Life and Death with Piotr Karpinski

Having recently graduated in 2014, the work of Piotr Karpinski has already been selected for Creative Review, The Photography Annual 2015, The Catlin Guide 2015 New Artists in the UK and the International Print Exhibition 158 by the Royal Photographic Society.  You have a chance to win one of his hauntingly beautiful pieces in this year’s Summer Postcard Lottery with Culture Label. His work has gained increasing notability for his delicate portrayal of human fragility and contemporary compositions. Questioning the ways in which time affects all of us, his work captures moments of time and hands ownership back to life and death itself. Focusing heavily on the symbolism of flower lifecycles, he intertwines their ageing process with the doting female form. Drawing to light the natural fascinations of the human form, displaying how essentially volatile the obsession can be when faced with death. Rosa Torr delves deeper into Karpinski’s thoughts processes below. 


Piotr Karpinski

RT You say on your blog ‘What is always behind the image is a thought. Thoughts behind my photographs are my fascinations, fears and concerns related to existence and its ending’, can you talk our readers through the thought behind the image on your postcard? 

PK The image on the postcard is part of a triptych. I saw one painting in the National Portrait Gallery and was fascinated by the message I have found there. The painting was a Portrait of a Woman of the Hofer Family by an Unknown Artist. It’s a classic and rather noble portraiture of a women wearing traditional headdress and holding forget-me-not flowers. The key element for me was a fly on a sitter’s headdress. Some theories consider that as a symbol of mortality. I am fascinated by what passing time causes and started to think which portrait of a women I could take focusing on mortality. A fly as an indicator of coming death was a starting point for constructing a triptych focusing on the ageing of a human body, its’ slow decay leading to “The End?”. I used a women’s body as a canvas to reflect on time’s doing and on temporality of a human life that governs us.

Piotr's wonderful Photo Postcard from last year

RT Why the fascination with time and, subsequently, life and death? Is death something you fear?

PK It depends on the day whether I fear it. Often it gives me the positive energy to live. I used to fear death more. I was depressed and developed a habit of pondering death often. At times, it can help me to be calm and happy. Time has always fascinated me - maybe because is so abstract and beyond Life and Death (sic), which seem so ultimate already.. I enjoy observing time and life-death are closely related to that. I love watching dying flowers too.  

RT In the short (or long? Is it subjective?) time we do have here, what five things could you not live without?

PK Time is very subjective and that’s where the name of my blog came from. For some people ‘soon’ is tomorrow or next week. At times I wish I could live forever, making the idea of 30 or 50yrs seem soon. Even the growing old and dying of loved keeps me thinking of “soon”. . You ask for five things... The first that comes to mind is the sense of sight which I doubt I could live without. The other four I am unsure. Possibly my mother, and the aim for doing stuff you doing. Choosing two more is challenging. Possibility an acceptable amount of freedom or free will. For now I will skip the last one.

Piotr Karpinski

RT Is there another artist’s work you take inspiration from? 

PK I love good cinema and sometimes take inspiration from images or thoughts I see on a screen- like Ingmar Bergman who is one of my very favourite. I really like the mind and way of thinking of Damien Hirst as well.

RT Your images are perfectly composed and often highly symbolic, to what extent are they artificially constructed or staged? What is your process?

PK Everything is constructed to some extent, however there is a mixture in my work. Some pieces are very controlled and others hold documentary qualities. Each picture holds a story of how it came to life. While I prefer controlled frames, I like to utilise what is naturally occurring. For example the piece Old Woman with Narcissus (currently travelling with the International Print Exhibition 158 by the Royal Photographic Society) is much different than planned. Often I start with a clear idea and execute it accordingly, other times it results in a picture that I would not imagine.   

RT Your Photograph Woman in the Church No.1 was selected as the graduate single image winner for the Breakthrough Award 2016 by The British Journal of Photography, who is the woman in the image and what about her did you most want to capture?

PK . I feel my relationship with that person as well as who she is isn’t vital for iconography deconstruction of this image. It’s definitely a portrait to some extent but I see it rather as fine art project- it is not strictly about a photographed person. I feel like photographing ideas rather than people. However through the matter I am dealing with definitely makes the piece about her. I photograph other people but it is my way of expressing- myself. I often depict my own states of mind when creating a picture, even if it looks like a portraiture of someone. It is often about my own fascinations or fears and so on.  

RT Why did you want to get involved with Art on a Postcard?

PK I used to be hep C positive so I know the problem quite well as a patient. I went through a medical treatment which luckily cured me which was a great relief after such a long time. I like what The Hepatitis C Trust is doing and I am happy if can support it by being involved in the project. It is a nice way to show my work and support a noble idea at the same time.

RT What exciting projects do you have coming up?

PK I recentlyshot “Woman in the Church No.2”  and plan to develop it further. I have seen a Mirror by Andrei Tarkovsky (1975)  and it gave me the idea for one photographor may do a small series called “A Paradise Lost”- It would be about the past lost forever.

Get your lottery ticket to be in a chance to own a Piotr Karpinski HERE and to view more of his work on his tumblr and Facebook

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