The Sociological Record – Zofia Rydet’s photography
3-6 September | All day: The Sociological Record – outdoor exhibition of Zofia Rydet’s photography | The Hartwig Alley
Zofia Rydet is one the most outstanding figures in the history of Polish photography. She was born in 1911 in Stanisławów in Kresy Wschodnie (Eastern Borderlands). She graduated from Główna Szkoła Gospodarcza Żeńska (Central School of Economics for Women) in Snopków near Lviv and afterwards worked for Orbis Polish Travel Office in Stanisławów. That’s where war found her and then subsequent occupations: Soviet, Hungarian and German. After the war and a brief stay in Rabka ( which she was strongly attached to until the end of her life), she settled in Bytom, where she ran a shop with an assortment of stationery and toys. At the age of 40 she rekindled her youthful passion for photography. Encouraged by her successes in local photography contests, she joined Gliwickie Towarzystwo Fotograficzne (Gliwice Photographic Society) where she honed her skills and forged friendships with fellow photographers. From 1963, she taught photography at the Gliwice Polytechnic School, while at the same time submitted her photos to international reviews of photography in Poland and around the world. She travelled a lot, in the 1960s she visited, among others, Egypt, Yugoslavia, Greece, Lebanon, Albania, Bulgaria, Spain, and Hungary. She took documentary photos depicting children for her first major cycle “Mały Człowiek” (Little Man). Her next projects also focused on aspects of human condition: Czas przemijania (The time of passage) – an examination of old age, and Świat uczuć i wyobraźni (The World of Feelings and Imagination), a series of surrealist photomontages and collages. Her fascination with human beings and her numerous journeys around Poland was the monumental work “The Sociological Record” that she began in 1978. Towards the end of the 1970s, Zofia Rydet presented another conceptual cycle: Nieskończoność dalekich dróg [The Infinity of Distant Roads]. She created her final significant series at the turn of 1980s/1990s. Suita Śląska (Silesian Suite) featured self-quotations from Rydet’s earlier work. Zofia Rydet died on 24 August 1997 in Gliwice.
“The Sociological Record” (1978-1990)
Similar to many artists creating after World War II, the author of the Sociological Record 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 energised by a spirit of animated discussion and grassroots peer review. 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 project without parallel in Polish photography, a sweepingly comprehensive portrait of Polish domestic life. The cycle’s core consists of portraits of inhabitants of towns and villages in different regions of Poland as well as abroad. These photographs are linked by compositional consistency. The portraits show residents, photographed individually, as couples, or in groups, often seated in front of a chosen wall within their home. Photos on display present representatives of scientific and artistic milieus (painters, photographers, actors and artists).
The digitalised collection of over 12,000 photos can be viewed at www.zofiarydet.com.
The exhibition has been made possible courtesy of and in cooperation with the Zofia Rydet Foundation