Silesia 1975-1985, a solo exhibition by Polish photographer Michal Cala in London focuses on his black and white series from the Silesian landscape made during his early career. Silesia is an industrial district in Poland which at the time of 1970’s and early 1980’s was experiencing its peak of development and activity. Although providing massive employment for the area, the environmental issues were ignored.
Stepping off the train, Cala encountered the other-worldly landscape for the first time and decided this is what he wanted to make of photographic record of. Fascinated by the subject matter, he devoted himself to photographing the Silesian landscape between 1975 – 1992, which resulted in the series entitled Silesia (Śląsk in Polish). Cala’s photography took on various influences ranging from surrealism, which inspired a movement in Poland called “fotografia kreacyjna” (creative photography), and the realism of British New Wave cinema of the late 1950’s and early 1960’s.
Poland’s isolation during the Cold War made it very difficult for photographers to obtain artistic publications. However, some Czech and Polish magazines were publishing Western photographers work such as Edward Weston, Bill Brandt, Robert Frank and Diane Arbus who acted as a window for inspiration. Cala was influenced by landscape, reportage and social documentary photography, which he always portrayed in his personally stylized images.
In Poland, political and material conditions were harsh under Soviet influence. Using a basic 35mm Exa 500 camera, he managed to produce images of such a lyrical beauty only to be emphasized again with a dark graphic printing style, to further enhance his vision of the sometimes-apocalyptic looking landscape before him. A single house surrounded by huge cooling towers, majestic slagheaps, lonely figures microscopic when compared to the massive scale of industrial surroundings are subtle metaphors of living in this communist reality.
Michal Cala, Silesia 1975-1985
September 15 to November 4, 2017
448 New Cross Rd
London SE14 6TY