2nd edition of the album from 1965. The album 'Maly Czlowiek' (engl.: Little Man) is a work of extraordinary - almost 140 photographs of classic Polish photography, Sophie RYDET innovative graphic design Wojciech ZAMECZNIK and beautiful, wise quotes from the writings of Janusz KORCZAK.
The book, published in 1965, today still has both photographs and form.
"Zofia RYDET’s exceptional album from 1965 combines over 140 of the photographer’s unique captions of children with an innovative layout designed by Wojciech ZAMECZNIK and touchingly apt quotes from the writings of Janusz KORCZAK
The album 'Mały Człowiek / Little Man' was recently released in a new edition by the Archeologia Fotografii (Archaeology of Photography) Foundation. Apart from the meticulously reconstructed original images and layout, the new Mały Człowiek includes texts by Janusz KORCZAK and a commentary in four languages: Polish, English, French and Russian.
Zofia RYDET taken up photography later in her life. She had assisted her photographer brother Tadeusz during the Second World War, but only began to take her own shots when she was 40.
The 'Little Man' series is her first autonomous work, and from 1952 to 1963, RYDET conveyed the world of the child. This theme, along with motherhood and old age, held a special place for her, as she was childless. She first worked on the series in Poland, in the Silesia and Podhale regions in the south, and during trips in Albania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Egypt and Lebanon.
First released in 1965, the album continues to captivate viewers, even as it is set against the background of today’s global trend of photography books.
'Little Man' was also an unparalleled accomplishment in the People's Republic of Poland.
Photographer-as-author albums appeared around the world in the 1950s, and some remain classics:
William KLEIN’s 'New York' (1955),
Robert FRANK's 'The Americans' (1958), 'The Decisive Moment' by Henri CARTIER-BRESSON with its Henri Matisse cover (1952), 'Europeans' with coverage of Juan Miro (1955), as well as the Parisians from Robert DOISNEAU (1954). Such works established the identity of 20th century humanist photography.
But in Poland, photo albums functioned more like brochures, with images often employed in ideologic propaganda. Following Stalin's death, the cultural thaw that began permitted humanist photojournalism to flourish in Poland.
Yet RYDET's book was distinct; 'Fotografika' by Edward HARTWIG (1958) was very attractive in form but presented an entirely different approach to photography.
And when in 1961 RYDET first exhibited images from the Little Man series in a solo show in Gliwice, they very much moved the audience.
In a publisher’s note of the album, Karolina Lewandowska points to an international context of RYDET’s work.
An iconic and world-famous exhibiton of photography entitled 'The Family of Man', which opened at New York’s MoMA in 1955, travelled to Poland in 1959. Curated by Edward STEICHEN, the exhibition presented photographs of people from across the world, depicting their lives in a series from birth until death. STEICHEN intended to portray the universality of human experience across the world, and the propagation of human rights formed a natural context for his exhibition.
'The Family of Man' enjoyed reviews in international press titles and a Polish commentary of the show was written by Witold WIRPSZ.
'Little Man' reaches for a similiar structure - reportage-like portraits of children are presented as divided up into themes and separated by quotes from Janusz KORCZAK.
A child in a photograph could seem trivial, easily taken for granted, but RYDET captures childhood without simplifications. Describing her approach, the photographer said that she
wanted to move away from the stereotype of a care-free angelic childhood and show the multifaceted complexity of childhood experiences and reactions. Through appropriate synthesis, I wanted to say something about mankind, because as Korczak once said 'everything that happens in the dirty adult world also happens in the children's world'.
A letter to the editor of Polska magazine from November 1965 reflects Korczak's importance for RYDET: 'I do not know if I really managed to speak in the little man's defense. I fear that the public will look at the book as they would at any other more or less good albums, that they will appreciate the pictures and feel free to judge them as good or bad, and won’t read and interrogate the beautiful texts of Korczak. That would be my failure, because I wanted to express a thought and to lead not to stopping on a particular photo, but a broader problem'.
The reissue of the 'Little Man' album was a complicated task.
It meant re-creating the rotogravure printing technique and searching RYDET’s archives for photographs in the original book, as well as special framing work and replication of typography.
RYDETR cropped her photos in various ways, and it was not possible to retrieve all the models and slideshows of the first edition.
Thanks to the committment of Maria Sokół-Augustyńska and Ewa Pasternak-Kapera of the Zofia Rydet Foundation, the original photos were retrieved. Juliusz Zamecznik authorized the replica of Wojciech Zamecznik’s design, and the original publisher Arkady gave permission for republication and advised Elżbieta Leszczyńska on editorial matters. Maja Latyńska approved the English translation of Marek Latynski’s text. Kuba Certowicz worked on photo reproduction to achieve the original standards, Maciej Turczyniak and Dorota Pracka did scans and ensured image quality, Marta Przybyło-Ibadoullajev restored the graphic design and monitored print quality, and Julia Odnous made corrected texts.
The re-edition received financial support from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland, the Book Institute and the Institute of Paper. An international promotion was realised by the Polish Institute in Paris and the Langhans Gallery Prague.
The re-edition of RYDET’s 'Little' Man album forms part of the endevour of the Fundacja Archeologii Fotografii, which makes continuos efforts of bringing historic photography back into the context and art and culture, through its new contemporary interpretation." (culture.pl)
About the photographer: "Her photographs are deceptively simple, taking an intimate, direct approach to her subject, trailing main tropes of Pictorialism, painting during the Young Poland period, abstraction and surrealism, and applying them to photography.
Zofia Rydet's images of children and rural families in Poland from the 1960s and 1970s are among the insightful and well-executed photographic series of postwar Poland. Born on the 5th of May 1911 in Stanisławowo, she became a member of the Gliwice Photography Association in 1954. There she met Jerzy Lewczyński, Władysław Jasieński and Piotr Janik, photographers who were active in documenting changes of postwar Poland and the implementation of socialist ideals in urban planning and society.
Her first major exhibition took place in 1961, with the Little Man series of middle-class children in Poland and other socialist nations. The series was published as an album of over 140 photographs in 1965, edited by Wojciech Zamecznik, in 1965, and the book is considered one of the important albums of 20th-century Polish photography. Rydet described her approach in the series, saying she "wanted to move away from the stereotype of a care-free angelic childhood and show the multifaceted complexity of childhood experiences and reactions. Through appropriate synthesis, I wanted to say something about mankind, because as Korczak once said 'everything that happens in the dirty adult world also happens in the children's world'”, alluding to the teacher and author Dr. Janusz Korczak.
Rydet shifted her focus to the broader sphere of children and adults between 1978 and 1989, in her Sociological Record. The series consists of tens of thousands of negatives taken in rural regions of Poland comprise the series, and present people from all walks of life in their typical surroundings. These works were characterised by particular senses of emotion, spanning the spectrum from loneliness, fear and loss, to happiness and hope. Rydet's Sociological Record has been compared to August Sander's work throughout German society in the 1920s, and to other socially minded documentary photographers.
Rydet lectured in photography at the Department of Architecture of the Silesian School of Engineering during this period. She also shifted to a more conceptual approach, manifested in the series Infinity of Long Roads and in the Silesian Suite. These works of the 1980s and 1990s were in large measure collage projects, building on and extending her earlier work.
The centennial of Rydet's birth and the 50th anniversary of her first solo show occurred in 2011. Renewed interest in her work continued through 2012, with exhibitions in Polish galleries including the Asymetria Gallery in Warsaw. Asymetria represented Zofia Rydet at prestigious photography fairs between 2010 and 2012, including Paris Photo." (Agnieszka Le Nart)
- Zofia Rydet Foundation
- Book design
- Wojciech ZAMECZNIK
- HC with dust jacket, 19 x 24 x 2,5 cm., 240 pp., 146 b/w ills., multilingual language: French, English, Polish & Russian