AM: Where were you born?
PK: I was born in 1993, in Poland, in a town called Suwalki. It’s an extremely beautiful place, located in the North East of Poland, 20 km from the Lithuanian and 50 km from the Russian border. It’s surrounded by lakes, streams, forests and belongs to least industrialized part of the country.
AM: What was your dream as a kid?
PK: As a child I travelled a lot with my parents. I was so impressed by some of the archeological sites that I started dreaming of becoming an archeologist but since I can remember, I really loved taking photos. My passion for seeing the world, discovering it and preserving images has been growing. Wherever we were going, I kept asking my parents to buy film for my camera. I had to bargain with them to get as many rolls of film as possible. I was immersing in the diversity of the world trying to capture unique moments of everything around me.
AM: How did you start taking photos professionally?
PK: It was upon me moving to London. In my home town there was no infrastructure to support my interest. In the first year of secondary school I found out about the Warsaw School of Photography. I was commuting every Friday to the capital city - Warsaw, to attend the course which I hoped would enable me to study photography. At that time I was 17 and was really determined to become an artist. In Warsaw I met Polish leading photographers. Their workshops provided me with great foundations. Moving to the UK was quite a spontaneous decision. I found out about University of Arts London and decided to study abroad. During the final year of my BA at Camberwell College of Arts, I started working on commissioned projects. I graduated in 2015 and continue to work from that time forward.
AM: What are the things that inspire you the most?
PK: I am inspired by the outside world - everyday street views, observing people's behavior, our diversity, variable landscape - anything can be stimulating. I find some inspiration in works of my favorite artists and photographers, in Stoic philosophy. I love taking random buses, hanging out in South East London. Images appear themselves. Sometimes a surprising combination of colors, or position of objects, I am inspired by people’s taste, by what others consider beautiful. But I think the most inspiring to me is the landscape in which I grew up. It calms me down, provides with new ideas for my projects, stimulates my mind. Every visit in my hometown is a stimulus to starting something new or organizing my mind.
AM: What is the Importance of travel in your work?
PK: Travel has become a natural element of my life and work. It is a broad topic to me. On one hand I love being immersed in the unknown place, surrounded by surprisingly new conceptions and impressions. On the other hand, since moving to London, I acknowledge my every single return to Poland. I rediscover the places I am so familiar with, the colorful architecture I grew up around. I am very drawn to the aesthetics of contemporary Poland and continue to photograph it, therefore I need to travel outside of where I live now in order to make work. I think being in a new place can be very inspirational. Moreover, living far away from where I was born gives me a chance to see views from a different perspective.
AM: How would you define your photography?
PK: My interest in photography started with documentary photography. There will always be an element of that in my photographs. My current work explores public space and human interactions in the urban context.
AM: What was the best memory you have taking photos?
PK: It would be very artificial for me to pick one. I discover something new every time I go out to shoot. However, if I was to choose, I would distinguish working on my first book Disco Polo; by many reasons. First of all, the idea of that book starts with the time before I was born, the time which I know from the stories told by my relatives - the communist period in Poland. I was inspired by their descriptions of empty shelves in shops, homogenous architecture - plain concrete blocks of flats and the desire to experience the western world - its colors, freedom, variety of goods, multiculturalism. They told me how much they desired to break from boredom of the previous styles of their life, way of dressing, to be able to create names for restaurants and discos, to choose architectural styles. Someone who doesn't know Polish history might be confused why foreign, exotic-sounding names such as MIAMI, MALIBU, MILANO, CORRADO appeared in small villages of my country. This tendency is an expression of our history and I felt I had to document this phenomenon as one day it will disappear forever. Because I can’t drive myself, while working on the project Disco Polo I spent a lot of time with my parents hanging out in the neglected towns and villages of Eastern Poland looking for the sites which represent the effects of the system transition in Poland.
AM: What do you consciously look for when you take pictures?
PK: My work has been a reflection of my surroundings. I document objects that enter our ordinary field of vision and assemble them into studies on colour and composition. Forms we process passively acquire new meaning and are re-imagined into deft arrangements through organising, sequencing and creating relationships between paired images.
I am very observant in general and I believe you have to be sensitive in that way to notice the intuitive moment when an ordinary object becomes alien. There are many factors that help create that moment and this is what I look for when I’m photographing. The moment when I feel confused, when a thing becomes questionable; is the moment I take a picture.
AM: What event you wish you’d witnessed?
PK: I’m not a reporter so my images are not really about current affairs and the moments as such. I see taking photographs as a slow process. However, I can think of one event I would really dream to witness. It is the civilisational development of the world which would enduringly change people's approaches to each other and attitudes towards themselves, causing mutual respect and understanding. I wish I could enjoy the day when racism, xenophobia, prejudice, exploitation disappear. One may say, it is utopian thinking, of course it is, but this is what I really wish I witness. I hope for the world without any artificial borders, with one nation, the place where all of us have equal rights regardless of skin colour, origin, religious beliefs or gender. I don’t enjoy lingering on what is lost or what I wish I have done. If you ask me about the event which I would love to witness, this is my answer.
AM: What would you say is your great masterpiece?
PK: I honestly don't think that I would like to call any of my works that, but the body of work I am probably most proud of is Disco Polo Project which I have already told you about.
AM: What was your greatest adventure?
PK: Well, life is the greatest adventure, every day brings something new. I like to look at it this way. Everything that has happened so far and continues to happen.
AM: What is your biggest dream right now?
PK: To be able to continue being a photographer throughout my life without compromise.
AM: Any questions about your future?
PK: To continue to create new work and be with the people I love.
Born in Poland (1993), Paulina Korobkiewicz lives and works in London. She earned her First-Class Honours BA Degree in Fine Art Photography from Camberwell College of Arts in 2015. Her work has been the subject in numerous exhibitions internationally and has been featured in many publications. Korobkiewicz has been nominated for Magnum Photos Graduate Photographers Award 2017; shortlisted for Belfast Photo Festival Open Submission 2017; selected for Creative Review and JCDecaux Talent Spotting Guide 2015. Her photobook “Perspectives” is the winner of Camberwell Book Prize 2016.