Travels in Time

Travels in Time

Piwna Street, Gdańsk, 2017, salted paper print; fot. Wlodek Witek

Autor: Wlodek Witek

Travels in Time

It all began with the purchase of an old mahogany camera with a black bellows … This is the beginning of the photographer's history, the creator of photographs taken with the old camera using the oldest photography techniques.

Date: July 3, 2017
Place: window of the Library of the Academy of Fine Arts in Gdańsk

Trace: Photograph made in the technique of calotype; presenting a view of Piwna Street
Creator: Wlodek Witek, photographer

Trace / Print

On July 3, 2017, Wlodek Witek took a photograph from a window of the Library of the Academy of Fine Arts in Gdańsk. The event and the choice of the window did not happen by chance. He was referring to the capture by Rudolf Kuhn (1842-1900), who in 1863 photographed Piwna Street (Jopengasse) from the same place. At the time when the photographer from Gdańsk, Kuhn, took his picture, the current seat of the Academy was a military facility (Great Armoury), closed to visitors. Today, some of the rooms on the first floor are occupied by the Library.

The photograph by Rudolf Kuhn, made on glass in the wet collodion negative technique, proved valuable to reconstruct the houses after the liberation in 1945. Owing to this, Piwna Street has retained the character of years gone by The contemporary photograph by Wlodek Witek reminds us of the pre-war view of this part of Gdańsk. The Artist is fascinated by, as he said – spaces seen again, 150 years after someone else, preferably with the same technology of image making. Thus, the capture and the processing technique (calotype) of the image by Wlodek Witek refer to the mid-nineteenth century. It was the time in which the invention of photography was announced (1839) and then developed by William Henry Fox Talbot (1800-1877), who patented a negative-positive method of image recording in the technique of calotype also known as talbotype (1841). According to Ireneusz Dunajski – a researcher, passionate about the nineteenth-century Gdańsk photography and a long-time friend Wlodek Witek’s – the only person before Wlodek Witek, using the calotype in the city on the Motława River was Eduard Flottwell (1811-1862), who was associated with Gdańsk and Pomerania in the years 1853-1862.

The creation of a calotype requires a long exposure time, which is why it is may be easy to ignore many moving elements of a composition. A characteristic motif of the photo by Rudolf Kuhn are two people who have stopped to chat and thus have been immortalized in the image. Referring to this motif, Wlodek Witek invited his wife Katarina to take part in the project. Of course, the picture by Rudolf Kuhn is just an inspiration for the work of Wlodek Witek, who, characteristically, combined the past with the present. Katarina is standing in the middle of the street holding a modern bicycle. For Wlodek Witek – a vehicle such as a ship, a car, a bicycle together with the roads, rails, streets are important elements emphasizing mobility in time and space. Let us point out that the photo session took place in full summer season, when crowds move along the street, but the record of that moment only shows Ms. Katarina with her bicycle and the unique view of Piwna Street.

Photography is a confluence of technology and art. At the beginning of its existence, photography was considered a kind of Science combined with Magic, even with Alchemy. I think that now nineteenth-century photographs provoke emotions and a desire to move in Time. In a way Wlodek Witek  also contributes to it. Thanks to his passion he transforms scenery into unique and exceptional works.

The title Travels in Time refers not only to the first photographic techniques, but also takes the viewers to special places on Earth. We travel from Norway through Lithuania, Poland, the Netherlands, Great Britain, France, Italy, Spain, and even Vietnam. Together with Wlodek Witek, we find unique locations that become even more magical because they are presented by using ‘mysterious’ methods of taking pictures. Mysterious, because, as the author of the photograph himself says – photography made manually can still be exceptional, a tangible material, made without the help of electricity or digital chips.

Tim Cahill said – A journey is best measured in friends, rather than miles. The phrase is not without significance in the context of Wlodek Witek's exhibition. Travel also gives you the opportunity to meet new people. First, I met a wonderful man – Ireneusz Dunajski, filled with positive energy to recall the history of photography. Later I met the talented, and at the same time very modest photographer – Wlodek Witek. Both gentlemen visited the Library of the Academy of Fine Arts in Gdańsk in 2017. A moment of conversation among the books and the spirit of the Great Armoury's past resulted in a photograph being taken from the Library window, this exhibition and this album.

I am truly convinced, thanks to the extraordinary photos by Wlodek Witek, that the original recipes by Hans Thøger Winther and the biography wrote by Ireneusz Dunajski and also inspiring texts by Claudio Santambrogio and Roger Watson included in this publication will be good companions for the Travels in Time.


Anna Polańska

Project coordinator

Catalogue of the exhibition:

Włodek Witek, Podróże w czasie | Travels in Time - Pobierz


In the public domain at: [access: October 18, 2018]