In these photos you can see Ewa and Piotr Sosnowski; they are brother and sister and live together since the death of their father, some years ago. Ten years ago I got an apartment in Cracow, where intermittently I spent part of my life. Since about the same period, I began seeing Ewa on my way, or walking in the park with her dog, or on the bus. I was immediately fascinated by her, so I took my courage in hand and tried to approach her, to talk to her, to take some pictures; without result for more than two years. Only disdainful refusals. One day I pay a visit to a dear friend who sells old curiosities in a local street market. She tells me that she has been approached by a woman, looking and acting out of the ordinary, who wanted to sell her some photos taken by her father, where nature and portraits played the greatest role. Ewa. So, I described to my friend Ludmilla the woman I’d run into; yes, it was Ewa. I asked her to organize a meeting, which took place the following Sunday in a coffee shop near the flea market. Ewa frightens and attracts me as during our first contacts. Moreover the problem of the language; I don’t speak Polish, she doesn’t speak English. With a rough translation, I try to tell her some words, she absently listens, I ask her if I can take some pictures and she accepts, a bit annoyed and only in return for money that she immediately wants after the very first shots. Just afterwards, she invites us to her apartment and I realize that she lives in my same street, number 43. When I arrive, she opens the door of a world that, from that moment, will enter into and will stay with me for six crucial years. Ewa is very well-dressed, as always. Every pullover, t-shirt, shoes, jacket is chosen very neatly; matching, sophisticated, poised. But when you enter her apartment, you leave the normal world and you face another dimension, an inner scenery which is also a state of mind: all is impoverished, decaying, rotten, the smell is unbearable; for five years there has been no electricity nor gas nor hot water. I arrived there at evening and in the dark, I could only hear Miszek barking furiously. After she lit some candles, I caught sight of Piotr’s shape wrapped up in the blankets on the sofa. We drank together in this nightmarish place, with Ewa more and more excited; she went on shouting, laughing, singing; the dog jumping, licking, barking, destroying everything possible to destroy. Piotr, drunk and imperturbable on his sofa-bed, smoking one cigarette after another and trying to take part in the conversation in English. A little later we leave their creepy home and Ludmilla tells me that she will never more set foot in that place: hell will come in it’s time. But the day after I went there again and from that moment on I continued to go regularly. Now we are close and there is much to tell about our complicated relationship; how we learned to know and begin to love each other. Of course, I wanted to take pictures of them and they needed help from me. But there is more than this. Sometimes Ewa doesn’t tolerate the bad conditions of the apartment and cleans a little, according to her mood. One day I arrived and there were on the floor hundred of letters, postcards, especially photos. They came out from the furniture, from the drawers, from under the ruined floor. They came out from everywhere. And they were beautiful. Life memories, childhood memories; not ordinary photos. I asked them to let me take these photos and they agreed; I did it because I didn’t want them lost or destroyed or very likely, sold separately. I just wanted that they remain together. Most of those pictures were taken by their father Marian Sosnowski who was an incredibly talented amateur photographer and Piotr somehow followed his father passion even if with less discipline. One day I was in Rome and ran into a bookbinder’s workshop where I bought an empty album faded by the sun. I wanted to give them a united book that they could leaf through whenever they desired. Then I realized that they would have sold it anyway, so I decided to keep it myself. I have a lot of photos, much more than those collected in the album; I tried to reconstruct their childhood guessing who was who, without consulting them as to the real chronology or the details of their story. When it was finished I showed it to them. I proposed to use these old pictures with the new shots I would do during these two years and promised that if I succeeded in doing something good, to pay their debts with the electric company and reconnect the electricity supply. They agreed. But there were other new problems: the ceiling, the floor and the walls are so rotten that reconnection could create the risk of a short circuit and start a fire. Then we solved the problems and they had the electricity supply back. But now Piotr is waiting to be transferred in a public hostel where he will be suitably looked after. Let’s see what will be with Ewa.
Why all this?
In order to share a human experience, to not judge, for the unexpected beauty, for the pleasure to find oneself in everything, in order to realize one more time that we don’t do anything all by ourselves; for all the things that we don’t know and that we cannot talk about. Ewa and Piotr’s family was well-off, then they lost everything. There are many things that led to this situation, but I don’t want to spell out too much. I don’t want to relate their personal history just through my words or rational interpretations. The photos of their childhood, my shots of the time we spent together and a film (co-directed with Adam Cohen) will say what is necessary (?) to say in a way that is true to the material; to their lives. And so we also reinvent, because the truth is not literal but absolute, everywhere. The story of a world in two rooms. Just a story. Ewa and Piotr know how to laugh and let others laugh, they have culture, elegance and sensitivity. They are not pathetic. They have got what they have got. Life is unique and sometimes is odd. Piotr says it isn’t.