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Best Books - Book Reviews: Poland

Poland: In Search of Diamonds. Photographs by Tomasz Wiech.
Self Published, 2012.
Poland: In Search of Diamonds
Reviewed by Tom Leininger

Poland
Photographs by Tomasz Wiech.
Self Published, 2012. Hardbound. 120 pp., 41 color illustrations, 7x8-1/2".

Tomasz Wiech and Michal Olszewski roam Poland looking for the bland and boring. With Wiech's photographs and Olszewski's writing they present a country in transition and willing to try anything. They do this with a wry sense of humor and a clear-eyed contemporary photographic vision.

The photographs confront both the urban and rural land that has a long history and an open future. Wiech mixes bits of the past within the present landscape. A shell of a roadside bar sits along a modern highway in the late afternoon light. An umbrella flies across a rural landscape in the grey light of a dreary day with a large Tesco store in the distance. The image of the umbrella stops the viewer. How often is a scene like this recorded? In another image, an empty sign holder matches the color and texture of the old building next to it. Wiech found a modern pizzeria sitting in the middle of empty field. Scenes like this take the viewer on an idiosyncratic trip.

Poland, by Tomasz Wiech. Published by Self Published, 2012.

It is a smaller sized book, creating a more intimate reading experience. The printing is excellent and the heavy paper stock adds to the experience. Wiech's photographs are interspersed with short writings by Olszewski about what he sees out a bus window, or what it is like working with a photographer. The texts are in both Polish and English. There are a few places where the translation is not the smoothest, but his overall points come through.

Poland, by Tomasz Wiech. Published by Self Published, 2012.

The book is an interpretation of a homeland rather than a book representing a specific road trip. Wiech takes a moment to capture a deflated Santa Claus on a lot of Christmas trees, or a flea market on the grounds of a large statue of Jesus, and makes a statement about his life today. It is not all doom and gloom. The color images offer glimmers of hope and humor in spots. Nothing brings a smile like a large parrot corralled with a camel and dog. In another photograph a dinosaur keeps watch over a traffic circle.

Poland, by Tomasz Wiech. Published by Self Published, 2012.

In the last text entry in the book, Olszewski writes about how they look for the boring. He goes on to state, "Boredom is the most interesting thing that can happen." In a lot of ways the scenes in this book are boring in first glance. It has become a hallmark of contemporary socio-landscape photography. The boring scene forces the viewer to look at the scene and discover it on their own. Wiech masterfully collected these boring diamonds in this book.—TOM LEININGER

Selected as one of the Best Books of 2012 by Sputnik Photos.

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TOM LEININGER is a photographer and educator based in North Texas. More of his work can be found on his website.

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