A story. Remembering Krzysztof Miller

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Krzysztof Miller took this photo in 1994 during the riots before the first free election in South Africa.

“There is a theme, there is a victim, there is – let’s not be afraid to use this word – a corpse and the elite of international reporters. One of them is taking a photo, the other has already taken his shot, the third one is only putting the camera to his eye. Yet another is trying to wave me aside because I don’t match well with the corpse. This photo is important for me”, said Miller. “It describes the reality of reporters’ work during conflicts in a self-conscious and self-critical manner. It can be regarded both as the questioning of continuous chase after topics, as well as a reminder of the basic rules of a photojournalist’s work, which are: honesty and objectivity”, wrote Michał Dąbrowski on Culture.pl. A year later I used this photo to design a poster for the Festival. The photo is very cropped, very detailed. I had been working on it for a long time before I understood that the only way to change that photo into a poster was to decolour it. I told Krzysiek about my idea. He didn’t even move. As an author of the photo he knew that it was an excellent shot but still he consented to everything. I felt touched because I realised he trusted me.

Krzysztof was for many years closely linked to the Festival. He had his photo exhibition here. I designed numerous posters and catalogues using my Friend’s photos. These were for example photos of neo-Nazis or rather their tattoos, taken in Bałuty district. Or the photos taken in a projection room of the Kabul cinema straight after the overthrowing of the Taliban regime. Both the photo from the poster and the photo from the catalogue present the same situation. Kabul is full of young people who have never seen a cinema before. Crowds of people, looking like a manifestation. Nearly all of them are men, some of them with crutches. All very festive. This moved Krzysiek’s imagination. He got into the cinema through the backdoor, reached the lobby and took a photo of the crowd through the grate which was not yet closed at that time.

If you’re not familiar with the context the photo can be disturbing: the audience look like locked behind the bars. When all those people got in and a screening of some Bollywood film began, Krzysztof ran to the projection room. He was fascinated by the projector’s light. It was at that moment when he took the photo he was so proud of.

I used his other famous photo in 2003. The first photo he showed me depicted a soldier aiming at a group of civilians, mainly children. As soon as we agreed it would be used for the poster, Krzysiek smiled and took out another photo from his bag. It presented one of the kids from the first photo. We cannot see him from the front but he’s holding a flag: one in the correct position, the other one – upside down. When viewing the two photos together we can guess that the children are all the time provoking the soldier. I’m not trying to undermine the grimness of the situation, I am only describing the context. We did not know at that time that we had just started a triptych “Dzieciom, ofiarom wojny” (For Children, Victims of War). We could not foresee Beslan nor the London attacks.

Text. Andrzej Chętko

Photo Krzysztof Miller, design Andrzej Chętko