle as well.

Your photographs are very contrast, you seem to use the extents of your cameras dynamic range. What is the reason for this?

I think that it is my answer to the bleak, dead pan aesthetic that I consciously reject (but respect).

Your work examines the relationship between these three sisters but how would you like the viewer to feel in response to your work?

I would like to provoke thinking and emotions beyond the body of work itself. If the viewers ask themselves whether this project tells anything about the way siblings are or if there is something more to it at all, that would make me happy. However, I am aware that people don't spend too much time with pictures. If something doesn't click, they get bored and go away. I admit that I am like that sometimes. I can simply hope that my project will keep someone occupied for longer that five seconds.

What have you learnt whilst creating this project?

I've learnt that without the freedom that allows you to pursue what you personally consider important (whether it comes to topics or the visual choices) there is no real creativity and no satisfaction with what you do. I am saying this because I often feel that photography students are afraid to stand against certain aesthetics imposed on them during their years in college. During the process I have discovered that I am actually allowed to do whatever I think is important to me but also that some ideas shouldn't be rejected too quickly. For instance, I've opposed the idea of including the old black and white photographs in the body of work but later on they've become too important to be left out.

What are your plans for the future?

I am planning to start an MA in Art& Research Collaboration this October and focus on cinema and photography connected by the film stills. I would like to scan all my negatives that are important to me and maybe go back to the project which I've been working on for few years now called 'The Lonely Island'. I have so many diary- like pictures I've taken for this project that could be published on my website...I think I' d like to do that.

What is the best piece of advice you could give the viewers of The Pupil Sphere?

Sometimes I feel like I have no right to give any advice but here we go: don't limit yourself. However cheesy it may sound you can really find inspiration anywhere whether in cinema, music, politics, people talking on the bus, cloudy day, your dreams. Just don't be afraid to admit you found it in strange places. During my years in college sometimes I felt like a crazy person when I've talked about my inspirations that didn't include any photographers. All I can say is: don't worry about it, allow yourself to be a weirdo in the crowd.

All images copyright of Paulina Golebiewska


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