Marl Wasilewska’s ‘Picture Imperfect’ Photography

Here at Wroclaw Uncut we love to do our bit to showcase the work of local artists. Today, it's Marl Wasilewska’s turn. Her work showcases aesthetically crude portraits of her close friends and family, with the focus very much placed on sensitivity and empathy.

Marl Wasilewska, a Wroclaw based photographer and tattoo lover, was born in Elbląg in 1989. Snubbing digital technology, Marl's analogue photos introduce audiences to her eclectic world of analogue realism. The absolute absence of any "disturbing" picture-perfect beauty in her photos allows audiences to freely imagine and create their own stories about the presented characters. Both objects and people appear as they truly are, yet Marl always manages how to dig deep and unleash the emotions hidden within them.

To find out more about Marl's work and her thoughts on the art scene in Wroclaw, we hooked up for a quick chat:

Hello Marl and thanks for talking to Wroclaw Uncut! Nowadays it can be hard to emerge from the huge wave of new artists out there. What do you think makes your work different from the others?

Nowadays, when a camera is at everybody's arm length, obviously it's not easy for your own art to stand out. When it comes to my work, I have found the best way to stand out is to take on board other people's feedback, which helps to make me both different and attractive as an artist. If I had to describe my work personally, I would like to think that what is hidden in my photos is a mixture of authenticity, natural emotion and melancholy.

Marl Wasilewska Photography

It seems you choose your models from the people around you – I've never seen a so called "professional model" in your pictures. Why have you chosen to go down that route?

I take pictures of people who are close to me – I know their limits and emotions. I can help them to bring out and express those feelings, which are all too often hidden inside. These people are incredibly transparent in the way they share their inner thoughts. I try to dive into their reality to connect with their soul and background. Melancholy and sadness are the two emotions which seem to me the truest in people. We can pretend to be happy and to have a constant smile on our faces, but sometimes we just have to live with deep, painful scars. What matters is the truth, that’s why I like sad people who are able to open up and reveal their most hidden emotions.

Marl Wasilewska Photography

In your last collection of portraits you depicted all your characters hiding their heads in various places or objects. What was the idea behind that?

My mother recently passed away and above all that was what influenced me to take this approach. These portraits are also the beginning of something wider, a sort of introduction to a project which I would like to develop in the future. Indeed, this is the first time I have really taken some risks artistically speaking, so I decided to mask my models’ faces. My goal was to focus more on body postures in order to give prominence to the connection between the body and its surroundings, in turn creating some beautiful portraits.

In the early stages of the project, it became apparent from the first samples that it is very tough to project a certain feeling with the photos, but every time I take the film from the developer I feel that I’m on the right path. It is worth doing something like that to show myself my limits and let my imagination fly away. Of course I’m using analogue camera, which lets me be more precise while also transmitting a big consciousness in the pictures.

In what direction do you think art is going in Wroclaw? Not only concerning photography, but rather the city and the art community?

My work inspires me to be even more authentic about myself. I like meeting new people constantly – people who can show and share their reality with me and let me take photographs of it. What is important to me is to be able to show my sensibility in my photography. I firmly think that art in Wrocław is continuing to stay at a fantastic level – there are a lot of interesting galleries and almost everywhere we can meet great and outgoing people who are very helpful and curious about getting involved in the art scene.

When it comes to Wrocław based artists, I can recommend great bands like Dead Snow Monster or Oxford Drama, while there's also an amazing architect-gardener Chlorofil, who is turning gardens into pieces of art. There are outstanding graphic artists such as Ewa Godlewska and Aleksandra Czudżak too. Artistic places worth visiting are the BWA gallery, Museum of Architecture, The National Museum, Contemporary Museum and the Polish Posters Gallery. We cannot forget about bars, clubs and cafés either, as we have plenty of open minded places like Firlej, or Kawalerka Café, where I'm currently working.

As a photographer, how do you feel in a world where expositions and albums are slowly being replaced by social media platforms? What's your approach to them?

In my opinion social media can help a lot when it comes to promotion, and their "universality" is not that bad. They've allowed easier access to new artists and contacting artists is easier too. Nonetheless, at the end of the day presenting my works on paper, in magazines, in books or in art galleries will always be my main focus. I feel this is the best way to get into the emotions of the audience and also to interact with them.

Marl Wasilewska Photography

Poland has a thriving photography scene with plenty of good artists. What wave or artistic movement do you feel your work belongs to? Is there anyone in particular who has had an influence on you?

Every experience has an influence on my photography: how I observe the world, people and how I choose to "dress" them. I have many good photographers around me, who all inspire and delight me with their art. My greatest mentor is Hellen Van Meene, an artist who has an incredible imagination. People in her pictures are exactly like us – imperfect. Thanks to this they appear so beautiful to me. Every time I see her work I have shivers down my spine – I have always admired and loved her photos.

Is there any connection between the "feeling of being Polish" that has inspired many Polish artists and your photography?

Well, it is very hard for me to explain what the feeling of being Polish is, or even what being from here means. I don't really know if it has an influence on my photography to be honest. Maybe somehow it does, and if so, it is a mystery to me!

I found your cameo in a photo collection on the pop-culture blog "PopVictims" where you played with some vinyls. How does music influence your work?

I am into various kinds of music, but I think that the saddest songs that are “badgering” have the biggest influence on the reality around me. Movies have had that influence on me too – especially dramas.

What are your plans for the nearest future? Do you have something new on the way?

I'm always open to propositions about new exhibitions. Actually I am making a portrait project of myself right now. There is also a big possibility that I will work on a new project with Paweł Wyląg. The best is yet to come – and it will be good! 

You can find Marl's work at: http://marlwasilewska.tumblr.com/

John Distefano

John Distefano is a journalism student in Uniwersytet Wroclawski, as well as an Italian teacher and musician based here Wroclaw.

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