Paul Kwiatkowski: Voyeur with a “Shitty Camera” and a Love of Larry Clark

While the grunge look of the nineties may be all the rage on the runways this year, the era is also influencing the art world. With resurgence in weathered and muted photographs in fine and commercial art, it is no surprise artists inspired by the likes of neoprene, Kate Moss and a fuck you attitude are turning heads with their honest observations of seedy behavior, guilty pleasures and off kilter characters of society. Concentrating on various subcultures, this idea of this so-called “snapshot photography” has been around since the 1950’s evolving from social realistic imagery. Each decade saw artists embrace the genre as their own, putting their own contemporary twist on the aesthetic, yet sill capturing dynamic oddball subjects. From Diane Arbus and Garry Winograd to Larry Clark and Nan Goldin, the genre has evolved to include the culture of each time. In the continuous search to find new and interesting subjects, snapshot photographers are ironically finding a renewed place in society with their fringe subjects.

Following the path of these photographers, young artist Paul Kwiatkowski is blurring the lines between reality and fantasy by injecting his own voyeuristic perspective. Dabbling in fashion editorials Kwiatkowski is most known for his extremely intimate shots of subjects. Baring boobs, bum and crack habits, the young photographer allows his subjects to let go in front of the camera until he spots the perfect second to freeze frame the moment. Nothing is off limits in his photographs, creating a degree of unnerving intrigue for the viewer. Not one to shy away from shock and awe, Kwiatkowski is a photographer who clearly subscribes to the notion “the more fucked up the better.”

As most artists do, Kwiatkowski started off as just another media underling as a producer/editor for documentaries. After the company went under he lost his mind and decided to “find himself” using his unemployment checks to fund traveling around South America. After some bad twists and turns along the way, including a bus high-jacking in Ecuador, Kwiatkowski got his shit together and decided to follow the path of photography by telling his own story through images. “I love narrative work that shows a character that has gone through an event and come out altered, whether it be a bad acid trip or a formative event. Stories are the only way I can make sense of myself,” says Kwiatkowski.

At first glance, the photographer’s subject choices seem like an ironic statement on popular culture or a hot hipster with a nice ass and a coke habit, but Kwiatkowski is not your typical pervy portrait photographer. Describing his aesthetic as “refined crude,” Kwiatkowski subscribes to the Arbus and Clark school of photography, capturing his subjects in intimate and uncomfortable instances. “I like catching spontaneous moments of vulnerability or unease as much as I love connecting with the subject. As long as the resulting image comes out unexpected, I’m content,” says Kwiatkowski.

With reality shows, blogs Instagram and the further blurred line between reality and make-believe, the renewed interest in snapshot photography has moved into the digital age with people putting themselves on display. Kwiatkowski’s work may rebel against current trends and embrace the raw voyeurism in photographs of the 1960s and 1970s. The only thread that Kwiatkowski has between the two is the use of a “shitty camera.”

Using his shitty camera, Kwiatkowski has managed to create several projects chronicling fashion models to everyday people. His boldest endeavor to date is the release of And Every Day Was Overcast, a photographic essay of growing up in southern Florida. As a whole it is a reflection of Kwiatkowski’s own teenage years and his wrestle with loss, change, sex, drugs and friendships. Combining images and text, the book is Kwiatkowski’s first attempt at fusing the two in his work both technically and conceptually.  “I wasn’t interested in making an illustrated book but creating a world where photographic and literary story telling could gleam off one another to construct a narrative. We all have false memories. We only remember the last time we thought of something not the way we felt when it was actually happening. Our perceptions and realities change with hindsight,” says Kwiatkwowski of using the medium of photographic essay to tell his story.

To see more images from Paul Kwiatkowski and learn more about And Every Day Was Overcast visit http://paulkmedia.com/

 

All images by Paul Kwiatkowski

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