Featured today is photographer Piotr Karpinski, who speaks to us about his most recent project and his fascination with life and death, after suffering a long-term depressive period in his life.
First of all, please introduce yourself!
My name is Piotr. You know, just a human with a mortal body. I was born in a very strange country called Poland, but I have been living in the UK for 10 years now, and I am based in London. What do I do? I try to be happy and I try to be a photographer, ha! Both can be challenging – I like challenges though.
Today, I’m trying to have a slow day. I’m enjoying the rain. I was preparing my exhibition at Candid Gallery for the last few days. I might go to the cinema later. I love cinema!
Tell us your story.
It might sound a bit banal. I’ve always liked the medium of photography, ever since I can remember. It always seemed magical to me that you actually can take a “sample” of the real world and have it forever on a photograph. Photography is genius to me. Experimenting with photography when I was growing up was always exciting. It was in UK, though, when I decided to take it much further and study. I studied photography at a college first. Soon after I graduated, I moved from Hampshire to London with a plan to do photography at university. I graduated with a BA in Photography from Middlesex University a year and a half ago.
What was the concept and inspiration behind the work, and how did the project come about?
It was a long route actually. All of my work is about life and death. It came about because of a depressive episode I had, where I was very down for couple of years.
This rather long period of time made think of death a lot, and I was thinking more of death than life. Eventually I got older, more mature and understood some stuff that I had not before, and slowly, slowly started to feel better. And, after those years I eventually started to enjoy my life.
Thinking of death was destructive for me at the time. When I got better, I didn’t stop thinking of it… it’s been on my mind everyday for many years now, but I’ve changed my approach.
Thinking of death these days, it usually gives me lots of positive energy. I mixed two approaches when doing my work – actually, I have a bipolar personality. One day I can feel so hopeless, while the next day I want to live forever! I’m made of contrasts, I think.
I put those contrasts into my photography, into what I photograph and the way I do it. Even when photographing other people, I usually try to reflect my own state of mind, or some broader idea or a concept. After all, my work is about my fascinations, fears and concerns related to life and death, and I’m fascinated with life and death equally, I guess. It’s almost the same, I think. Death is everywhere, and life is everywhere too.
What inspires you?
Time. It’s my main inspiration. I “like” to watch what time is doing even though it can be scary or painful sometimes. I love watching dying flowers. Cinema inspires me a lot too. Ingmar Bergman, Krzysztof Kieslowski, David Lynch, Stanley Kubrick. Shadow from “The Seventh Seal” inspires me as well as other shadows. I try to go to the cinema twice a week. Religion also inspires me a lot. The depiction of death and resurrection in art through the centuries inspire me. Symbols and allegories used in paintings inspire me. The National Portrait Gallery inspires me. I am interested in the theme of memento mori, so wherever I can see it can be an inspiration for me. Billboards with semi naked young women looking definitely alive can inspire me too, make me think of the fragility of the human body. Or an image of a dying Christ!
What paper type did you print your exhibition on, and why?
C-type Fuji Crystal Archive Gloss. It’s the paper I’ve used for many years. What can I say, I like glossy stuff. This one seems to have deep intensity of colours and I love how the blacks look on it.
What’s your next step? Are there any new projects in the works?
I want to develop of what I have a bit more, which means shooting a bit more work connected to the ideas which are already printed on paper, and have my eyes opened to see the opportunities around. I just want to be happy and wish to do more photography. How much and how fast depends on time and money to be honest – tricky. I have ideas and will be trying to chase them.
Piotr’s work is on show in an exhibition which is currently open! The exhibition continues until this Sunday 17 April, 12 – 6pm at the Candid Gallery, London.