On a recent Sunday morning I had the pleasure to photograph a family gathering on Long Island.
Four generations together for the occasion of celebrating the youngest one’s first birthday. A generosity of joy and love all around. A family wonderland.
Here’s the first part of some awesome moments. Stay tuned for part two post. Many thanks to the beautiful family for letting me be part of their story!
“As Andre Marchand says, after Klee: “In a forest, I have felt many times over that it was not I who looked at the forest. Some days I felt that the trees were looking at me, were speaking to me …. I was there, listening …. ” 
All images above © MONIKA SOSNOWSKI 2015
“Let us therefore consider ourselves installed among the multitude of things, living beings, symbols, instruments, and men, and let us try to form notions that would enable us to comprehend what happens to us there. Our first truth — which prejudges nothing and cannot be contested— will be that there is presence, that “something” is there, and that “someone” is there. Before coming to the “someone,” let us ask first what the “something” is.” 
The fragmented narrative – my subject matter – for a long time evoked a fragility. Missing pieces. Incompleteness. Less then.
But what if the fragmented narrative is a way out? What if it protects more than exposes? Like a secret language, a code even, it points to the true meaning of what one so desperately is looking for.
Thus a point of strength and new found freedom.
Trusting yourself to the process, letting go of interpretation, letting go of all preconceived notions, tossing out the status quo.
“The invisible of the visible.”* 
An impromptu moment and place for a portrait. In the entry hallway to a historic building in Warsaw – the legendary Dom Literatury (The House of Literature). Daylight streamed in by opening the heavy iron door. With light some of the outside chilliness could be felt. Not much to cause shivering, but enough to make Marta’s mother worry her child will catch pneumonia. And of course irregardless of being a precocious youngster, Marta seized an opportunity to defy parental advise. She resisted being told to put back her hat and coat on.
For a moment, perhaps because of the rascal attitude, Marta stepped out of the self imposed photo-shy zone and allowed, though cautiously, to be photographed. Without making faces or hiding on the verge of tears.
Yes, a photographer’s job is a mix of talent, skill, empathy, sympathy, endurance, patience, etc.
As I mentioned yesterday, photographing children can be challenging. Actually, this really is the case with anyone. For a variety of reasons.
Some people are just more open to being photographed than others. This is not to say that some are more photogenic than others. The problem with the concept of what constitutes being photogenic lies in our unquestioned acceptance of certain cultural ‘norms’. These norms are in some way archetypes, which all of us subscribe to on a mostly subconscious level. Smiling for the camera is an example of momentarily engaging in a ritual whereby we acknowledge that whatever is happening presently suddenly becomes this photo op realm. Moments are literally captured. We all want to look good in them.
The particular challenge with children is that although they largely don’t yet have a preconceived judgement/worry about how they will appear in a photograph, they are also already used to posing for pictures. Being deliberately cute or clowning around can be equally annoying to many a photographer. Parents too add to the stress by becoming everyone’s worse nightmare of a ‘photo session coach.’ Not to mention that they often have very specific ideas on how their children should behave and look like for the camera.
Maybe that’s where kids first encounter the ‘critic’s voice’ they carry with them into adulthood. There is a possibility that any of the admonitions we heard as kids, either during those portrait sessions or afterwards being disappointed with the photos themselves, instilled a sense of wary for being photographed.
But then where would we be without all the delightful neurotic impulses we picked up growing up.
First images, long overdue from a chilly day in Warsaw last year in Warsaw, Poland.
Marta’s mother was hoping for a few new portraits of her lovely daughter. The day was rainy. I had very little time left before heading to meet with relatives. Marta is a bright, talented, beautiful girl. Astonishingly precocious. And it turns out quite shy in public places. The idea of taking some photos outside where passerby strangers can catch a glimpse of her and us was too much to bear… Emotional turmoil. Rain and tears and hugs and more hugs.
In an effort to get at least something I told her to do whatever she wanted to, even if it meant covering her pretty face. She became a ninja. And the result is a mysterious, almost fashion-like story. I like it. A magical quality emerged, perhaps not in spite of a compromise, but because of it. Marta was a ninja and she agreed to let me photograph her introspection, which any good ninja needs for strength.
More to follow.
I can’t claim to have lived on the edge. Yielding to a variety of fears kept me aground, waiting endlessly for the storm clouds of familial conflicts and personal angst to abate. Meanwhile as I wandered in between times of purposeful endeavors and overcoming obstacles, my subconscious cultivated defense mechanisms which grew into deep-rooted, hardy idiosyncrasies. I’ve realized there’s no point to overcoming them. In fact I’m only just beginning to appreciate some of the ones I’ve finally been able to recognize and name, but that’s a topic for another day.
I can’t claim to have lived on the edge, but I know very well what’s it like to exist in a periphery state of mind. It’s where I learned how to see.
A borderland safe house.
The three images above are from the project titled “Dom Nr 5″
Back to this space I like the most.
So much has happened since the last time I posted here.
Glad to be back.