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Untermyer Gardens Conservatory in Winter

A place of beauty and mystery, Untermyer Gardens Conservatory, delights one’s soul and senses.  A wonderland any time of the year with echoes of a bygone era. In winter the lushness has withered into slumber and what remains are the bare shrubs, yellowed-out grasses and flower heads looking dry and brittle to the touch.  Still, they all stand upright or twisted, swaying in the the cold, cold breeze. Defiantly elegant in melancholy on a rainy afternoon.

I’m so curious about this place. And grateful.

Above images all © Monika Sosnowski, 2017

Visual Notebook

Usually I photograph instead of writing. I wish I wrote more. More often. I wish I could have that kind of reference for the past, for all those times when writing it down would have been such a relief.  Maybe I come from a lineage of things held back, unsaid, forgotten. Maybe it’s just plain avoidance and most likely it is.

But I do keep a record, even though I wouldn’t necessarily define it as a documentation by any means.
I photograph.
This is my language.

I’m reading intermediately, by which I mean not from cover to cover, Eva Hesse’s “Diaries” and Anselm Kiefer’s “Notebooks Volume 1: 1998-1999.”

On this day, February 5th, 1965 Eva Hesse wrote the following (excerpt):

“I did a drawing. I really like. now at moment.
will eagerly await tomorrow, with hope that it will still mean something to me then…
I will continue drawing. push the individuality of them even though they go against every “major trend.” Fuck that.
So did everyone I admire at the same time they started go against.
I must now build on something and the work is, can be a good point from which to build.” (page 417)

Meanwhile Ansel Kiefer wrote the following in 1999 (also an excerpt):

“9 P.M. Time to sleep. Outside the watchmen pass (the song of the night-watchmen in medieval times, when they’ve shut the gates at dusk –> curfew). They have whistles like the traffic police and blow them constantly: sometimes near, sometimes further off. Puzzling, who they’re whistling at the entire time. Like an unidentifiable jungle noise. Another suspension of the principle of sufficient reason. It’s preoccupying (and annoying) when something happens and you can’t discern the reason for it or its pointlessness seems crystal clear. But what do we know?” (page 264)

Soon it will be a year since everything changed. For months it felt like I was colliding with my own life, in slow motion for added impact.

I’m astonished that it’s been almost a year now. It feels still so fresh, three or four months at the most.  I did write at times but mostly photographed. There were days when that was all I could do. There were days when that just had to be enough. In retrospect those were good days. The bad ones were when I wondered if I’ll ever photograph again.

All images above © Monika Sosnowski 2017

Joy & Love on Sunday Morning (Part 1)

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!

Absolute metaphor

“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 …. “ [1]

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.” [2]

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.”* [3]

Quote sources:

1. Maurice Merleau-Ponty, The Visible and The Invisible, NorthWestern University Press, 1968

2. Maurice Merleau-Ponty, “Eye and Mind.”

3. Maurice Merleau-Ponty, The Visible and The Invisible (from May 1960 Working notes), NorthWestern University Press, 1968

Alyssa E. Fanning - Wonderful Monika!!

Peter - Elusive, yet tangible.

Monika Sosnowski - So Dudek-esque of you. To the point my man of a thousand words! 🙂

Monika Sosnowski - Alyssa! I know this is months later, but I’m just getting around to replying… Thank you so very much for your support! Means a lot! 🙂

Marta, Dom Literatury, Warszawa

Marta, Kamienica Literacka, Warszawa© Monika Sosnowski 2015/2016

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.


© Monika Sosnowski

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.

From "Dom Nr 5" © Monika Sosnowski

From "Dom Nr 5" © Monika Sosnowski

The three images above are from the project titled “Dom Nr 5”