Zofia Rydet and the "Sociological Record"
July 9, 2019 11:55 AM   Subscribe

The female gaze behind the Iron Curtain: "The history of photography behind the Iron Curtain is lesser-known and so the work of female photographers tends to fall even further through the cracks. Polish photographer Zofia Rydet is perhaps the most famous female photographer of the communist period." How one photographer produced an invaluable record of communist Poland: "Walking from door to door for over 20 years, she took more than 30,000 pictures, creating a project on a scale never seen before in Poland." Her work: Zapis socjologiczny ("Sociological Record" 1978-1990), and Dokumentacjach ("Documentations" 1950-1978).

About Documentations:

The collection of Zofia Rydet’s photographs grouped under the umbrella title Documentations 1950–1978 covers the earliest part of the artist’s output. It consists of over thirty thousand pictures, taken in Poland and abroad, some existing as prints and others only as negatives.

About Sociological Record:

As with many artists creating in the aftermath of the Second World War, the author of the Sociological Record (Polish: Zapis socjologiczny) arrived at photography along the path of the amateur: through the passionate embrace of the photographic craft, and through meetings with fellow enthusiasts and practitioners at which the prevailing zeitgeist was influenced and energized by a spirit of animated discussion and grassroots peer review. Perhaps this is why Zofia Rydet’s oeuvre isn’t hemmed in by boundaries; it was, after all, born out of an inner need to document and create. Inspiration trumped professional calculation from the beginning.

Rydet had already reached an advanced age—the concept for the Sociological Record came into focus when Rydet was 67—when she began to work on what would become her magnum opus: the Sociological Record, a sweepingly comprehensive photographic “portrait” of Polish domestic life that would come to span decades, regions, and even countries. And yet for all of its epic scope and panoramic comprehensiveness, the Record is comprised of portraits that often feel as intimate (and sometimes as endearingly awkward) as those carried within a locket worn around the neck, or else to be found stored in shoeboxes hibernating atop wardrobes and at the backs of closets.
posted by mandolin conspiracy (5 comments total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
Related previously.
posted by tobascodagama at 12:01 PM on July 9, 2019 [1 favorite]

What wonderful, honest photos. I was not familiar with her.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 12:39 PM on July 9, 2019

Great photos and links to other photos, in here. These are primal and authentic, joyous documentation.
posted by Oyéah at 2:48 PM on July 9, 2019

A pedantic note: the Polish title of "Documentations" is "Dokumentacje". "Dokumentacjach" is the noun declined into the locative case.
posted by confluency at 4:35 PM on July 9, 2019 [1 favorite]

Sociological Record is such an ambitious project to take up at age 67 and it's an amazing collection. I've already spent an hour going through these photos and I know I'll come back to them many more times.
posted by theory at 8:32 PM on July 9, 2019 [1 favorite]

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