„A middle-sized city in the center of Poland, halfway between the mountains and the Baltic Sea. Neither rich, nor really poor, with a typical history of a region’s industrial capital which blossomed in the time of state socialism and lost that position after 1989. Such places evolve in a very special way. With advancements in technology and funds from the European Union, the look of both the city and the people has been changing. But still, both remain a medley of the past they come from and the effects of modernization, influenced by the local mentality. A halfway state, in between present and past, between east and west, between here and now.“ (P.K.)
Finalist Photobook Category New York Festival 2015; Honorable Menton Photography Awards 2015
"For the last few years, the Polish photographic scene has been incredibly active. We already know the Sputnik Collective or Mateusz Sarello amongst many, and now is coming Patryk Karbowski with his beautiful book Halfway.
The emergence of a new generation after totalitarianism years is often very productive, like it has been in Spain after Franco, or in Turkey recently. Patryk Karbowski was born in 1989, the year when the « Eastern wall » fell apart, so metaphorically, Halfway could be read as the story of his life (a topic he has already worked on in his series The New Poles) : he genetically comes from the old world and lives in the new one. The beauty of the title is that it can have a different meaning depending on the reader. You can always consider the glass half full or half empty and this is the purpose here : the place depicted is geographically halfway between mountains and sea, halfway between a poor or rich place, halfway between the delusion of communism and the promises of capitalism, halfway between a past industrial glory and an uncertain new technological hoped glory. Every time you read this book, you can choose between nostalgia for the past or hope for the future, between the family memories which have been told to Patryk by his parents or grandparents and his own expectations in his future !
Well, the book is like visiting a friend living there. You are immersed in the local populations intimacy. You start with a walk beside the river with the high bicolored chimney of the old factory in the background, reminding the presence of the town and the industrial decay. You listen to explanations in front of the panel explaining the new urban planning strategies and when you walk through the town, you’re impressed by the renewal of buildings which are not grey such as you thought according to the Eastern imagery you had in mind. The European funds have helped the renovation and restructuring of the town. The friend you visit shows you proudly those new estates to rent, or the new high tech offices. You meet people in public places, but they don’t even care of you, all at the concentration of their activities, talking with someone or staring at something you don’t see ! Everyone seems to enjoy this new life !
But despite the fast development, the marks of the old life still outcrop : an old wooden decayed church beside the brand-new one, an old factory behind a bus stop or, a lonely girl on a stage, who is maybe dreaming of escaping for a brighter place.
Or the photo of teenagers in a room, all looking at screens, with sadness on their faces like if they were watching together a broadcasting of the local football team defeated. Such as the protagonists of a meeting, caught « in between » of a so called conference, each of them totally isolated in their own world at the tribune.
Many people are photographed alone in the second part of the book. It seems that the photographer tells us that the community activities that were celebrate in the first part don’t really succeed for the whole population. There are people left at the margins, a woman sitting with her phone in front of kitch photos, a TV screen showing news, a teengager sitting alone in the street with a music player and headphones.
And we finally arrived in what seems to be the suburbs of the town with people queuing in front of a kiosk in front of a social housing estate. The last view of the book shows building in the background of a meadow, « halfway » between the countryside and the town, well, between the immemorial « nature versus culture »…
One of the quality of Patryk Karbowski is to avoid the anecdotal. There are no artificial effects in his photographs. He never catch the climax of a situation but the tense of the instant before or after, which emphasizes the reality. We do not discover instants of life but the life itself with its thickness. By choosing to focus on so many daily gestures, Patryk frees our imagination to build the background which is already present in the moments captured (like the bride on her way to the ceremony).
I am really pleased that this work has shown me Poland without any prejudice. I won’t say that I know Poland now, but at least, I know it better than before, particularly this town whose I don’t even know the name !
" (Christerek on https://whoneedsanotherphotoblog.wordpress.com/2015/07/20/halfway-by-patryk-karbowski/)
"There has been a certain trend in the Polish photographic books in recent years to present the reality of the small, provincial towns, where one can still find relicts of the previous system. Those have special atmosphere and a unique, a bit nostalgic scenery. Many photographers focus on Silesia or other, more neglected regions, exposing local folklore blended with indigence, in order to convey evanescent charm of the past. Karbowski seemed to have a slightly different idea when choosing to depict “a middle-sized city in the centre of Poland”. The photographer in his second publication, following The New Poles, confirms his liking for ordinary topics and average characters. The scenery is however only a medium to present significant, universal occurrences and transformations in a more panoramic perspective. The town we are looking at could be placed almost anywhere in Poland and perhaps in a few other European countries. In his previous book, the author looked at the young generation coming of age in a capitalist country and trying to create the reality for themselves. Now, somehow following the path, he presents the town growing out of the previous regime; adapting to various influences and benefits from the Western Europe.
Karbowski in his compositions puts the emphasis on the natural elements of the economic growth and prosperity such us new developments, technological modernisations, social events. Interesting is the way of engaging characters in his narration. The models are captured in the casual, arranged situations at work, school, during the sport competitions or music performances. They don’t seem to pose for the picture or interact with the camera – they almost seem to be unaware of its existence, focused on their own concerns, dreams and hopes.
The importance of this publication lays in its ability to depict apparent, casual reality in a long term perspective. Despite creating a subjective portrait of the particular environment, Karbowski raises the question of the potential continuation of the processes we are witnessing. He is able to do that without getting involved, commenting or moralizing but by observing and underlining certain elements. Thus one can ask himself if the “halfway” really is just a long phase on the way to the next stage.
The physical copy of the book seems to be mounted in a way that does not disrupt the impression of the indirect nature of the project. Gray, fabric cover doesn’t bring attention of the viewer. In fact, it is easy to skip it on a book shelf. The picture on the cover depicts green landscape with the river and factory buildings in the background, which hasn’t got anything characteristic about it. It is neither ugly, nor especially pretty. We are left with slightly unsatisfying feeling as there isn’t anything what catches ones glance or keeps the image in the memory." (Gosia Fricze)
"Średniej wielkości miasto w centrum Polski, w połowie drogi pomiędzy górami a Morzem Bałtyckim. Ani bogate, ani biedne, z historią typową dla przemysłowej stolicy regionu, której rozkwit przypadł na okres komunizmu i odszedł w zapomnienie po roku 1989. Takie miejsca ewoluują w szczególny sposób. Dzięki zaawansowanej technologii i funduszom z Unii Europejskiej zmienia się wygląd miejsc i ludzi. Nadal jednak miasto i jego mieszkańcy są specyficzną mieszanką przeszłości, z której się wywodzą i nowoczesności, na którą wpływ ma lokalna mentalność. Tkwią w stanie zawieszenia pomiędzy teraźniejszością a przeszłością, pomiędzy wschodem a zachodem, pomiędzy tu i teraz." (publisher's note)
Auch in Polen ist die Globalisierung angekommen... als zartes Pflänzchen breitet sie sich in der polnischen Diaspora aus. Dem jungen polnischen Fotografen ist eine trockene, lakonische sowie bisweilen humorvolle Dokumentation gelungen. In den Reviews zum Buch, das Finalist für den New York Photo Festival 2015 BookAward war, für den Verzicht auf jede Inszenierung oder Storytelling.
Publiziert wurde die Arbeit von einer polnischen Stiftung; Mateusz SARELLO editierte das Buch zusammen mit Krzysztof Pijarski.