Krzysztof Gieraltowski is one of the most recognizable portrait photographers. He started his adventure with the photography in 1961. His portraits are the result of an enormous creativity, uniqueness and many years of experimenting with the medium of photography. It is often difficult to identify a person who has been portrayed, but it is easier to guess her or his personality.
„Mine interest in taking pictures of people stems from curiosity and desire to participate in a game with the individuals who live in the same times as I live. I do subjective portraits, seeing one thing in a given person – the impression – and I try to visualize it. I photograph each person in a way that I find appropriate. I am always accompanied with the dilemmas regarding the selection of people, their photos and formulated opinions.”
While portraying, very often outstanding cultural, scientific and political life activists, Gieraltowski was almost never interested in only the face or its readability. His work, particularly before 1980, was the time of continual experimentation and almost unbridled imagination. Moreover, Gieraltowski’s portraits are characterized by immediacy and the breakdown of distance resulting from, for example, the position, achievements or status of the portrayed person.
Gieraltowski’s creative portraits are experiments with all of the technical possibilities of photography, from a purely compositional – for example, locating a person portrayed in the unobvious place of the frame, through those related to optics, especially with the depth of field or wide-angle lenses. His works are often characterized by strong use of the graphics, bold use of color or strong contrast in black and white photography, and finally up to the portrayed person, and a large dose of verism.
Gieraltowski within a few decades of his work has developed his own unique way of portraying, although it is extremely difficult to determine it. It is not based on the simple formal premises, but rather on the sum of the experiments on a radical approach to a photographic expression. Very often Gieraltowski’s frames contain the paradox that is difficult to grasp: portrayed person is sometimes invisible or visible only fragmentarily, but her character is presented beyond identification elements. As the examples one may name the portraits, among others, of Krzysztof Zanussi, where we see only the characteristic glasses and eyes, of Izabela Gustowska, where besides eyes we may also see her luxuriant hair, and finally widely present in the pop culture portrait of Stanislaw Tym – portrayed from the behind.
Although, Gieraltowski created individual portraits, detached from each other, often in later years he has been changing their context, combining them under the influence of formal similarities such as „override”, „overlapping images”, „blur”. In this way, he created a series of portraits for the exhibition and published Portrait Without a Face. In the Metamorphoses’ cycle Gieraltowski experiments with photomontage and collage.
He imposes the images, penetrates them, sometimes changes their fragments. He also uses multiple exposures quite often. Since the early 70’s he was associated with the press, first monthly „Ty i ja”, then weeklies „Perspektywy”, „Razem”, „ITD.” and finally, with „Gazeta Wyborcza”. At the turn of the century he led his very own photo gallery.