“May ’81. An exhibition of photographs by Chris Schwarz”

“May ’81. An exhibition of photographs by Chris Schwarz”

Exhibition opening: Wednesday, 26.06.2024, 18:00

Chris Schwarz was a British photographer and the founder and first director of the Galicia Jewish Museum. Beginning in the early 1990s, he came to Poland to photograph traces of Jewish heritage, signs of interest in Jewish culture and the rebirth of Jewish life in the country several decades after the Holocaust. The photographs he took during these visits later became the core of the Museum’s permanent exhibition.

Chris’s first visit to Poland took place a decade earlier, however. In May 1981, he came here as a freelance photojournalist wanting to document the realities of the communist country where the Solidarity movement had emerged less than a year earlier. During his short stay – he was most likely in Poland between May 2 and 12 – he worked mainly in Warsaw and Lublin, as well as in smaller towns and in the countryside on the way between these two cities.

This exhibition is a photographic record of a journey that took place at a very particular time, during the brief period of relative easing of communist repression against Polish society between August 1980 and December 1981. 7 months after Chris’s return to London, martial law was introduced in Poland. Tanks stood on the same streets where he had walked with his camera just a few months earlier. The new developments in Poland and delays by his English publisher resulted in this material never being published.