In eastern Poland, the word Karczeb is used to describe a stubborn tree stump as well as a farmer firmly rooted to the land he cultivates. Adam Panczuk’s book gives us a personal look at these people and their way of life.
We see the connection between these people and their land from the first image of the book (and the first image of the slideshow above). But we also see Panczuk’s deep connection with his subjects. The figures pose, but they appear authentic at the same time. The portraits are serious but contain a touch of oddball levity. We are able to admire and smile at the same time, as if we know the Karczeby too.
The book’s photos are intermingled with wonderfully personal texts written by a self-admitted Karczeb, Kazimierz Kusznierow. Through the writing, we get the same mixture of serious admiration and intimate family humor. Kusznierow alternates descriptions of his childhood with funny folk tales about botched baptisms and shotgun weddings. The Karczeby lifestyle comes alive in both words and pictures.
Panczuk’s book also includes a sealed off section in the middle. Within Karczeby, we find a series of photographs showing a group of amateur actors from a folk theater company. The actors are farmers, who work in the fields during the day, only acting in plays in the evening. Again, Panczuk shows the mixture between the dignified and the theatrical - the subjects look serious but they’re also acting. For a moment, the actors appear as symbols for something, but simultaneously we see that they are just people too (see more images from the series, ”Actors”).
The book itself is a work of art. The linen-bound, lithographed cover sets the tone for the materiality of the photographs within. The pages of the book look almost like photographic prints themselves. The pages are square, à la large-format film, and the excellent printing allows the rich detail and range of black and gray tones to be fully appreciated.
A beautiful series of photographs and a wonderful book.
The book is in a limited edition of just 550 copies and can be found in either Polish or English on the artist’s website.