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Rafal Pruszynski

Little Pieces Of Us

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When I was still not even a teenager, I lost my mother to breast cancer. I still remember the night she died vividly, its an image etched in my mind that will stay there for a long time. There are other images too, of happy times and of sad times, memories that were strong enough to survive. However, as time passes, these memories fade. This is probably good on some level, but it also robs us of the fundamental building blocks of our life.

After my son was born, I realized that this would continue. As time passed, small details that gave me joy were forgotten, evaporating away, their place taken by new memories that inevitably also faded away. I realized then that it was up to me to try and collect these little pieces, to give them a permanence that my memory could not.

And so my collection began. Trying not so much to chronicle important dates and events, birthdays or visits to a doctor. Instead, I wanted to capture images that communicated the feeling of the moment, a drive home in the pouring rain, or a moment of uninhibited play.


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Rafal Pruszynski


206 thoughts on “rafal pruszynski – little pieces”

  1. I like this essay a lot. Straight forward photography. Nicely paced. Clearly there are many more images that would be interesting to see. I wonder how many photographers use their talent to capture their personal lives? Probably too few. We’re always looking outward.

    I actually confronted the same question about saving memories with my camera years ago but came to the opposite conclusion you did. The details are never as sweet as the memories for me. We all look at life differently.

    Nice work.

  2. It is immediately apparent to me; after seeing other work at Burn Magazine, that Rafal is from, or lives, in the East. On first look, I like it Rafal, although I’m sure that I will like it more with more study; I find that Oriental (for want of a better term) photography is usually more than the sum of its parts. I love frame 16! Keep up the work Rafal, you and your family will reap the reward. Congratulations on publication here at Burn!

    Best wishes,


  3. short on time rafal, and so just a very quick congratulations..
    more in time..
    brilliant opener…

  4. Hey, stupid. (always wanted to say that). I was careful to say, “whatever the influence” because I had no idea (until now) where Rafal was.

  5. Wow,

    I promised myself that the first post under my essay would be to thank Anton. David, you too, but Anton is the guy who had to put up with a lot during the edit. So Anton, big big thanks for your work.

  6. Well I am not Asian.

    Actually Stupid is right. I am a Polish and Canadian actually guy in Korea. Not a Korean but probably in a way Koreanized by 7 years here and a Korean wife.


    I had never seen that. I like it and will look more. But I am really into this kind of photography. One thing, people say flickr sucks but I would like to invite people to see http://lafamiliaabrazada.tumblr.com/ which is a selection of images from a flickr group I co-administer.

    As far as influences I could write more if anyone is interested.

  7. I would love to hear more about your influences..from the start I have been moved and fascinated by the way you work, and also by your life and how amazing your wife must be to let you so close with the camera..certain singles are more gripping for me than others, but always I have the same reaction of joy / wonder / intrigue to your work as a whole. Such a inside – out way of being and seeing.. And this series is a great gift to your family, as well as to yourself (and to us)..congratulations!!

  8. Really unconventional take on a rather familiar subject (family)…I really love Rafal’s essay. Thanks for sharing…

    Best Wishes…

  9. Erica,

    well there are a few and for different reasons. For example I never used to shoot with flash, ever. Then I saw Billingham’s Ray’s a Laugh and it sort of clicked how the exaggerated technical flaws really work with this sort of subject, the sort of common family album theme. I had always been a lover of b/w though in a much different context. I think that saying Nan Goldin would be a given, I think anyone thats trying to do an intimate document has been in a way influenced by her. Another influence is Jacob aue Sobol, in conjunction with Billingham. When I saw the images from Ray’s a Laugh it really clicked and thats what really started me going for a high contrast look in my b/w. Many of the images are shot with on camera flash from inches away. It was one way for me to sort of bring that technically flawed aesthetic into it that you often see in family albums.

  10. Erica,

    my wife was good about it from the start, there really was never much of an issue with this..certain types of photos took a bit of warming up to get but it didnt take all that long. But hell yeah, it does take two to tango and theres no way this could be done otherwise.

  11. “Little Pieces of Us”? or “Little Pieces of Them”?
    really lovely work, but I would like to see some little pieces of you in these photos as well. anyway, congratulations Rafal, really cool stuff

  12. Maciej,

    true, true, its something Im still grappling over..how to include myself successfully..I have not taken a successful image yet that would do that…I have relied on artifacts, for example the image of the glasses, or theres an image of my had and my son’s foot. But its definitely a frame Im hunting.

  13. I don’t think we as the viewer need to literally see Rafal, his presence is felt in these photographs. I think the photographer is always present in the photographs he takes, especially with such close up and intimate shots such as these. Rafal’s child isn’t looking out into space, he is looking at his father. We the viewer see that. “Little Pieces of Us” is definitely a fitting title for this project.

  14. Rafal, I found your photoessay really inspiring. as somebody who calls himself a documentary photographer i too often forget that personal experiences can make photographs as poignant and powerful as any esteemed documentary work. nice attention to mood. very personal and subtle. I would love to see the images printed and hung in a gallery.

  15. Rafal!

    “a tree is known by its fruit”-family proverb

    I have loved watching this story develop and unfold…having seen lots of the pics and seen lots of variations, it’s been a real pleasure to see this work grow and enfold. As I have written many times, I love the quiet drama of these photographs, as well as the series Family Ties. If Family Ties is like an Ozu film, this series is like an extended Haiku…filled with so much silence and all the visual space, the quiet surrounding of family life…what i love best about this shortened version is the sequence, as it moves from the child toward the dark, from the center of the 3 of you (your son, your wife and the absent u) toward the 2 of you (the wife) and the dark, gorgeous intimacy of creation…burning toward the absence of elements, only the rich abstract shadow of love and light and dark and depth…the movement and the progression of the essay is great…really, i loved how it moved from ‘readable’ images and images that it is very easy for viewers to enjoy (who doesnt love a child) toward the darker and more ambiguous imagery, toward sexuality, toward bodies, toward disappearance….bereavement and joy….

    as others have written, i too think all that matters is to focus around and in front of you, and this story is filled with the beautiful sentiment (as opposed to sentimentality) of family and also the sadness and the strange, quarky oddity (love the eye glasses motif and your wife’s face-max)…the foot clothed by shadow is also gorgeous…

    a successful successful and beautiful story…and it really has been a pleasure to hone this, to see your work grow and mature and become more complex and more ambiguous…that’s what family and children do to us…makes us feel wider, larger: more joy, more sorrow….

    a beautiful and honest and humane story….and i LOVE it….all the pics…even the ones you’ve not shown here L::))

    looking forward to the book

  16. Bob,

    a huge thanks has to go to David. I see now the real value of a good eye and an unbiased perspective thanks to his huge help with editing this. But he is also a great sport and it was a fun process playing some edit ping pong with him. Yes the series has gone through many, many edits and I think it is at a point now where Im comfortable with how it hangs together.

  17. Hey Jim, I think there is a damned lot of inward/personal lives photography attempts done in the past 2 decades. In the context of what you are saying, Marcin does bring the paradox, maybe, of Rafal’s not being in the frame (his only “objects” there being wife and kid, whom actually do not BELONG to him, as objects might) something he acknowledged and talked about a while ago, on Road trip.

    Rafal, I only regret there are only a couple dozen shots in the essay presented here. I guess for many of us, who have been following your journey from afar, your essay has long taken the form of a book, even if only imagined, and hell if I ever buy a book with only a dozen pictures in it! :-))))

  18. You could borrow some wildlife photographer’s traps and have your wife stick them somewhere — open the fridge and wham! I too was left wanting to see you involved… but I suspect that’s a tricky task, as you mentioned.

    The photos IMHO are built around tight spaces, bathroom, bedroom, inside a taxicab, tight crop in a restaurant. They work well. But I wonder if you hadn’t thought about trying to put your intimacy up against the world. How do you fit in with your neighbors and the rest of us…? That’s the question I’m left with.

  19. Herve,

    I had the goal of having less than 30 images in this sort of presentation as I thought its the optimum number for a slideshow. There are more images but I think that a slideshow isnt the best way to show so many.

    P.S. you mean Maciej lol

  20. Mickael,

    good question. To be more accurate this project is part of a larger personal project. I had visions of also photographing my side of the family but geography has made that difficult. The other project Im currently shooting that runs in conjunction with this is one about my wife’s side of the family called Family Ties. Again there are distance issues that Id like to be able to overcome, but atleast I can get down there from time to time, being only about 5 hours away. Finally I am also collecting images of domestic artifacts which could much better be sequenced with the 2 other projects into a book format than a slideshow format. As Jim says obviously the dream would be a book in the future.

  21. lovely personal photographs
    the crumpled sheets and hand..
    the legs
    the diner
    the shower…
    strong emotions..
    love the way you frame
    and your use of negative space..
    strong body of work..
    ** i’m sure your mother is so proud.. **
    peace and love Rafal..
    to you and yours…

  22. BTW, Rafal, I got used to it, but please, do not put the title picture on the cover of the book. Said jokingly, but when i first saw it ( no doubt following Panos’s lust and love longing for someone else’s GF….)), I thought ARAKI sent one of his sicko essays to David… Then I saw your name…..:-))))

  23. dear rafal,

    i should thank you for your essay.

    i too was father-orphaned by cancer when i was very young. i too have young kids, my youngest a little older than yours… pieces… yes, pieces… at all costs, my responsibility to live for my kids…

    your write up just about killed me. i could only get to the 8th picture of the slideshow and the rest started swimming right in front of me.

    sadly, i might turn BURN off for a while.

  24. MICHAEL…

    yours is an interesting question and i hope Rafal answers…i am sure he will…how much to include in any essay?? stories/lives always have many branches, but do we really need to see the whole tree????

    too bad i have to pack and catch a plane, because i would love to jump in on this one…..this is such an interesting part of any story/essay…the “confinements” of it…

    cheers, david

    p.s. whoops, i see that Rafal did already answer….this was a subject that Rafal and i have talked about a lot…where to begin, where to end……and even if Rafal expands this essay to segue into the other, i am sure this one will always stand on its own…

  25. Hey Rafal, nice intimate work, subtle. Good to see another story develop through Road trips and now appear here on burn. I think Maciej made a good point. I agree would be interesting to see you interact in a few of these frames. Not obvious though! Just a few subtle abstractions. This should be no problem for you as this gentle approach is part of your working style already. I guessing you already have some like this, did you it not work for you?

    … Just looked back 12 has your hand right?

  26. RAFAL

    What an exquisite edit. Like a polished jewel. I too have been anxiously awaiting seeing your essay here on Burn. After having folowed its evolution over the past year I feel I know you and your family intimately. But this edit shows me something new: it is a poem instead of an essay. You have whittled this massive undertaking down to its bare essence and it sings! Yes, there are lots of images I miss and look forward to seeing in your book, but this particular edit will always stay with me. There is nothing extraneous here; each element is placed in perfect relationship to the others, like building blocks that would topple if even one were moved. I know how incredibly hard it is to do an edit of a long term project so I can appreciate what you’ve done in a very personal way.

    Bravo to you, Rafal, and sincere gratitude to your wife for being open to the process. As for me, the title is apt–you are as much a subject as your wife and son. I feel you present in every image. I wouldn’t try to work your physical self into future images, not unless it happens naturally. Now it is time to get serious about pulling your book together. I sense it will be the first of many…and I look forward to buying them all!


  27. Very personal…an intimacy that comes through as fragmented as our memories…like stream of consciousness imagery and remembrance. This is the quality about it that I like…we are viewing how Rafal will recall these times and moments… this is the objective of a lot of photography…to record moments as they happen, but this recording is different… It seems as though we are privy to how these moments are actually seen and kept in his brain, and these pieces of past times are recalled as such…shards of moments passed and past. Beautiful work.

  28. rafal.
    fantastic and well deserved that your work is gaining wide and sincere appreciation.. really pleased for you and the family.

    nothing can prepare us for loosing a parent, right?
    and loosing one young.. well.. it´s a right of passage which we are not mean´t to pass through at that time.. too many missed conversations.. the development of parents as friends.. who deserve our empathy.. their privilege to see us grow and ´become´… so much lost, while all that is gained is a a maturity which is unwanted and thrust on us too young.

    i totally get your project and think it´s a touching dedication to your family of old as well as a beautiful illustration of your family of now.

    the longest life for you and yours
    david and family.

  29. families and the love between them are wonderful things. I often wonder why we dont, given our trade, do so much more than we do to capture that.These are obviously pieces made with love and commitment. There is a tenderness in them, an intimacy. People are really moved by them. I cannot help but wonder ‘Why am I not?’ How is it that what stirs the hearts of others does not reach me? I can ‘SEE’ what is there and intuit from it the sense that it evokes, but only as an abstract thought. I DO NOT FEEL HERE. WHY? ..I have no idea. It cannot be the work as it seems to have stirred just about everyone [even you JIM :) ]
    Therefore it is within me. [Maybe I always knew that anyway]. It is not the things in a frame that I am magnetic to, it is the geometry of the frame itself and the tones and spacing of the things within it. Therefore, something such as this which is so obviously full of love is a blank mirror, and yet a static image of say a piece of cloth hanging in the wind can hit me like a hammer.

    Its a lovely thing you have here and have made…cherish it.


  30. Really nice edit – i imagine a lot of these are familiar to others through flickr – they feel fresh again. It felt like a journey at times.
    When and why did you decide on b&w for this? Was it based on an influence or an concious decision taken early in this ‘project’? I mean you’re pretty handy at subtly toned colour photography elsewhere in your work: did you like the resulting contrast from presenting this more personal stuff in b&w and your outside observational (for want of a better way of describing it) work in colour?

  31. Sobol’s influence mostly shines through here. Your work Rafal reminds me so much of his. But I liked this photo essay more, even if some of the images sway too close to Sobol’s work. I think it is the mother and child relationship which makes it me interesting for me.

    I am not one for seeing photographers shadows or remote shutter cables, anything that emphasizes the presence of the photographer, but I am nitpicking there. Thank you or sharing, I’ve been waiting and this doesn’t disappoint.

  32. The convergence of Art and Life. i’ve seen this set so many times, but i never get tired of it, just tired of the envy of wishing i could do something as beatiful and as meaninful myself.

  33. The convergence of Art and Life. i’ve seen this set so many times, but i never get tired of it, just tired of the envy of wishing i could do something as beatiful and as meaninful myself.

  34. Rafal,

    Great to see your essay presented here.I hope you will always continue to work on this, even as you work on other projects, even after “the book” is done.

    The part of “you” that is included here is your love for your family and how proud you are to share them with us. thanks for that.

  35. Well, I guess I’m going to have to be the first, and maybe only, prick who doesn’t really
    get this piece.
    I can appreciate the sentimentality and personal moments at play but the overpowering use of flash
    just gets in the way, for me, and leaves me cold and unengaged.

    I did like frames 13,18, and 19 and, not surprisingly there was no apparent use of flash.

    As well,in these frames I felt the compositions allowed one to speculate as to what might be going
    on outside of the viewable frame while most of the others were sort of direct-here’s a child in a room
    with a ceiling,FLASH; here’s a woman near a shower,FLASH;….

  36. ALL…

    i will be absent until about this time tomorrow (late afternoon or evening Euro time on the 13th)..no new posts until i arrive in Spain…but, i think you have enough to keep you busy until then…

    cheers, david

  37. Crazy stuff Rafal. It actually makes me want to go and grab a flash, something I’ve used a lot in my career but not lately. The only thing I would say is don’t discount the birthday parties, doctor visits, etc out of hand. Don’t limit yourself in any way because of some sort of preconceived notions about what art is or isn’t. Congrats on getting this up here. Looking forward to what you do next. CP

  38. Hey Rafal, wonderful work. I’ve always liked this project because when I look at it I really feel the love, and I don’t mean that in any trite way. There is one photo from an earlier edit, however, that I miss…if I remember correctly…it was a photo of your son in the bathtub, looking out from behind the shower curtain, or something like that. Am I imagining this? It’s the photo I was hoping to see when I looked at this edit because for some reason it has stayed with me.


  39. RAFAL – great essay. i love the intimacy of the images. i think the second half is stronger than the first – but there are some real wonderful images in this essay. i like what Ramanan said above that your presence is in every image – the glasses on the window sill, the shower, etc. nice work.

  40. Hi Rafal,

    Your use of reflection and angle are uncanny.

    However, I agree with John Gladdy and Mark, I am left with a sense of disconnect after viewing these images (not all of them) but, in general. For me… the harshness of the flash distracts from the delicate sensitivity that exists in the documentation of your family.

    I checked out your Flickr link, and I like the images in color, they have a vibrancy which I feel, is missing in the black and white work. But, that might be your intent… mine is just an opinion.

  41. Rafal

    I love this essay, and also the longer version on your site.

    Living with a camera at arms reach helps us recognise and celebrate the miracle of our own individual lives. What could be more important? Too easily our lives can just stream by with all those beautiful moments un-noticed. The difference between the ordinary and the extra-ordinary is just a matter of perception.

    My own personal work has always been just that, very personal, and completely different from the photographs I make for a living. I’ve never shared it.

    Thankyou for sharing these personal photos with us, and allowing us a peek at your day to day reality. You and Patricia have given me something to think about.

    Gordon L

  42. Rafal,
    nice work! Image 2 and 5 are my absolute favourites!
    Had a quick look at your flicker page and your colour work is great as well! Perhaps you can mix bw and colour?
    You certainly have a gift man!
    One small observation from me. Some objects and perspectives repeat, for example with the glases 6+7, hiding 8+9, feet 19+20+21, etc. Was that your intention? Or am I counting peas?
    It is already late, good night from Europe!

  43. Rafal,
    I really love all of your family pictures, all that you’ve allowed us to see over the past few years…I’ve pondered every time over my strong desire to see what you look like…not the real you perhaps, because you are indeed visible all over these images, but be it my voyeuristic tendencies, or your successful story, it leaves me fascinated every time.

    I have been meaning to pose this question to Burn for a while…I see family photo albums as the highest form of photography. It’s a personal taste of course, but I always wonder how many people who identify themselves as photographers keep them….I made albums obsessively when I was a kid, and they are “the thing I would take in a fire,” my most treasured items…

    Thank you for sharing some of your family’s precious moments.

  44. Reimar, very good question. The decisions were made with sequencing in mind, hence the carry over of some common visual elements from one picture to another….for example the first sequence you mention goes from the photo of my wife in the car half asleep (made when she and my son returned from my inlaws after a 2 week period there) to my son wide awake wearing glasses, to my wife again hiding her face, etc. I wanted there to be a visual flow from one photo to another. For me the biggest drawback for this project is that I dont yet have the variety I want, which is why I continue to work on this. It was always intended to be a long project, certainly longer than one year so I hope to slowly gather the types of photos that were pointed out as missing.

    There is a longer version on my flickr page, it runs over 40 images but 40 would be much too long here. But I may in the end put more photos into this edit, expand it which I think David said was possible.


    the flash was a conscious choice. I realize its not to everyone’s taste its just something hat spoke to me in conjunction with the b/w. I understand your feel about the contrast with the warmth although to be honest I always wanted this not to be saccharine or sentimentality.


    I hear you. This is why Im still shooting this and plan to for a long time. Im sure the edit in one year will be radically different.


    Im not sure which one. I think you may mean an image of my wife behind the bathrrom door peeking out and my son heavily OOF in the foreground? I decided not to use it fr a number of reasons. I think it is essentially the same pic as the title slide and it is also vertical….which is two strikes in a short slideshow like this. David advised well about avoiding verticals especially if all the others are horizontals…it wouldnt flow. In a different format and a longer sequence? I think it could work.


    I decided b/w because at the time I started to do this I was doing everything in b/w. Only recently have I started to use color for my street work. One of the reasons I now only do my intimate family work in b/w is to distinguish it from my street work. Originally for me it was a no-brainer to go with b/w because thats all I was doing anyway. Color fr me is very new and I really like it but I want there to be a dividing line. I was tempted to go with color here a few times since I started but have decided to stick with b/w.

  45. Anna,

    I agree. I love family photography. I’m really into this sort of stuff. Have you looked at the link I provided?


    there is a link there I think to the flickr group I have set up with some others and we try and curate a good quality pool. Take a look, there are some real gems there in many different styles.

  46. panos skoulidas

    Great edit “surprise”…
    I was expecting the “best”
    of course since I was following
    Your essay for quite a while now..
    But you exceeded my expectations..
    Way more “daring”..
    Way stronger… Exhibition ready..
    And of course the book will naturally
    You created a strong family..
    And it shows ..
    I was expecting the best but your offered..
    me ( us ) the “bestest” as Sean G..
    likes to say..!
    Esoteric.. Real..
    Right on man.
    You are a brave man ..
    Thank you for “mirroring”
    Yourself ..
    ( first time I’m in the same page with our Jim..)
    Only you Rafal has that talent to do that..
    Keep going

  47. rafal,

    sorry for the late response. have been running all day. just getting to this work now. this is an amazing personal essay. a real look into ones life. i love the images. the feel of this. it is very interesting. fresh. so wonderful to see. anyways its late and i have been up way too long…. more soon. great work amigo!

  48. panos skoulidas

    hey, Mike,
    always nice to see your name here…
    hope to see u at Look3 once again

  49. kathleen fonseca

    Hello Rafal

    okkkkkk..well, i wondered if i could discuss an essay dealing with family objectively. i was assured i could, but looking at your essay, Rafal, i can see that you shot subjectively so i wonder why i need to observe objectively? Guess i don’t. So here goes. Objectively, first. i like the flash, like the compositions, like the access and familiarity (natch’), like the b&w, like the clean, stark simplicity. Subjects are attractive.

    Subjectively? i find the portrayal of your wife to be limited and not as multi-dimensional as it could be. i finish your essay and know basically one thing about her. That she does a lot of walking/laying around disheveled, half-dressed or naked. I feel i know more about your son than i do about your wife. That he plays, that he sleeps, that he likes picture books and can recognize shapes and forms, that he’s being introduced to books in the Korean language, that he loves the swing set and already plays ball that his parents are very proud of him and that he is loved like crazy by his dad the photographer. I am sure his Mom is loved like crazy by the same photographer but it’s a whole different kind of love and lust figures heavily in that love, as well it should. However, i find myself wondering, do i really have to be witness to all that lust? What else does she do? Does she cook? Does she get dressed up to go out? Does she sit across the room and engage in conversations? Does she walk around? Eat? Watch TV? Does she actually do anything outdoors? Take walks? Shop? work? Climb stairs? open doors? When she talks, do you listen or are you too busy looking at her ass? I am not enthralled by the cover shot which borders on offensive to me. It’s gratuitous and prurient. i really don’t like the suggestion of her genitals in my face while also beholding the innocent sweet light in your child’s eyes right beside her. It makes me feel dirty. And if you suggest the dirty is in MY mind i would answer that my reaction is not inappropriate considering your deliberate camera angle and well, that my eyes have no choice but to go straight to her crotch. i don’t appreciate being manipulated like that. Jim is right, put this on the cover of your book and sell millions. But not to me.

    Rafal, i see these moments as perhaps indicative of the earliest years of a marriage. Your wife is attractive, young and beautifully built. But do you have to pimp her out to us this way? I don’t “feel” a mature love in these photos, or a deep overriding respect for all of her parts though i am sure you are extremely appreciative of all that she brings to the table. I just think you could do a better job illustrating the multi-faceted nature of her personality. And this will come with time. I hope so anyway, because that tiny waist won’t last forever.

    Summary: Overall a good job, an engaging shooting style and subject matter but i feel that your vision needs some more time and investment of your whole self..go deeper, Rafal, get to the core of your love, your insecurities, your pride, your role of father, husband, provider, protector. Go really deep till you feel your heart will break with what you are discovering about yourself and your emotional ties to this woman and your child. I just don’t feel all that you have to express yet but keep going and you’ll get there.


  50. Kathleen,

    its a good point, as always we are limited in what we can show in 30 or so images, but it surely is something to think about. Remember, this is only a small edit of a much larger whole, there are nearly a hundred photos Ive put together in a year of shooting. But for 30 photos there are limits to what can be shown. Id invite you to visit http://www.flickr.com/photos/jinju/collections/72157604057061111/, and anyone else, and take a look at the 3 projects that are part of a larger whole. But ofcourse your suggestions are 100% valid and it is something I am trying to do…there are challenges of how to show certain things in a photographically attractive way, ofcourse. Thanks.

  51. kathleen fonseca

    yes, i understand completely..i did look at your flickr stream but not all the way..i liked what i saw a lot..i’ll be back and go deeper next time..thanks for taking my comment so well. I thought about this all day. Love your style. It’s very individual and contemporary, so clean and refreshing. But i would like to know more about the person that is your wife. Will make the trek to flickr, maybe there’s some answers over there.

    take care, Rafal!

  52. Whats not to take well? Your comments were honest and forthright. Plus its always good to have fresh ideas, thats why Burn is so good. I think that a female and a male perspective are going to be different, certainly I shot this from a male perspective but I do realize that it can be interpreted different along gender lines. Certainly theres sexuality involved and actually this was my biggest challenge…how not to allow the sexuality to dominate and throw everything off balance. In this edit and also in the larger edit. But theres obviously a lot to cover which only makes it a challenge to keep going. Thanks Kathleen.

  53. kathleen fonseca

    Rafal, the sexuality was fine! The upskirt shot natural and almost sweet, her lovely hands and long fingers, her toes in her open-toed shoes, the casual quality of her naked legs lounging on a couch (i presume)..her head thrown back in what looks almost like orgiastic pleasure..the shower..all fine. Just too many. I have a very curious nature. i want to know all the facets. This edit limited my explorations. Yes, perhaps a female perspective. And in fact, before i wrote here i visited a friend, a young Columbian woman who is artistic, hip and very bright. We looked at your essay together and she agreed with me. She said your wife was the object of the essay, not the subject. Ouch. She also said the cover photo made her very uncomfortable. But uncomfortable might be ok. Look at Sally Mann’s “At Twelve: Portraits of Young Women”. Uncomfortable like crazy and that’s part of why it’s brilliant. The introduction says “These girls still exist in an innocent world in which a pose is only a pose–what adults make of that pose may be the issue.” So, when i see your cover photo and think “Oedipal” is that my problem or am i being provoked by the photographer to squirm uncomfortably in my chair? Rightly? Wrongly? I guess that’s for me as the viewer to decide. An interesting conundrum.


  54. I was never comfortable with comfortable. I think that the cover image has a large job: attract viewers. I think that from all the images it is probably the most able to do that. Funny thing, my wife actually liked this image very much, it probably has to do with the situational context of this shot. Thats the thing about photography, often a photograph tells a story that happened differently. While the viewer may see something overt in it the situation was quite different. But one thing I never want to do is caption and explain images. So Ill stop there. I actually dont see too much sexuality here. I would say that there are 3 sexual images in the sequence out of 26…provocation is good. I think photography should provoke. Why was Mann so successful? Because her images were beautiful or because they provoked? Id say more the latter.

  55. It’s almost 4 a.m. here and I’m just getting through with a long day, but, had to come over and say I saw this Rafal, and well… it’s amazing.

    A better edit than the flickr set, concise, multifaceted, symbolic…

    Really good conversation here too, the points Kat made, really went unnoticed by me. Seems pretty subjective, which is cool, and valid. I just got a totally different feel from it.

    I found your fascination with your wife (especially), your child, life — completely understandable. Like your overwhelmed by them… in a good way.

    Nice work.

  56. I was never comfortable with comfortable


    Keep on keeping on Raf, i think you’ve found your formula.

    For the rest of you: you heard it from me first, someday we’ll be using what Raf did/is doing as a reference point to understand what other people are ‘trying’ to do with domestic photography.

    If he wasn’t, then why the heck does this seem so original when the subject is so prevelant?

    I feel a bit like Bob saying this, but i truly mean it, In my opinion Raf is one of the best visual poets i’ve been luck enough to know.

    And like all poetry, it’s not always written for the masses, but like most poetry, it’s typically digested by a very critical audience.

    Thank Gawd poets doen’t work for commissions or i suspect we would have a world without very much poetry.

  57. kathleen fonseca

    there’s really not much more for me to add..thanks for the dialogue..have a great day, Rafal..Jared too..


  58. I’ve just read Kathleen’s comments and am suprised. More like shocked. Maybe I have a different perspective because I’ve seen this essay develop slowly over the year and am familiar with many many of its images. Way more than the 26 posted here.

    As background, I am certainly a strong feminist who always has her sexist antennae at the ready, but believe me when I say that Rafal’s portrayal of his wife has never set them aquiver. I’d be interested to hear other women’s thoughts posted here as well. Men’s too.

    My feelings about how Rafal portrays his wife range from delighted to touched to amazed to envious. In my eyes he so obviously loves, respects, desires and admires her. I experience no objectifing or prurience here at all. And if he had omitted the sexual/sensual shots in this edit, I would have been disappointed. To my way of thinking, the sexual aspect of married life is all-too-often glossed over as if it had no importance, especially when a couple is being shown in their role as parents. I feel Rafal has done an excellent job of showing a rounded picture of his relationship with his wife and son in this very tight edit.

    But, of course, each viewer is entitled to her or his own opinion. I know Kathleen was sharing honestly and that it took courage to do so. I admire her for that. I also admire Rafal’s measured response. Very mature. I just had to say that I see it differently. Very differently indeed.


  59. kathleen fonseca

    (oh, and have a nice day, Joe too..you posted while i was writing).

    i will just say that i am not terribly interested in “domestic photography”. i think the more accessible the subject matter to the majority of people the more difficult it is to do well. Rafal does make his family interesting. He is successful in catching a fellow photographer’s jaded eye. Not sure about the rest of the public because Burn is a pretty discriminating bunch. But i find his style interesting and most of his shots worth spending time looking at. i really like the use of the flash and his unique compositions.

    I have long been intrigued by Juergen Teller. He likewise shoots himself and his family with flash but in color. He shoots his family the same way he shoots a fashion model. Nobody receives special treatment. He sucks the glamour out of everyone democratically, especially those who are held high on the glamour pedestal and most especially himself. He’s that comfortable with the good, the bad and the ugly of the human body. His shooting style is not self-conscious in the least and his full-frontal nude self-portraits are shocking in their extraordinary ordinariness. i find his style compelling and god, yes, often incredibly poetic. If i spend time with a photograph of one of his models and conclude that he or she is sexy that’s my “unique” reaction and not the result of overt manipulation by the photographer. i am not being “led”. Of course it is wickedly intelligent reverse psychology. We go willingly where we would never go on a leash. But that is what i personally call provocative. The photographer has gotten me to pause, discover and react by deliberately playing down his subject matter. For me your cover photo is too self-conscious, deliberate and manipulative. But then i must have a low provocation threshold. True poetry to me is not a photograph with a “look right here” arrow. That’s a leash.

    Just different strokes for different folks and i don’t mean to beat my point to death. i am also feeling my way through my thoughts, questioning myself, probing my reaction to get why one thing works for me and another doesn’t. So thanks for bearing with me, Rafal..

    best to all:

  60. kathleen fonseca


    great points! Perhaps it is especially because the sexual side of married life is withheld from public view that i reacted so strongly to Rafal’s essay. That’s an idea i have to think about. It doesn’t really change my reaction but it’s something for me to puzzle over. Highly personal stuff. And as i said in my first post, i am convinced that Rafal loves and respects his wife. I think Rafal knows i was not intimating otherwise. Just to make that clear. (“aquiver”…great word :)…and still there is something in this edit that just doesn’t work for me..i am going to go to Flickr and get a better handle on his projects. It think it’s important for me to do this.

    by the way, i will re-send my letter to you..i have just been incredibly busy at work without much time for the net till last night.


  61. yes..
    I’ve seen the hour glass figure
    and over..
    but Rafal’s photos of his wife
    were playful and thoughtful,
    always a child’s presence in the frames,
    is how the essay read to me..
    They are a reflection of his experience
    and the allure of a woman..
    his wife…
    done with respect
    and honesty..
    I did not feel as if he was pimping his wife,
    rather sharing the smaller details, that only he experiences..
    I prefer this to ‘a day in the life of…’
    but I do want to see more..
    like the diner shot…

  62. KAT

    Isn’t it marvelous how each of us can see the same set of photos and react so differently? Thank god we do. And I appreciate that we can express those differences here with respect and a willingness to look at things from another’s perspective.

    I’ll be out most of the day but look forward to hearing from you later on by email. If it won’t go through, just go to my website (http://www.patricialaydorsey.com) and leave your message in my guestbook. Thanks.


  63. Interesting discussion. Never had any problem with nudity. But I’m often uncomfortable when intimacy is opened to public view. The very nature of intimacy seems to unravel once it becomes public. It’s the secrets we share as lovers that defines intimacy, that pulls us toward each other. The looks across the table, the touch we share in public that connects to the touches we share in private. The knowledge that we know things about each other psychologically and physically that others don’t know.

    Complex issue.

  64. where the heck did you come from kathleen fonseca. don’t answer that. it’s not really a question. if this is what you deliver in blog speak, i don’t even want to know what a pillow-talk session might feel like. please keep on keeping on as well. i don’t agree with everything you say, but i like everything you say; very unihibited thinking offered through very efficient writing. it seems like a good model for people to model here.

  65. hi all
    I guess i am not really to excited about this set of images, not because of the technical approach though. i like raw flash, and the gritty quick look that it can produce. i think right off the bat i find something bothers me about ping ponging from moms butt and thighs to sons face, its just not an experience that i am enjoying. as for the set in general i am finding myself just not really moved or intrigued. the images don’t really bring out much emotion as i look through. i am asking myself why, what is it that happens when i see an image that excites me or intrigues me, i think its , in one respect, when a photographer draws my attention to the relationship of objects in a photograph that may be over looked in everyday life, but something has infused the image with some special brand, something magical.
    i guess i want to see something more magical, obscure but revealing.
    i went through the set and at the end found myself pretty much indifferent.

  66. Nice edit Rafal. I imagine when you look back on this piece in 10 years you’ll probably feel it’s a bit of a first draft, which is of course necessary. It’s nicely done nevertheless.

    I’m wondering how people would be react if there a few more images of the family interacting in public mixed in with the intimate moments. I kind of feel those type of moments might open it up a little bit.

    I don’t have any problem with the sexuality or male POV, but I think you could probably ‘flesh’ out (no pun intended) the way you depict your wife a bit more. I do kind of get the feeling that she’s a wife/mother and that’s about it, which I guessing if far from the truth.

    I think predictably some of the more high minded photography critics and enthusiasts won’t necessarily be drawn to domestic photographer…..


  67. Bryan,

    I agree with you as I agreed with Kathleen. I think there are for sure shortcomings and the project is not nearly as robust and deep as I want it to eventually be. It is still in its infancy, I had originally thought Id shoot it for 5 years but who knows. Tough to put a time limit on something like this.

    Anyway, I really enjoyed both the kudos and the comments by Kathleen or Wrobertangell so far.

  68. Fascinating discussion.

    I’m intriqued by the differences of opinions, and suspect that, judging by the relativly small number of commenters that a lot of folks don’t find this kind of stuff very interesting. What a shame.

    Kathleen, you wrote “I will just say that i am not terribly interested in “domestic photography”. i think the more accessible the subject matter to the majority of people the more difficult it is to do well.”

    You may be right about that Kathleen, although maybe it just means just shedding your “photographer” persona and letting yourself un-self consciencly snap-shoot . Check out DAHs’ “road trips”, and Anna-Marias comments. Yes, the family snapshot album is the thing people grab if their house is on fire. An insurance investigator once told me that the first thing they looked for when investigating a house fire was the remains of the family photo album. If it was missing, it was likely arson. Your family snaps are precious, perhaps the most precious “thing” you own.

    Incidentally Kathleen, I love your input here and would love to see some of your work.

    I’ve never heard the term “domestic photography” before, but I guess it is as good as any.

    I wrote while commenting on another essay recently, about a photo magazine piece about 30 years ago by Nathan Farb. It was a photo essay about his young daughter Esme, who had some developmental issues. It was very moving and beautiful and has stayed with me to this day. In the accompanying text, Nathan wrote, and I’m paraphrasing, ” it occured to me a few years ago, that the only photographs I make that will have any real significance and value to me, or those who come after me, are photographs which record my everyday life.”

    I was so moved by this essay, and struck by that statement, that it changed forever my perspective on photography .

    I divide my photographic life into three basic parts. My professional work, I’m a commercial portrait photographer, another topic, and my personal work, which consists of both “fun” stuff, and, for lack of a better description, consists of doing “fine art” (how I hate that term} stuff. For me this is mostly landscape. The natural world is so beautiful and fragile and I fear for it. And finally, my personal- personal work, which consists of snaps from my life. Photos of my experiences, my kids, my wife, friends, dog, etc. this is the stuff that I would run out of a burning building with.

    Lovin y’all, lovin Burn

    Gordon L.

  69. kathleen fonseca


    Yes, i tell you..i haven’t enjoyed interacting on the web this much since the early days of web-chat. The very early days. Burn has been such a fascination to me i’ve hardly done a lick of photography since finding this site. i really, REALLY like, appreciate and respect the different points of view soooo much..man there are great writers here AND great photogs, what more could one person want? Oh yeah, a fab’ host, DAH, you da man!


    “i don’t agree with everything you say, but i like everything you say”..Joe, i can’t remember the last time i heard a finer compliment than that. It’s absolute perfection and made my day! Thank you..regarding the pillow talk, haha, i wish you could have seen my face when i read that ;)


    “ping-ponging” YES! That exactly expressed what’s happening when i look at that photo! perfect!


    Yes, interesting distinction between nudity and intimacy. Something about making the intimacy of one’s looks and glances public that borders on exhibitionism and the result is to perhaps sells one’s treasures cheaply for some higher gain. But what could be a higher gain than the intimacy itself? A very sophisticated observation on your part and i found myself nodding, yes, yes, that’s what i was trying to say. You captured the nuance of my objection, the thing i couldn’t quite get to.


    You sound like such a real, honest, sincere person in your posts. i always read what you have to say because your bring a lot of heart and common sense to the threads. No ego whatsoever, no drama, no rushing to conclusions, everything considered, weighed, thought about, felt and then carefully expressed. And what you say always has a ring of truth to it. Thank YOU for YOUR input. I would say more but i am so tired tonight i could just crumple so will just say ‘see you’. Except that i guess if i have one frustrated photographic goal it is to be a portrait photographer. But not unless i could do it my way, like Mike DisFarmer or Richard Avedon or something. When you say this is my camera and this is what we’re gonna do. Yeah i could see doing that in my old age. heh..

    As far as seeing my work, i joined Lightstalkers and will be putting a gallery up if/when i get five extra minutes. Editing is just the biggest chore. grr…but i’ll post and let people know when it’s done. Thanks so much for your interest!


    You are SUCH a class act..i mean it. You keep such an open mind and really respect our contributions. You will go far. Please hug your wife and kiss your son and then keep shooting them. I wish the three of you continued happiness and i wish you every success with your project. I know you will produce something spectacular.

    my best to all:

  70. In my humble opinion, your intention is to highlight your manliness, that you have a “wife” i.e. “property” of such high quality and a son that also reflects your greatness. I see 0 connection or real intimacy here, I see coldness, hardness and ego, that’s all. Sorry.

  71. I’ll tell you who is a class act, Kat, and that is you. Your observations are filled with truth, respect for others and your own unique way of seeing and being in the world. Besides you’re such a fine writer. I hope you are able use this gift in a creatively satisfying way. I’m so glad you found Burn and are feeling at home here. You add a lot. And I’m grateful to hear that your loved ones survived such potentially life-threatening experiences. That is scary business.

    Panos, please give Freida my loving wishes for a quick and complete recovery. May the care she receives be competent and caring. And may you find peace in the midst of it all. I love you, bro.

    Jim, I want to apologize for my outburst this morning. I’m afraid I woke up on the wrong side of the bed and took it out on you. Sorry.


  72. kathleen fonseca

    Patri’ (that’s the nickname for Patricia in Spanish) all i can say is it takes one to know one, girl. Yours were some of the very first comments i read here and went, wow, i want to know her. Yours was i think THE first essay i looked at. But i felt there was a bit of friction for awhile. And that’s natural to people kind of check each other out. Thanks for the back-slapping welcome and these super nice thoughts. But i hafta tell you, i can be absolutely opposite all of the above nice stuff that you wrote. heh..i have my bad days when i wake up and groan, “I WROTE WHAT?!?!?! WELL $#@!&*, now i gotta go in and apologize to 100 people before my first cup of coffee” But i see that you’re doing just that to Jim so when it comes time for me to do it well, i can say you gave me the courage.

    have a great evening..


    Ouch-and-a-half! i initially felt just like you do..well, maybe not quite as harsh. But um, i don’t know how old you are but i get the feeling you’re looking at Rafal’s essay with the benefit of some years to reflect and consider what happens to relationships and physical beauty and precious 4 year-olds that grow up to do drugs and stuff. I would ask you to look at this essay with Rafal’s eyes. He’s absolutely ga-ga over his new-ish role as father/protector/macho man with a lovely wife. I ask you to think about HIM as basically a good guy who’s feeling pretty damned good about the life he is building fir his family and maybe he’s guilty of showing off a little bit. But it goes with the territory! This macho pride is, i think, what a man needs to have the strength to fight off those metaphorical lions and tigers. Maybe you and i can see through this..maybe we know he’s going to come through the other side in not too many years and look back at these photos and these memories with a bittersweet chuckle. That’s part of the beauty of this essay for me. That it’s a frozen moment on the continuum of this man’s life. Can you give him the benefit of the doubt or are you really sold on your opinion? And if you are, that’s fair. i see where it’s coming from but i’ve thought a LOT about it the last two days and i’ve mellowed quite a bit.

    The only photo i honestly can’t abide is the cover photo. That just simply has to go, imo.


  73. Antonella Vargas

    Rafal Pruszynski
    March 14, 2009 at 12:16 am
    I think that the cover image has a large job: attract viewers.

    Creepy. What a brutal statement
    As a woman, oh my God.I do not know what to say.I just feel offended, offended.
    Marie thank you.

    In my humble opinion, your intention is to highlight your manliness, that you have a “wife” i.e. “property” of such high quality and a son that also reflects your greatness. I see 0 connection or real intimacy here, I see coldness, hardness and ego.

    Where are YOU in those photos? What makes you think that a naked woman is so necessary to “attract viewers”? i feel sorry for the young child. I wonder what is he going to tell you 15 years from now.!
    So much desperation just to attract viewers. I’m Shocked !

  74. Rafal,
    hm, maybe I am wrong, but it feels like your wife is hiding quite a bit from your camera …. – Why seem emotions, intimacy to be absent in your photo essay ?

  75. panos skoulidas

    Katharina, Marie, Antonella…( & Kathleen )
    hmmmmmmmmm , you ladies made me think…………
    I almost feel weird now because i usually “see” things as a “macho” greek man myself…
    and i always pretend that i’m cool…. but hmmmmmmmmmmm…

    I need to agree that Rafal’s statement about “attracting viewers” is at the least unsuccessful…
    I second Kathleen that the “opener”… is there just to provoke… honest statement…
    but Hugh Heffner is also honest… money & recognition…thats all he cares…
    but Katharina brought something “new” to the table…
    she doesnt want to lose her husband… and as Marie said… WHERE IS HE?
    Where is the “husband’s naked ass, genitalia, body”…????
    To Rafal’s defend… as he mentioned before… this project is new… just started…
    but here what just crossed my mind….

    ok… i have to admit that i personally LOVE PORN… LETS go to some stereotypes now…
    American Porn, versus Japanese Porn…
    In American Porn, the ladies pornstars always look aggressive…They take initiative and
    usually are the bosses of the game…
    Rarely takes initiative , always gets HUMILIATED ( THINK OF BUKKAKE )… i can barely get off because
    i always feel sorry for them… they act like they have no voice…
    Always “act” like they dont like it… but why? why? why?
    Is it cultural… Is it just a game?
    I was reading this “study” the other day that “oriental” ladies make the best wives..!
    Stereotype??? As our “stupid photographer”/commenter will rush to say is YES, ITS A STEREOTYPE…
    in the same “study” ive read that the greek men are the best lovers… Stupid will say NO, ITS ALSO A STEREOTYPE…
    but… laughing .. i so disagree… greeks ARE indeed the best in bed , and japanese girls are the best wives ( ask john lennon )….
    Soooooooooo… bottomline the only person that could really bring some “light” to all of our questions here.. is NOT RAFAL…
    BUT the “object” of his photos… his very own wife….
    I hope i’m not too offensive… but i dont know if all of you ladies here agree…
    but here is my SUGGESTION…
    aN INTERVIEW OR JUST A COMMENT FROM RAFAL’S WIFE… about her opinions about her participation on this essay… Did she agree? Did she pose for the sake of art?… or was she being submissive just be a good wife and feed her husbands ego…??????????
    Because i will agree with the ladies here…
    RAFAL IS MISSING FROM THIS ESSAY… ( except from his hand in one of the photos… which is definitely not enough… and i agree…)
    so there you have it…
    ( from a diary of a macho greek man )
    peace & hugs…
    and once again… Ladies thank you for making me think!!!!!!!

  76. panos skoulidas

    …. and sorry again for being the advocate of the Devil here…
    but AS OUR HOLY BIBLE admits…
    ( and i’m in love with THE DEVIL )
    AND f**k the HOLY BIBLE

  77. panos skoulidas

    … oh… and before i go to bed….
    if anybody knows a japanese porn movie that the female takes “charge”,
    and not just being raped… please send me link……..
    peace & hugs
    ( death to all stereotypes …)

  78. ALL…

    fascinating discussion…not over yet please…..

    Rafal, you need to jump in and respond to Antonella and Marie….i have answers for them, but you should give yours…i do wonder however if both women were just as offended by the nudes of Sally Mann’s children or her naked dying husband…..hurry Rafal, i am holding my tongue!!!

    Joe, i am sure you are familiar with Jakob Sobol whose book Sabine was the “key” for this work…AND the challenge for Rafal in the future to get PAST in order to make a mark….

    unfortunately , i cannot write much for the next two weeks…totally absorbed in Spain for the moment…but i do like the way this discussion is going…Rafal is doing the very best to explain his work, which in my opinion does not need explanation ,but that is the nature of this medium….thanks Rafal…

    cheers, david

  79. Am I the only person in the room not offended/shocked by a woman in….. Gasp!…. Underwear? And with a child in the room no less.

    If Rafals (notice, no possessive apostrophe) wife wasn’t attractive, would we be having this conversation? I wonder.

    I’m gonna guess she knew what she was getting into, both with this essay and with marrying Rafal. So she looks camera-shy in a photo — well she must be being dominated by the westerner husband. How about giving the lady a little more credit instead of jumping into a stereotypical faux-feminist diatribe?

    Has this woman no mind of her own? With Jim gone for a day I thought maybe the snap judgements would cease, guess someone had to pick up the slack…

  80. Perhaps folks are reading more into, and out of, the photos in this essay than they have to say. Again, I like the essay. And the first photo is a strong image. And would make a strong cover for a book because it asks all kinds of questions without a written word. It’s the personal impact over time that concerns me about it.

    People, relationships, circumstances change over time and a book freezes those things in in a moment of that change. And that piece of time sits on people’s bookshelves. The son cannot reject being part of the cover image when he gets older, the woman take herself out of the books should she move on, the photographer change his thinking about family and photography without regret.

    Mainly, though, lovers have secrets to keep.

  81. JIM…KAT

    fixed your typo Jim..i try to catch those when i can…there is no way , unfortunately, to have an edit button for you…loved your line “lovers have secrets to keep”….i am sure Rafal would agree and does…

    thanks for the link Kat , i should have done it myself…

  82. Well this has taken a bit if an interesting turn.

    Antonella and Marie

    My intention is known to me, your opinions can be whatever you want them to be but I will tell you they are off. My intention is stated in the write up.

    Now, I wonder why some people have such hang ups over sex and sexuality. It is a healthy thing and a marriage without it dies quickly. In this essay the sexuality is present simply because it is present in my life. I have no clue why it bothers people or why some people twist it into something that is bad, I dont need to get into your head to figure it out because I think it wouldnt be a fun place to go. My intention was to be honest, and that means to be forthright and open. Once you decide to photograph your life in a way that goes beyond the standard “here is a birthday party, here is a christmas eve” then one has to face up to the need to be honest and open.

    I would like to know something. Why is it assumed that a woman is hiding or unwilling to allowed to be photographed? It is interesting that you think so, I wonder what is your prejudice that you think a woman is somehow unable to have control over her depiction. Or what dynamic you were brought up under or are living under. This was already discussed in this thread, too. I already said that my wife is fully aware and fully willing to allow me to do this. If that was not the case, this wouldnt exist.

    Take a look at the photos. If you think there is an overwhelming presence of sexuality here, I think you are wrong. Only a few photos are sexual in nature, and the pic that is causing the furor has absolutely no sexual connotations UNLESS YOU assign an overtly sexual meaning to a woman’s body. I dont, it is quite a simple photo of underwear…oh shock, are we in the Victorian age?

    I will not rehash a discussion already held in this thread about why I am not in this essay. I said all that I needed to have said earlier on and the onus is on you to read previous discussions instead of asking me to run in circles to satisfy you. Go back and read it and then please go and see the full essays on this subject by clicking on my name. I really have no interest in defending my self because I think your mind is already made up as to what you think is the truth. Such people are never swayed. Its a futile game.

    And just so you know, every single photo I decide to use is first OKed by my wife. The photo on the cover? My wife’s favorite pic.

    Lastly, I just wanted to say that when I said I wanted to attract viewers, I was being 100% honest. Yet, I NEVER said it was due to a sexual reason. For me it is the strongest image in the project by far. Is it controversial? You know, I was afraid of something 100% polar opposite, that it would be seen as boring and fluff so in a way my day is made. But as I said before, Im not comfortable with comfortable. Art should provoke and should in a way shock. It shouldnt make us comfortable, it should cause us some discomfort or arouse our minds into a response. Im glad this did.

  83. Sabine is one of my favorite books actually. For sure it is a fantastic body of work and one of the inspirations along with Billingham, Goldin, Sultan, Mann. All of them I think have faced a similar criticism of taking advantage of their subjects. Mann was accuseed of child pornography, Goldin was accussed of using her subjects for her own gains. Sultan’s father said he didnt recognize himself in his son’s photos. It is probably something that comes with the territory, there are lots of political dynamics that cause people to interpret images through their own prisms. Again, Id like people to see the fuller essays and see this more in context of a complete body of work before snap judgements are made.

  84. Jim,

    Id disagree. But it would have to be defended by its author. While “Sabine” has a strong sexual air, I wouldnt go so far as to call it pornographic. I wouldnt go in that direction for the simple reason that whatever relationship JaS had with Sabine is not the relationship I have with my wife. I think “Sabine” is honest. Im not comfortable with taking the next step because I would have to judge the nature of the very relationship JaS had with Sabine. Its not my place to do that.

  85. me to R:

    from the start I have been moved and fascinated .. by your life and how amazing your wife must be to let you so close with the camera..certain singles are more gripping for me than others, but always I have the same reaction of joy / wonder / intrigue to your work as a whole. Such a inside – out way of being and seeing.. And this series is a great gift to your family, as well as to yourself (and to us)..congratulations!!

    R to me:

    my wife was good about it from the start, there really was never much of an issue with this..certain types of photos took a bit of warming up to get but it didnt take all that long. But hell yeah, it does take two to tango and theres no way this could be done otherwise.

  86. I’ll offer (go figure ;)) ) a perspective on the ‘objectification’ of Rafal’s wife as something for some of y’all to chew upon…

    First, like Rafal, and like Sidney Atkins, I have a long, intimate and deeply involved relationship with Korean Culture and Koreal. While I am neither living in Korea or married to a Korean woman, as is Rafal, I’ve spent 10 years teaching, interaction, talking, drinking, caring for and teaching Koreans, from children to teenagers to young adults to adults and grandparents. I have also photographed and written about koreans (both immigrants and students) and my EPF submission for DAH last year was a story on Korean students struggling with their identity as they tried to come to terms with the difference between their life and life in N.America. I’ve also written at Road Trips (when David was in Korea) about Korean’s sense of beauty/appearance and in particular their relationship, especially women, with imagery, photographs, cameras. I will not hog up Rafal’s space here with the long comment i’d written at Road Trips, but I think some of the viewers reactions are culturally centric. I also felt a bit ‘put off’ when I saw this essay as it took shape, particularly with regard to the question of ‘intimacy.’ but also in terms of it’s relationship to Sabine. I was, as a photographer, at times, bothered by the ‘closeness’ of the visual choice and overly combosed photographs that make up Little Pieces and their, at times near exact, relationship to Sabine. The difference (i’ll talk about that in a minute) is that Sabine is larger, wider and is intimate. There is a profound difference between Sabine and Little Pieces. This is not a criticism of Rafal at all, for I see his journey as just starting, but it moves toward the question of Intimacy. My wife shot a very short piece called Hours, about our life, our physical life in the course of a morning/evening. The piece is filled with darkness and joy, carnality and laughter, silence and silliness. I’ve also photographed both my wife and s0n (daaaaa) and I think the question of objectification, or rather, the problem with this essay painting a very thin or one-dimensional relationship of this woman can be a very legitimate concern. when i saw the series begin, a year ago, longer?, i asked myself the same question, as both a husband and a photographer: why are the pictures so ‘composed’?, what does the woman here often seem the ‘same’: as stylized parts to make up a photograph. I didnt see or feel a range of emotion, more like clinical detachment. Some great photographs (compositionally), some wonderfully quirky ones (with face washing mask), some hilarious ones (the cover shot) etc, but i didnt (still do not) see a wider range of emotional images: fear, joy, sadness, doubt. I do see ennui, laughter, sexual ecstasy. In this essay we only see her face 3 times, and one of those times is during sex (i presume), out of 14 times when she is in a picture…3 out of 14…the other 11 times we her face (if shown) is covered (hand or paper or pillow) or we see her legs, toes, stomach, back, backside, side of the body (thigh, breast) etc…the same is often true in the larger edit, although there are more pictures of her face. I found then and still find this the MAJOR problem of the essay and the entire work: she does appear as an appartus, a photographic tool. The pics are overly composed and we see her not as a woman/wife/person, but as a part of a photograph. This is very different than in sabine, where along with the photos of her without her face or expression (legs, back, breast, thighs, etc) we gets lots of pictures of her face and her emotion of the moment and with the camera….

    Is this a problem?…Partially, yes, indeed. Does this mean Rafal is ‘objectifying’ his wife. I do not think so at all. To begin with, Rafal is a ‘cold’ photographer. Cold may sound too harsh, so i’ll say he is an ‘analytic’ photographer: all of his work is ‘composed’ and all of his work bares the same formal properties: a tendency to create composition at the expense of emotion, a way of wanting to make formally ‘interesting’ photographs. I do not think there is anything wrong with this at all, it’s a great and common tradition. By the way, in Sam Abell’s new book (just had the pleasure of looking and reading it last week), Abell says that all his photographs are ‘constructed’ (well, except one): composed and then he waits. This is a very legitimate way of working and I see Rafal’s entire oeuvre a function of that. I think he’s been an incredibly observant and mercilessly photographing Husband/Dad and he’s been entralled and bewitched (as have I) by the life of a family and he’s done a great job documenting, or rather composing the world he sees. But Korean society has a very very different relationship to imagery and being photographed than those folks in the west seem to have, particularly when it comes to the imagery (or photograph) of appearance. There is an obsession with ‘right appearance’ in Korea that is even more severe than the weight of appearance that plaques the West. Koreans MUST submit a photograph along with every resume/job application. Koreans spend lots of money (and photographers lots of time with Photoshop) on making Perfect photographs of themselves in order to been seen by the other (boss, society, government). On top of this, the enormous pressure on women in Korea to be perfect, to be slim, goes beyond the same pressures that western girls/women experience. Social identity is a culture structure, hierarchy, construct by which people negotiate their relationships. There are 6 (i believe) forms of address/speach, depending on the nature of your relationship and the context in which you are interacting with someone: 6. Almost every (that’s 10 years work, of all social strata, all economic background, all age groups) Korean girl, teenager, woman that I have met, taught or been friends with ‘performs’ in front of the camera, turns herself into a mask, an object: sometimes ‘cute’, sometimes ‘cold’, sometimes ‘beautiful.’ I have almost met a single Korean woman who has been ‘herself’ (whatever that means) or ‘natural’ in front of a camera. Look at Cyworld (the Korean version of Facebook/Livejournal) and you’ll see, 1,000,000’s of photographs of girls that they post to same: an explosion of images performing, or accentuating or arranging. Rarely rarely do you see anything ‘natural’ or ‘open’…

    I see, actually, Rafal has achieved something remarkable, that for those of you who are NOT familiar with Korean, Korean society, or Korean contemporary culture, will not understand. These moments that Rafal has shot are remarkably free and open and ‘natural’ absolutely shocking in truth compared with the way that Koreans tend to want to either be photographed or photographed themselves. While Rafal’s wife still exhibits (or seems to exhibit) in front of the camera many of the same tendencies that i’ve come to see, learn about (I am NOT surprised that the shot with her bum and son is her favorite, because to her, it’s probably one of pride: not only hilarious, but also shows, excuse me Rafal ;), that she has a nice bum and nice legs: i showed this essay to 15 Koreans on friday and THEY ALL LOVE THE COVER SHOT, boys AND GIRLS alike: and ALL OF THEM THOUGH THE ESSAY WAS REAL!)…see: it’s a cultural orientation. to me as an emotional, open, overly-dramatic person and photographer, I see the pics as way too combosed, too formal (especially for a portrait of a family), too concerned with the ‘look’ of the pictures and not enough expressive of the EXISTENCE of the family, but that is because I am me …Rafal is different and he’s living with an entirely different set of cultural precepts and negotiations. I have never photographed only my wife’s pubic hairs, but i have photographed her entire body, including her face, showing her face and torso and genitals and feet: the entirety of her, but that is also because, photographically, we’re free with one another. The fact that Rafal’s wife has allowed herself to be exposed (with the face mask cream) in ways that are NOT flattering is an indication to me that Rafal, rather than objectifying his wife, is actually CELEBRATING their intimacy and the power and humour that she gives him and his life…….with that in mind: I WANT TO SEE MORE LAUGHTER, MORE SADNESS, MORE OF THE TOTALITY OF LIFE OF FAMILY, which i have NO DOUBT Rafal will give us…..

    I think those who object to the OBJECTIFICATION actually are viewing this story from a western perspective but also being struck by the OVERLY MECHANICAL and overly thought-about form of the pictures. Which brings me to Sabine. I do not see a relationship to Sabine at all, actually. Yes, it is clear that Sabine has been an inspiration to Rafal: some of his pics are near replications of Sobol’s work (again, i hope and trust that as Rafal expands, he’ll also expand his vernacular) but Sabine’s book is different: more sad, more mature, more broad in its scope. Sabine, while for sure dealing with Sobol’s love and relationship with Sabine, is more about his struggle with himself and the love and loneliness he felt for the entire community. Sabine is the pulpy heart of that book (and we get her in all of her incarnations: sad, funny, youthful, mature, angry, bitter, joyeous, sexual, natural, playful, defiant) but the book is as much a love letter about that community and the toll it took on Jacob and his attempt to sing out his love and praise for the living. Moreover, anyone that has the book, has read his essay and understands this. Rafal’s work is NOT Sabine, Rafal’s work is an examination of his family, not his place in a community that is not his home. with time, i am certain this will broaden and begin to include his own emotional relationship to this: to being a non-korean married to a korean living in korea, to being a father (and all the heartbreak that this also entails, bones ;), to being a husband…more than just a carefully composer of photographs. I had the great pleasure to see Sabine exhibited her in toronto, just after the book was published, long before he was known, long before he was at Magnum, and when i stood beneath the pics (in a bookstore, not a gallery), i thought: that is the song of love….that takes a freedom to achieve that most do not have…

    I think Rafal has done a great job with this work. I am proud of him (i hope that doesnt sound patronizing) because i have watched him (from those first pics at flickr) grow and shape his vision. Yea, he still ‘composes’ almost everything (and it makes me crazy), but he is freeing himself and as he matures and stops worrying about trying to reproduce the work he loves (sobol, billingham, etc) and create the work he was destined to make because of who he is and the life he has lived….

    and the ridiculous comment that “sabine is to my mind pornographic”, well….that’s just down right unfortunate…..read the book, is all i have to say…..

    forgive me Rafal for being so long winded and open, i hope u do not take offense…i respect you and love the work and eagerly await it….


    goooood god…..Jim: have your READ THE BOOK???….or are you basing that only on the Magnum Link?….

  87. panos skoulidas

    just waking up…
    everybody attacks PORN left and right….
    whats wrong with porn?
    I love good “porn”…. as long as its “good”
    and not tacky..
    Porn is honest… Porn wants to sell…
    nothing wrong with that…

  88. In the end, it was just a project. He “couldn’t stay in Greenland forever.” And then he left Sabine, and hunting, and living off seal blubber behind, and went to Tokyo. And immersed himself as passionately in another project. And produced another book. And here are these images, laying like the dead dog he stumbled over in a blizzard. Sorry, this just doesn’t work for me.

  89. panos skoulidas

    Bob, i will second that:

    “…. There is a profound difference between Sabine and Little Pieces.,

    i asked myself the same question, as both a husband and a photographer: why are the pictures so ‘composed’?, what does the woman here often seem the ’same’: as stylized parts to make up a photograph. I didnt see or feel a range of emotion, more like clinical detachment. Some great photographs (compositionally), some wonderfully quirky ones (with face washing mask), some hilarious ones (the cover shot) etc, but i didnt (still do not) see a wider range of emotional images: fear, joy, sadness, doubt. I do see ennui, laughter, sexual ecstasy. In this essay we only see her face 3 times, and one of those times is during sex (i presume), out of 14 times when she is in a picture…3 out of 14…the other 11 times we her face (if shown) is covered (hand or paper or pillow) or we see her legs, toes, stomach, back, backside, side of the body (thigh, breast) etc…the same is often true in the larger edit, although there are more pictures of her face. I found then and still find this the MAJOR problem of the essay and the entire work: she does appear as an appartus, a photographic tool. The pics are overly composed and we see her not as a woman/wife/person, but as a part of a photograph. This is very different than in sabine, where along with the photos of her without her face or expression (legs, back, breast, thighs, etc) we gets lots of pictures of her face and her emotion of the moment and with the camera….

    I dont see “Sabine” here either….

    Does this mean Rafal is ‘objectifying’ his wife. I do not think so at all. To begin with, Rafal is a ‘cold’ photographer. Cold may sound too harsh, so i’ll say he is an ‘analytic’ photographer: all of his work is ‘composed’…

    i see that too… photos look staged…..(like the skirt marilyn monroe photo looks shot over and over…)
    too theatrical…laughing… go ask Sabine to do something like that if you dare…

    Rafal’s work is NOT Sabine, Rafal’s work is an examination of his family, not his place in a community that is not his home…

    ( now seriously who the fuck compared Sabine with “little pieces” in the first place… thats a serious joke…laughing!

    …..I am NOT surprised that the shot with her bum and son is her favorite, because to her, it’s probably one of pride: not only hilarious……

    yes, enough critique on the opener photo..
    its just a hilarious , funny photo ( actually the least “cold” photo of that essay )..
    but provoking? Sobol like???????????
    oh pleaseeeeeeee…. people get it together…

  90. and in the end, none one us can stay anywhere and with anyone forever and he while he did start off to live and photograph Greenland he did not start off to make a story about a young woman and a community he would fall in love with and he left Greenland and he returned to Greenland and his ‘project’ changed because he had changed and his life had changed and that book is his testament and it still makes up, as she does, a part of who he was and who he is (have you listened to what jacob has said) and he moved to another city and he has another life and he has produced another book and both he and sabine and the people of the community have continued and have lives and then there is we who have books and albums and folders and harddrives and blogs and facebook accounts and memories filled with all the photographs and all the images of all the people we have loved and lost and left and all the people who have loved and lost and left us and we accumulate them and we sing and shout of them and we forget them and we begin anew and we speak of them and of the new and of the lost and of the refinding and we stumbled over god damn every moment and person in our life and we are the same and Jim you are the same, you have left like dead dogs in the blizzard those people in Tyler county the moment you will not think of them for each of thinks and remembers and then forgets all moments and all people unless they return to us like an abacus of dust and it is a grotesquely cynical breed you spire to imagine that because jacob has not remained in Greeland nor wed to Sabine that he has failed her failed them and used them all like small, green dice. The pictures and story may not work for you (fair enough), to suggest that they are pornographic, that he used them and left them to rot as a carcass, is a pretty ignominious perspective….

    open your drawer, read any old love letter that you may still posses, and square it rounding with that….have you deceived because that young person you once wrote so lovingly about long ago is no longer partnered to your life?…..

    you have an incredibly narrow band of sight it seems to me….laying dead, stumbled over in a dust storm…

  91. Great thread. Right now, I wish that some would question why they think that way or see something “off” in Rafal’s pictures. Like, before I speak about sexuality, gender, and sexism from looking at a picture, I will ask myself why I think that or this way. There are hundred of ways to look at the title picture, and if someone was to buy the book on some… Well, ass-umption… Rafal, your publisher will have to deal with a lot of returns, and false advertising…. ;-)

    Jim, I am not sure about Sobol exploiting his subject, but yes, it’s a valid question (and should never been taken off the table, in photography). This is not the only question coming to mind with “Sabine”, unrelated to the photographic treatment.

    Yet, it is quite different with Rafal. We have just about no questions on their relationship, the location, the bi-cultural, and ethnic, union, we do not question any of it, but only as he is treating it photographically and proposes it to us. We do accept that they love each other, and are a tight family, taken for granted (almost to the point that Rafal makes, that there may be little to talk about, really). It’s a big difference!

    Actually, Rafal, we may wonder if some of the tension that is inherent in any arrangement of people living together (so artfully rendered in Mann’s case), here family, is not dangerously missing, for sustained interest. Or do you see where it is in your shots that we are not, or not yet, aware of.

    I see where you find Sobol influencing, but for me, your almost zen (asian) POV (objects and placement will become ever more important as you progress, but it is there already, as well as eschewing too much expression, may of your shots cut off or shade the face, or it’s sleeping, or turning its back, your son more reflective than playful, etc…. all very interesting things I wonder if others noticed too) is drastically opposed to his treatment.

  92. Has anyone else noticed that there is a missing “piece” in our discussion of Rafal’s essy? Why are we so focused on the photos of his wife or the non-photos of him while almost totally ignoring the photos of his son? I just went back to count the number of frames where the little boy appears and he is in 10 out of 25, some of which are stellar IMO. For instance, #18 with his hand grabbing the bare sheet on which are two of his toys says so much to me about our human relationship to the material things we love. Besides the diagonal thrust and minimalist imagery is quite to my taste.

    I personally think we’re missing the forest for the trees. In our obsession with gender issues, sexuality and objectification of subjects, we are missing the flow of this edit. I won’t say the essay itself since I see that as a much larger, more in-depth body of work (see Rafal’s gallery on Flickr). And yes, Rafal will grow and mature, as will we all (I hope), but what he has created here is an authentic reflection of this place and time in his life as a photographer, husband and father.

    It is also the result of a conscious collaborative effort between him and his wife. How can we judge that? Who are we to say that the photo she loves the best–the cover photo–is prurient, demeaning and an example of Rafal’s macho possessive attitude towards his wife? Maybe we would feel that way if we were its subject, but we’re not. Rafal’s wife IS and she likes it. Why can’t we respect her right to determine how she will be seen here? Is she not capable of making her own decisions?

    Rafal has really kept his cool after having been called a lot of things, not the least of which was “macho” over and over. And he has explained his decisions as photographer in the most undefensive way. Rafal, I admire you for that. I doubt if I could have been as restrained in the face of such harsh criticism, not just of my photographic choices but my very way of being in relationship with my spouse.

    This is a good discussion, obviously one that has engaged strong feelings. I just think we need to reread Rafal’s responses before we add our views. In many cases, he will have already answered our questions.


  93. Sorry, I missed a whole page. I can read some women questionned Rafal’s stand beyond its project treatment.

    Gee, when his son is 15, I hope he will be a lot more open-mided than you, whoever said that. He might even want to e-amil you his opinion the…

    I am reminded of what Nicholas Nixon (I hope it was him) said: “the world is infinitely more interesting than my opinion of it”. I do think this fits in so perfectly.

  94. PANOS:

    if anybody knows a japanese porn movie that the female takes “charge”,
    and not just being raped… please send me link………

    I have been looking all night, Panos, and can’t find one yet. Maybe tonight…. :-)))))))))))))))))

  95. panos skoulidas

    I agree..
    You must be totally CHRISTIAN to
    see anything provocative at this essay..
    Provocative ??? Oh please..
    Plain , nice family photos..!
    That’s all..
    I didn’t see any PORN ( I wish)..
    No sobol or Goldin…
    People get over it…
    Go to church or something..
    Everybody in Greece walks around naked or
    at least topless..!!!
    Sobol- like?
    Again.. Danger.. Provocation ?
    From a nice mom and a cute baby ???
    Family photos my fellow Christians..
    Just good Ol’ family photos…
    Jeeesus come down and help us ..
    Again… Porn?? Ohhhh .. I wish…!!!!

    ok.. Back to the hospital now..
    I got serious things to do than debating
    with Christians …!

  96. panos skoulidas

    One last thing..
    HERVE you
    Cracked me up with that
    “false advertisment” thing…
    That was funny!

  97. Rafal, mistery to me. Jim says the title picture is a composite (2 pix artificially put together, so that your son was not exactly near his MUm’s crotch, which makes gasp in wonder what would be wrong with that. Why this over-sexualization of a relationship that started for 9 mnoths as close as possible to that crotch), of course not. Yes?

    Bob, agree with everything you said. Dserves to be said!!! ;-)

  98. Bob :
    “I WANT TO SEE MORE LAUGHTER, MORE SADNESS, MORE OF THE TOTALITY OF LIFE OF FAMILY”…..yes …more emotions.. if you follow the Sobol path…

    Rafal, why don’t you simply close the books you have read/seen about Sobol, Mann etc and just do your very own thing which you have started to do ?

  99. Herve :)))

    ALL: 1 last thing (promise), just returned from shopping with my son…and now, off to work on my own for 2 days, but yes, as Patricia CORRECTLY points out, the pictures of his son vs. pictures of his wife make for a very interesting dynamic (in some sense i see the pics of his son as self-portraits in a way)…and also, i think Rafal’s other Family series (Family Ties) offers another fleshed out version of family life: i’ve always looked at this series (wife and son) with the series about Family (rafal’s wife’s family) as the same piece, and maybe in that sense, i see the work more as an entire exploration (including his being an outsider)…..it will be nice to hear Rafal (i is even less shy than i about writing, but much more succinct ;) ), and the interesting thing related to Patricia’s point with regard to his son: why is the son less an ‘abstraction” or ‘visual’ element than the wife….maybe that is something that cannot be answered…(a question i often ask myself when i shoot my wife and son or self: part of our underlying psyches probably)….

    ok, enjoy the chat, gotta split for 2 days….

    running (for real)

  100. Maybe, but Rafal told us he is not about to over-explain (dwelve deeper) the meaning of, and behind (no pun intended :-)!), his images, and therein. There are clues to open up to his world as he presents it (if succesful at it), but that is up to us, the viewer and reviewers to pick them and extend our understanding and appreciation of his work. Rafal is only responsible as to how they become paramount to appreciate his photography, whole. not to answer every why.

    I’d add IMO, but really, all of us, we do not want to be both the artist and “critique” of our own work. Be on the couch and on the analyst chair. To each its own duty….

  101. RAFAL…

    your answers for the comments here are terrific…thank you again…your intent and your work and your eloquence match ….

    the only question i have is that you and others keep referring to “the whole essay..the whole body of work” over on Flickr… you have stated a couple of times here on this thread that there might be more understanding IF there simply had been more pictures or other pictures…why did you choose not to give us everything that you thought was important???

    i ran this story exactly as you told me was your perfect edit….yes??? some time ago you did ask me to edit down…and i made a tight edit of about 20…you then, as i recall,a la your ping pong analogy, added back about 10…..the original edit i made was mostly taking out what i thought of as duplicates…photographs that basically replicated what you had “said better” with another image…

    i do not recall taking out anything that was “another aspect” of your life as far as i could tell…but, it is your life and i would obviously not be aware of every nuance…in any case, my recollection is that we both totally agreed to the edit presented here…i assumed this was exactly what you wanted to say to the readers of BURN…

    perhaps you were thinking brevity for the sake of the net and the generally negative reaction here on BURN to essays longer than about 25 images…this is generally true, but there have been exceptions….in any case, if you want me to add more or have a secondary link , i will be happy to publish as you like…after all, this is your show…

    cheers, david

  102. @Jim Powers: if you find Sabine pornographic you are not living in the reality that the vast majority of progressive people on earth are living in.

  103. JIM…

    i agree with Bryan…who wouldn’t agree with Bryan?? well, er, yes you Jim…Sabine pornographic??? i mean really…now you should know, or probably do know, that Sabine brought Jakob into Magnum as a nominee….we discussed many things about both Jakob and his work and about Sabine…there is never 100% consensus in Magnum about anyone, so not everyone was in favor of Sobol…but, there was not one word, even among the Sobol dissenters, that somehow Sabine was pornography…even when i disagree with you Jim, i usually see from whence you come, but not on this one….


    i think Rafal knows, or will soon realize, that he soon must close the books on the very photographers who influenced him most…they were his first step, but cannot be his last….but, i think we should let him enjoy his first step….if he grows the way he says he wants to grow, then he will evolve tangential to his mentors….he will add or subtract as per the evolution of his own voice…

    cheers, david

  104. David, I think it’s pornographic because I think Sabine, and the whole village for that matter, were used by Sobol. And the photos he took of Sabine were made pornographic by this use. Yes, it was a life experience. But, Sobol knew this was a project. By his own admission he knew he couldn’t stay in Greenland forever. So he had a little adventure. Became part of the village. Took a lover. Made emotional connections. But with the full knowledge he was there only for a short time. Adventure with security. And then he published a book. And went to Tokyo for the next project. Ah, well. Life goes on. A means to an end.

    You (generic you) can’t play games with people’s lives in the name of photography.

  105. JIM…

    everything you just said makes sense..and could be a good argument for critique of Jakob…except for the pornography part which just does not make sense to me…based on what you said, your word (not mine) could be “exploitation”…that is what you describe..you do not describe any version i have ever heard for a definition for pornography…..

    you should know, or probably do know, that Jakob has explained many times that he needs to be in love in order to photograph….a pretty common “need” among photographers….he was definitely in love with Sabine….yes, he knew this love could not last forever…who among has not known the same thing at some point in our lives??? well, probably you..but, the rest of us just ain’t perfect…

    cheers, david

  106. David,
    yes, sure….I guess what I find irritating have been these eternal references to Sobol and his “Sabine”…
    Sobol, among other things stand to me for CLOSENESS WITH HIS SUBJECTS & TRUST which aren’t visible in Rafal’s work. Where Sobol shows his g friend having her period–like it or not—, Rafal shows his wife half-hidden,shy, under the shower.. It’s a beginning. —In the end it doesn’t matter at all, just please do your very own thing and close the books !

  107. Definitions. A personal thing, but I think that one way to transform nudity, or sexual “love” into pornography is to exploit it for your own gain. If, in fact, Sobal needs to be in love in order to photograph, he needs (and perhaps he is) to be up front about it with those who become his lovers.

    And, while I’m far from perfect, I’ve never gotten into intimate relationships where I knew going in there was no future in it. But, then, the fact I’ve been married for 31 years probably gives that away.

  108. GORDON…

    your point is well taken….some essays coulda shoulda woulda been longer..more coulda shoulda woulda been shorter..the old axiom “leave ’em wanting more” is probably a pretty good idea for the net…

    for me personally, i like essays short…i do not need to see “everything”….however, every essay published on BURN, the photographer has either given me the go ahead for a tighter edit, or done their own…

    no essay goes up on BURN that is not the final choice of the photographer…

    cheers, david

  109. Whoha, Rafal, little pieces of us. I wanted to wait till the usual shoulder tapping is over, and now almost everything is said. You did a fine job. I like the edit, how you try to keep some visual flow – here I have to disagree, the presentation on burn is not a gallery, it´s a slideshow, and a slideshow is different then arranging pics on a wall, or in a book, but that´s just a sidenote. I understand the argument some brought up that the view on your family life seems narrowed to bed and bathroom, and that they miss laughter, tears, kitchen stories and whatever. But as you said, it´s about your personal little intimate moments, it´s called “little pieces of us”, not “one and a half year in the life of the family pruszynski” and that´s fine with me. in this regard I think the fragmented person shots – a leg, a hand – fit nicely. I also see this “us” not in an exclusive “us vs. them” sense, more abstract, including all us humans. We all have a mother, we all have a father, and we all have been children. sometimes we still behave like, but that´s a completely different topic. Maybe we should try more often to see the world thru children´s eyes. Something you seem to have tried, at least with some of the shots – and here I´m with bobblack, I also had the impression that your son can be seen as some alter ego, maybe not in the title shot : ) , but in the general big eyed enthusiasm for discovering the world around. The little pieces. while the father needs a clear and analytic pov, he has to compose images.
    But I don´t want to dive into the “psychoanalyse this” scheme, mostly – and some of the above discussion seems to fit in that category – it says more about the interpreter than the work. The work. You know that I follow your stream for quite a while, and actually – with bblack again – I never understood why you distinguished between the “family ties” and the “little pieces” and probably never will. Is it sort of a voluntary self restriction, to keep the “little pieces” as the most inner circle? If it´s an conceptual decision I understand it, but such an hermetic concept will surely lead to some of the misunderstandings as the above like “hey, why don´t we see your wife in a supermarket”
    Whatever, I´m happy you did not include self portraits – nah, not because I think according to your hand you must be pretty ugly – just because they make no sense in this context. The only reason apart from pure voyeurism in demanding such a selfie is that if people see some polski styled guy with a cam in korea, they want to invite him for a drink and be sure to invite the right one. People, be assured, you can´t go wrong. Every polski looking guy with a cam in korea is worth a drink, ask maciej. The hand / feet pic is nice, it gives the right amount of you. I see your reasons to place it in the middle of the set. somehow I´m not happy with the last pic, the second last, wife leaving the shower and also the show, is okay, but you have this strong start, so there should be something strong in the end. Maybe the hand /feet shot. oh, and I miss the boy with the toy elephant!
    As you said, it´s still under progress, and maybe in a year it will look different. But you did some great steps, in the right direction. Respect for that.

  110. it takes loads of energy to wade into this discussion this far along. part of me doesn’t want to deconstruct Little Pieces of Us, to compare and contrast, prove and disprove correlations. But there are some views weighing into this discussion, yours included David Alan Harvey, that sting me into making an effort, but i’m sure i will not enjoy it.

    David planted the seed of Sabine, i don’t own the book, but the gist of it or what makes it relevant to this discussion seems clear from the forty-seven images available from Magnum. And that gist for me registers the same view via the Sobol book i do own: I, Tokyo. Both of these Sobol efforts along with Trent’s Christmas Tree Bucket, and Antoine D’Agata Insomia share only one meaningful common thread with Little Pieces of Us, and that is that they are highly autobiographical, highly in that it seems the author is highly implicated in the effort. I’m certain Sobal took his autobiographic nature to Tokyo and i know more about him than i do about Tokyo after experiencing I, Tokyo. I’m certain that Trent explored his own life in CTB and i know more about him than his family, and well Antoine, i don’t think i could ever know enough about that wizard, but i’m sure i see more of a shape of him than people in the images he captures.

    Rafal work is autobiographical as well, but it’s not entirely about his relationship with his life at this moment in time as the others just mentioned. i say it again, this is Domestic Photography, this is a chance for us to explore ‘not’ co-dependent relationships via Goldin, this is a seat at a very different voyeuristic table, this is a view of a person’s family unit. Every thing else is incidental really.

    David for me it seems you feel that Rafal needs to start unhinging himself from the influences he holds in high regard as there is some constraining aspect of the influence of these masters. For some reason this sentiment doesn’t sit well with me. It feels as if you might think he might not break into original territory because of their influence on him. For me the influence is more of an enabler. They seem to pave the way to create a visual vocabulary that he can use to reveal his own personal story. And this is what i feel it’s all about, a new and personal story, not a pattern of techniques or approaches. So i guess i don’t think Rafal needs to close any books David, he need to keep them and any other visual encyclopaedias open to find tools to illuminate this or any other story he has to solve with images or approaches.

    i don’t think Rafal’s message is fully constellated yet; as an image of a family unit i think it’s still missing a key part of the trinity: Rafal. i think Rafal knows this, but i don’t think the images that provide evidence of his piece in the story have come through yet, and rather than force half-baked images or clichés, he’s excluded them, i hope these images come with time. i do think his implication in the capture of most of the images makes us sure he’s there and his capture choices do register as the father. i also think that cementing the family unit from an external perspective is missing, the family unit contrasted by things outside of it. Again i don’t think the images that Rafal thinks are worthy of an edit this size have come through and rather than force them, they seem to be excluded. Commendable really.

    As far as domestic photography, for me i think it’s the final frontier. It’s deeply interesting to the universe of spectators of images for three simple reasons, we can all identify with it and most of the times there’s more drama in it than in fiction and most importantly, we’re all visual voyeurs at the core. Isn’t anyone else getting sick and tired of all the artistic exploration of vapour for the sake of creating pretty pictures? There are some people that are creating some deeply interesting domestic works of interest, but unfortunately they don’t feel comfortable revealing them to the rest of the world. i’m glad Rafal isn’t one of them as i’m glad to have met his family in this way. The real test of Rafal’s metal will be his ability to apply his vision to another story and possible not an autobiographical one.

  111. Katharina,

    keep trying to fit that square peg in a round hole. Its funny in one breath you accuse me of showing too much then slam me for not showing enough. No shot of my wife having a period? Is that what you were hoping to see? As I said before I decided from the beginning how much I would show. And one thing I decided was this: I did not want to show so much as to make it embarassing for my wife. Hence, you will hardly ever see from me full on nudity. Things may be suggested. Hence the shower photo, she isnt hiding, this is a compositional choice. One last time Ill say this and then assume you are unable to comprehend written text: none of the situations shown involved any hiding. Your assumptions stem from your own psychological state which forces you into such a reading of the text.

    Sobol did influence me. I saw Sabine a few months into having started this project. Originally it was Billingham and Goldin. The IDEA of being autobiographical was what influenced me actually. And I try to infuse some of this into my other projects. There is another projects Im doig along with this called Marooned http://www.flickr.com/photos/jinju/collections/72157606643568147/


    yes, sorry. What I meant about seeing the full work is seeing the other projects that run alongside Pieces, Family Ties for example, and putting the two into a larger context.

  112. i´m not missing Rafal in this piece, he´s omnipresent. but i agree about the future test in showing something that´s not all about me, me, me. even the shortest lens can´t cover it all. sometimes a zoom means not to be to lazy to go closer, ask a movie director. dynamics are a good thing. but as long as we talk about little pieces, right here, right now, it´s fine

  113. Oh Mr.Rafal, just drop it.
    All Katerina ( and everybody else here said )was simple. Drop your books and stop being such a bad xerox copier/ imitator . Do not pretend you do not get it. Do not get offended if your family photos have nothing to do with Nan G. or Sobol. Be quiet, please. Enough with your macho arrogance .

  114. JOE…

    i think you may have misinterpreted what i was saying, for i agree with everything you just wrote about Rafal’s development….but, it is quite curious that many times i agree with what you say, then am amazed at the “twist” with your major premise so described…hmmmmm, very curious indeed…you certainly put words in my mouth…you articulate as well as anyone here, do a deep often too “deep” “analysis” , then jump to a conclusion of your “own” that is construed as if you discovered it….Joe, sorry, but you speak the obvious….cleverly put, but obvious….and for some strange reason you seem to want to be not so subtly contentious and on this particular subject there just is nothing to be contentious about…hmmmm,curious….

    i spent a lot of time with Rafal in Korea….we went shooting together many days and he was quite helpful to me as i worked on my Korea youth project…we became friends….i spent quite of bit of time looking at his work…you would not recognize it from what you see today…ask him….we talked a lot and i tried to dig into his personality and find out his motivations etc…since those days in Korea i have stayed in constant touch with Rafal over the last three years and followed this Pieces of Us from the very beginning…

    so , i think Rafal might know what i mean when i said “at some point in the future Rafal may have to get PAST the work he admires so much from Sobol in order to make his own mark”…of course he will keep Sobol and others with him at all times forever….it was a GIVEN that these mentors are enablers…that was my original point after all… my whole first comment on this subject..that Sabine was a “key” for Rafal….and that key will allow Rafal to walk through another door….

    cheers, david

  115. kathleen fonseca


    You make some interesting points about “domestic photography”..i think i just dismissed it out of hand as something uninteresting to me but i well recall Friedlander’s family dysfunction..fascinating..i believe i will re-think this genre..might be some very interesting stuff to be seen. God knows i have spent not a little time thinking about Rafal’s essay and complex food for thought it has been indeed.


  116. Rafal,
    I didn’t mean to ” accuse” you of anything, I simply was saying that it’s maybe time to close the books ? My assumptions stem very much from your very own words . Have you ever checked how many times on this blog you mention Goldin/ Sobol etc …your ideas about ” snapshot photography/ snapshot -style photography ? The comparison between that one Sobol picture and your own was merely an ( extreme) example, nothing else.
    Sure enough, you create some expectations/ ideas , however what you show in your photography is something different. This is not meant as criticism, it’s an observation.

  117. kathleen fonseca

    went to look at Sabine..wow..blown away..pornographic? ohmygod, who said that? Sabine is so far from porn i can’t imagine using the two words in a sentence together. And Sabine is very, very far from Pieces of Us. Yes, Sabine was perfection. Faultless. I adored that girl. Real as rain..er snow. But Greenland and Korea and Jacob and Rafal are all different beasts. Yes, Pieces of Us is a frozen moment on the continuum of Rafal’s life..hopefully he will be shooting hotter and hotter, looser and looser, deeper and deeper..

    Bob Black, Fascinating read about Koreans and their culture. i have a Korean sister. A lot of what you say rang true and i considered all of that in my ongoing thoughts on this essay. Many thanks for the time you took to detail your observations.


  118. kathleen, you really feel it o.k. that Sobol used Sabine for a project? He used these people. It was a game to him. He got to do his testosterone fueled huntin’ and fishin’ and eatin’ seal blubber and lovin’ for a while, safe in the knowledge that he had made no real commitments and was going to walk away from all of it, and then he left and exploited this girl by publishing these photos of her and then moved on to the next project.

  119. Jim,

    I’ve had short relationships that didn’t last that meant/mean a hell of a lot to me. I took pictures, never showed them to anyone?

    If I did would I be exploiting her?

    How can you judge, from so far away, how true of a relationship theirs was?

  120. kathleen fonseca

    Jim, i don’t know enough about Jacob or his intentions. My reaction was purely based on the photographs. Are you saying his actions were pornogrpaphic, as in “the depiction of acts in a sensational manner so as to arouse a quick intense emotional reaction” which of course would be further exaggerated if he exploited this little camp and its inhabitants, most specifically Sabine? Do you know it was a game? How do you know this? I mean, i’m asking because i don’t know anything about the project, only visited the link that Kat provided and absolutely loved the photographs.

    Look, what if Rafal documented his family for a few more years and that was his exclusive photographic project and then let’s say the marriage ends for whatever reason, and then let’s say that Rafal, being the ambitious photographer we know that he is goes forward with his book idea and manages to get published. And then he say moves to, i don’t know, Cambodia where they raise rice by hand (love that expression, Herve) and being the compulsive image maker that he is, does the same thing again. Does that make Pieces of Us pornographic? This is not a dissimilar situation. Cultural and racial differences: foreign photog comes in, hooks up with local woman (in this case marries her and has baby or else she has baby and marries her, i have no idea which came first the chicken or the egg), realizes he can’t stay/make a living, can’t eat kimche forever, finishes the project, tires of the woman, bids a fond adieu and adios.

    How do we really know that Rafal’s intentions are any less exploitative than Jacob’s? And forgive me all if i am demonstrating a complete ignorance of the facts. It’s because i have a complete ignorance of the facts, it’s real late, i am scanning negs, listening to music and musing.

    So Jim, please cuz i need clarity..what exactly is pornographic about Sabine?

    (Are the red buds blooming yet? been thinking about them)


  121. kat,

    even if it’s 2am you are still the most clear headed person here. i wonder what tainted coffee will do to you? i come here to burn just to hear you write. scratch scratch scratch or now click click click…

    your comments are honest and fresh and funny (i honestly think no one can eat kimchi forever).

    eberhardt 4H you will never ever need

    sweet dreams, sweetie

  122. kathleen fonseca


    The reason i am the most clear-headed person here at 2am is cuz i am the ONLY person here at 2am..till you decide to drop by that is. You n’ me, we’re the night shift, huh? Anyway, you’re fabulossissimmo..thanks for coming by to keep me company..i am plugging away at my scans and feeling very tired and restless..hear me write…hahaha, that’s funny! Better than hearing me roar. And girl, i could use a holster full of eberhardt 4H’s doncha know! g’night to you, chica..and catch ya next time same time!


  123. kat,

    my thoughts exactly… (looking around … shhhhh… panos is probably asleep)

    ill bring my holster of eberhardts for tomorrow night.

  124. panos skoulidas

    All… hi…
    just came home from the HOUSE OF PAIN… ( some call it Hospital )..
    but let me tell you how it really works…

    then its the house of JOY !!!!!!!!!!
    then its the house of PAIN !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    sorry America… sorry !!!!!!!!!!!!!

    now.. since i’m cranky and in pain myself let me start messing up with people….

    Everybody knows that i love JOE….
    Actually i “met” Joe through Venice Beach…( one more reason to thank Venice… )

    but lets not beat around the bush…!

    1) “….David planted the seed of Sabine…”
    i hope you dont mean DAH beacause he never “planted” that seed… Rafal did ( numerous times )

    2) “… i say it again, this is Domestic Photography, this is a chance for us to explore ‘not’ co-dependent relationships via Goldin, this is a seat at a very different voyeuristic table, this is a view of a person’s family unit. Every thing else is incidental really…”
    We all agree… Rafal & Goldin, NOTHING IN COMMON…
    ok, JOE, What exactly are you saying except from agreeing with everybody here but Rafal? OK, LETS CONTINUE..

    3)”…David for me it seems you feel that Rafal needs to start unhinging himself from the influences he holds in high regard as there is some constraining aspect of the influence of these masters…”
    C’mon dear JOE, thats just HEALTHY…ARE YOU SERIOUS????? Dont you see the constraining aspect when there is ultra respect, love , admiration?,..It leads to subconscious imitation… “groupie” or “fan” at its worst…unnecessary imitation at its best. What is so hard to admit here?

    4)”….So i guess i don’t think Rafal needs to close any books David, he need to keep them and any other visual encyclopaedias open to find tools to illuminate this or any other story he has to solve with images or approaches…”
    JOE , this is some dangerous, unhealthy advice…Nietzsche clearly stated long time ago that “when i stopped reading, i started thinking..”… Joe, to be able to create you have to be able to ignore the status quo…think of Albert Einstein… Go even earlier in time.. THE BOOKS USED TO SAY THAT EARTH IS FLAT… now if the G. guy would think like you, then the planet “earth” would still be flat.. ( no pun intended )…

    5)”…i don’t think Rafal’s message is fully constellated yet; as an image of a family unit i think it’s still missing a key part of the trinity…”
    Again JOE, you just repeat the majority here..In other words you just talk, just.. to talk…
    I expect more, way more from you…( no sarcasm )

    6)”…and rather than force half-baked images or clichés, he’s excluded them, i hope these images come with time…”
    yes JOE.. but there are not here yet… and there will never be here unless Rafal ( AND ANY RAFAL ),
    will start thinking in an ORIGINAL WAY…In other words , its all about originality…
    HOW CAN YOU BE AN ORIGINAL IF YOU ALREADY SET UP LIMITS?…Extra Admiration, groupies , fans,are doomed to be limited… Guess why JOE… guess why!

    7)”…There are some people that are creating some deeply interesting domestic works of interest, but unfortunately they don’t feel comfortable revealing them to the rest of the world…”
    again what are you talking about ??????? Who cares about “nothing”…YES , im the greatest photographer or DOCTOR in this world but i threw all my photos away… Yes, i found the cure for cancer but i burned the manuscripts… JOE… god damn it… are you in love with your voice????
    if you dont share that “thing”, then that “thing” simply does not exist..
    I’m not laughing… Joe.. not laughing!

    8)”… Isn’t anyone else getting sick and tired of all the artistic exploration of vapour for the sake of creating pretty pictures? ..”
    Again, help me out.. WHAT THE F**K are you talking about? And if i wanna guess ( because once again you do not want to speak clear, you just want to sound “DEEP”…), if i really wanna guess, i totally disagree..
    I DO, JOE.. YES I DO CARE ABOUT THE ARTISTIC EXPLORATION… for the sake of creating pretty pictures..
    What is wrong with that? What the hell is wrong with u today Joe????????

    9)…” There are some people that are creating some deeply interesting domestic works of interest, but unfortunately they don’t feel comfortable revealing them to the rest of the world…”
    who cares about those PESSIMISTS JOE… they dont EXIST then… they dont share with the world, then the world doesnt know them… Joeeeeeeeee, why dont they share with the rest of the world????

    10)”… i’m glad Rafal isn’t one of them as i’m glad to have met his family in this way. The real test of Rafal’s metal will be his ability to apply his vision to another story and possible not an autobiographical one….”
    jesuuus Joe, you just repeated everyone else here once again…
    just because Rafal didnt hide his photos from the rest of the world does that make it art?
    And yes, again repeating everybody, we all agree with you..
    Yes, Rafal should apply his vision to another story AND POSSIBLE NOT AN AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL ONE…
    SO… AGAIN JOE… cant u see that you totally, NOT ONLY “rejecting” Rafal’s story as unsuccessful,

    …AND the only thing that POOR DAH SAID WAS… to be original is to move to a next step and create…
    Rafal, is on his very first step….

    AGAIN , WHAT exactly are you proposing JOE?????????????? that is so hard to put in one sentence ??????????
    Why are you so sad???????????

  125. panos skoulidas

    … And JOE,
    Rafal is a GREAT GUY and a GREAT FRIEND…
    no reason for u or anyone to be his public defender…
    I re read all the comments…
    nobody tried to offend him… He “offended” ( accidentally ) himself with all those references…
    If you really want to offend me JOE,
    then tell me that my work resembles, Steve Mc Curry, or Alex Webb, or Majoli or even DAH..or D’Agata..
    or whatever…
    And again i think Rafal is NOT AN ARROGANT guy..
    He simply sounds arrogant… He is simply over excited… as any beginner should be…
    Thats all…
    then yes and im sorry… BUT you need to STOP STUDY THEM…
    what is SO hard to understand JOE ??????????

  126. Rafal has made a real commitment. He has a wife and son. Sobol made no such commitment. The time in greenland that resulted in Sabine was a project. All his pretty words (and he wrote an interesting story) don’t change that fact. It’s hard to determine what Sabine was to him. But it’s easy to see what he ultimately did with the relationship…used it, and these intimate photos of her, as a book and ticket into Magnum.

    Rafal may (I don’t know him, of course) use his intimate relationships with his wife and son as a ticket to fame and publish a book. But he didn’t start having sex with his wife and photographing her in the nude as part of a project to do so. There is a big difference.

    Do I think Rafal is making a mistake here? Absolutely, but I would never compare him to Sobol. I think Rafal’s work is good. Sobol used people and moved on. There were no negative consequences (beyond ethical questions from folks like me) for Sobol. But there is a very real danger for Rafal, his son and wife, as he exposes intimate (and I’m talking beyond sex) “pieces” of his family. Intimacy helps hold relationships together. It creates a bond. Things we know about each other. The intimate secrets we share. These are important. One person can give the other in a relationship “permission” to expose some of that intimacy to the world; but whether done with permission or not, once those “secrets” are shared (the way he looks at his wife as she walks toward the bed without clothes), they cannot be reclaimed.

    It raises all kinds of ethical questions. Parents, of course, have the right (by necessity) to make choices for their children. But I have a real ethical problem when parents make the choice to put their children on public display (as in books, photo and otherwise). Take the photos, put them in the family album. But don’t sell a book with them in it until the child becomes an adult and can make that choice him/herself. Rafal’s wife may feel very different about these photos should their relationship fail and she try to move on with her life with a record of her willingness to compromise intimacy sitting on the shelf at a bookstore. These are ethical issues.

    I realize there is Nan Golden and Sally Mann and a host of others who have shot the photos and published the books anyway. But of what value have they been that was worth sacrificing the intimacy of the relationships, other than making the photographers famous?

  127. panos skoulidas

    “…Do I think Rafal is making a mistake here? Absolutely, but I would never compare him to Sobol. I think Rafal’s work is good. Sobol used people and moved on….”

    Jim , dont worry , nobody ever compared Rafal to Sobol… and im glad you see the difference!!!!
    ( laughing even more…)

  128. panos skoulidas



    “…Rafal may (I don’t know him, of course) use his intimate relationships with his wife and son as a ticket to fame …”

    “… Sobol used people and moved on…”

    where is the difference Jim???
    they BOTH USED “the world”… for “FAME”….

    OH I SEE THE DIFFERENCE… Rafal didnt move on but Sobol did?????????????
    ( i dont have so much hair left on my head Jim… please let me keep it…)

  129. David I hear you. I understand how you feel based on my post. I didn’t wish to make you feel that way or challenge your intentions or results. I don’t deny the merit, value, or the results with Rafal. I’m in deep envy of what Rafal claims to have collected from your guidance, I don’t think I’ve every made a secret of that either and i don’t think i’ve said it about another photographer. So for that I’m deeply sorry you took my post to that extent. And Rafal, I’m sorry if you felt the need to maybe confirm that my opinions were not your opinions, but that’s understandable if you did.

    So this comes back to the point. I wish I could make my point in a way that didn’t antagonise or admit the obvious, but it’s a point I really don’t understand fully, but one I know is something that stings me a bit.

    I’ll try again. For some reason, and maybe it’s pure fiction or personal paranoia, but I feel that the extent of Rafal’s knowledge of all the masters relevant to his work (or anyone else like him, for example Katharina and her work) may somehow make him seem more of a disciple verses an original explorer. I get this feeling from some of the posts, your post made me feel this way for some reason David. As you stated, it shouldn’t, so no need to revisit that.

    Anyway, I guess I think there are tons of both visual languages and capture approaches in the past encyclopedia’s of work. And I think the language and the capture is all ‘fair game’ for use in future story telling, for me it becomes public property in my ideal world. For example, there is a two page spread in I, Tokyo that makes me think, whow, this is Daido Moriyama, I’ve seen this two page spread before, then i start thinking, whow, he’s using full bleed pages as well, and the tumble starts, but then I think, wait! this is a technique or a piece of visual language for Sobal‘s story, it’s used to evidence his personal stake on the place and for him for this piece it works. So even here I’m guilty of recognising patterns and becoming distracted by them, but I don’t want to be and that’s my sting I suppose. If we didn’t get so distracted by these very same techniques and capture approaches we might just as easy be discussing how Rafal’s pictures of his partner seem so different than Trent’s pictures his partner in CTB.

    So, it’s me that has issues I suppose David, by my own admission I’m guilty of being distracted from the story by the visual vocabulary used in the past and maybe even the approaches to a project, but I don’t want to be. I want to think the more we see the better vocabulary we command, but sometimes it means the more risk of us using it, ahh! there is that sting again. It will be interesting to see to what extent Katharina’s work gets filtered through MEM’s effort.

    Anyways, next time I’ll take up my issues first with my therapist before the public ;-(

  130. Panos, as I said, I think the personal cost for Rafal’s decision (should he pursue this) could be much greater because he has no plans to move on. My point is that Rafal didn’t get into a relationship for the purpose of making a book of it. Which is different than Sobol. You are correct, though, that the end result could be the same.

  131. panos skoulidas

    you really care about INTENTIONS…and i AGREE…
    BUT… “intention” could be tricky….
    Just because Sobol “moved on”…. does that really proves his original “intention”???????????
    Please DO NOT confuse the RESULT with the INTENTION…
    think all those couples that got married ( WITH THE BEST INTENTIONS ) and later DIVORCED…
    Does that MEAN that they were just “using” each other???????
    And how about all those couples that compromised for numerous reasons and stayed “TOGETHER”..
    till the end of time…
    HMMMMMMMMMMMMM… does that proves that they were “better” people…
    does that prove that their “intentions” were the best?????????????
    Just because they stayed “together”???????????
    Please, think about it for a minute Jim… Think about it….
    DO NOT CONFUSE THE RESULT with the original INTENTION Jim..
    It is simply UNFAIR!
    ( How do we even know Sobol’s original “intentions” regarding Sabine??????????
    ( I personally have more respect for couples that they DIVORCE than couples that stayed together..
    I found them ( latter ) ultra suspicious…

  132. panos skoulidas

    My grandparents stayed “together”, stabbing each other till their last breath…
    Liers.. Hypocrites…

    And on the other side people like SOBOL or even Jared Iorio… that they fell in love and split when the time is “right”… when the candle is being burned from both sides… and move on with their lives…

    Who is more honest…????????
    you chose!
    ( my bet? : none and both at the same time )
    think about it for a minute Jim.. think about it…

  133. I don’t think Sobol was ambiguous about his intentions.

    The other alternative is worse in my mind, “Well, I loved her deeply but it just didn’t work out so I’ll publish this book filled with the intimacy of our relationship to gain fame and fortune.”

    I know it’s old fashioned, but I think there are places we should just ethically not go.

  134. panos skoulidas

    ok… here is my theory about FAMILIARITY…
    PEOPLE( the mass ) ARE SO NAIVE THAT they prefer to eat at a “mediocre restaurant”…
    just because is standing in their neighborhood forever…
    than try a new “healthy , clean, tastier joint”… that just opened merely a month ago…
    thats a fact…
    Well, they have been there forever they answer…

  135. panos skoulidas

    But Jim…
    Im not sure, i just suspect….that Sabine’s boyfriend
    had always the camera in his hands… and i suspect ( i wasnt really there )
    that he told her numerous times that his camera is his primary wife…
    Again, i wasnt there… but this is what i always confess to my girl (s)..
    immediately… Sorry babe… First my camera , then YOU…
    iM HONEST…
    ( i guess/hope that Sobol was the same…if not then fuck him)

  136. i´m really trying to get beate to write her views on this.. i just woke up to her anger about some of the comments..
    all she sees here is a man who is besotted .. utterly in love.. respectfully passionate and expressing that to us..
    rafal.. ignore what you need to and carry on – it´s a tremendous tribute and as beate says – your wife must be very proud of you..

    david & beate.

  137. And there’s the problem, panos. You and I use the same words, but our life experience is so far apart that we aren’t speaking the same language. The relationships are primary for me, not the camera. If it had ever been a choice between the relationship and the camera, then screw the camera. And that’s from someone that has spent his whole life with a camera in his hand.

  138. david, I asked Rafal if his wife had read this thread and what she thought about it. He didn’t respond. It would be interesting to know what she thought.

  139. panos skoulidas

    Jim, i hear you man…
    My exaggeration has to do with “HIS” INTENTIONS…
    JUST BECAUSE THEY SPLIT… doesnt mean he exploite her

  140. panos skoulidas

    … in other words… if someone could prove that Sobol was such a manipulative human being,
    that all he cared about is just his FAME then, yes im with you… but who can prove that?
    His “successful” book doesnt prove bad “intentions”…make sense?

  141. panos skoulidas

    Again, im not “defending” Sobol… just to defend a magnum guy…
    really, who gives a s**t…
    i just tend to believe than very early in their relationship she must have realized
    his obsession about photography and his intention for a “book”…
    Again, this is just my assumption… thats all!

  142. jim
    it would be interesting, although if it were close to beates response she would be angry – particularly at some of the womens idea of feminism..

    b tried to place herself in a project like this.. easy really since there is always a camera hanging around our relationship.. it´s just a part of life.. as much as sharing a kiss or slobbing on the couch.. there is photo taking..
    if it was her in the photos she would feel proud, she says.. even if the photos were more graphic that does not give anyone the right to judge either rafals wife, rafal himself nor comment on how their beautiful boy may feel in time.

    personally i have stayed away from getting too involved with this discussion – all i feel is that rafal has done a good thing.. a decent thing.. and man – you want to see some of the photos i have from parties and music industry and then think about exploitation, as it is something i have even wrestled with myself.


  143. panos – i think you´re spot on really.-. judging a photographer by one project.. or even a lifes work.. meaningless when there is so much purely commercial work which really does exploit – purely for the money..

    fame and the rest.. well.. i think of leibowitz as someone who sought fame.. rankin.. certainly not sobal who´s reach does not go much further than the photo and creative industry world..


  144. david, I acknowledge that I’m “old fashioned” where relationships are concerned. Folks are extremely open about their personal lives these days. As I’ve posted, though, it’s not simply being old-fashioned. There are ethical implications for me. I fully understand that others do not have these issues.

  145. panos skoulidas

    ..honestly jim i think that our disagreement really has to do with the “intention” and the final “result”..
    “broken relationship” and a “great book” = exploitation …( for you )
    i still disagree…
    the GREAT BOOK is a result of a great photographer…
    Otherwise , every “great relationship” should result to a “great book”…right?
    But take a look over “here”…There is a “great relationship” but sorry, the photography “part”..
    is “mediocre”…
    So… i still think that Sobol would have made a great book regardless …staying together or moving on..
    HE IS A GREAT ARTIST… ( not every “artist” is meant to be that great… regardless the success of their relationship… )…
    I still think that he “MOVED ON” played a big part on your “exploitation” comment…

  146. i think there are too many unknowns about sabine to truly use such a strong word jim..
    time is going to reveal more, although i for one am glad the work exists.

    you have a very ridged moral compass jim.. and i know that morals are fixed.. however i just think much more information would be needed in order to make any judgment.. information we actually have about rafal and his work, through seeing him online, and since it´s his work i would defend here i can´t really say more about sabine..

  147. panos, we are still not communicating. It is that his intention was to move on that creates the ethical problem for me. It was a project.

  148. panos skoulidas

    David.. i mean.. yes…
    JIm ( and me ) have done mediocre work just to survive ….
    that is “exploitation”… to its fullest..
    Why a “relationship” is such a weight to judge whats exploitation and whats not…

  149. david, morality has nothing to do with it. “Morality” is fixed and useless. My concerns are ethical. But that’s totally off topic. :)

  150. panos skoulidas

    i mean have done ( sold )… mediocre work just to pay bills…
    I was doing portraits all day today just to pay bills…
    Do you think i can pay the fucking car payment with my fucking “venice work”…
    come on now… gotta be honest..
    laughing/crying ( same thing )

  151. panos skoulidas

    No…no.. Jim its not off topic…
    Again f**k Sobol and all Sobol’s but really…
    that he “moved on” or “married her forever” have nothing to do with his ART…

  152. hey jim – you represent a stream of thought regardless of age or background and so it is a valid exploration of the work..

    afterall – whats the sound of one hand clapping? :ø)

    i constantly get suprised by peoples work, reactions to the work and more.. photographing beate, through love affair and through pregnancy.. birth to breakfast.. it´s an amazing revalation to have a camera hanging around..
    if there were even a hint of exploitation i would not be possible.. any ill intention would be prohibitive to the work..

    showing the work in time will be a relief of sorts as there is a powerful body building up, and if it gains commercial success then receives judgment – who cares?

    i think others perception of a photographer is interesting.. less than relevant over time though..
    the more sabine is discussed the more will buy sabine and the more ´successful´ the sales become.. i don´t think that makes it exploitative.. it is an unseen benefit i think.. since in the moment photographers working on something so personal rarely think of commercial issues nor moral ones.. i don´t .. i just photograph for the love and out of love.. even earning a modest income for a long while..

    anyway.. flying to bergen today to check out flats and look for clients before moving there soon.. must get on..
    have a good weekend.

  153. not at all jim.. i am a photographer..
    life is the ´deity´ i worship and the furtherment of serendipity, understanding, compassion, relative reality and love is what i try to bring to the table..

    i´m a photographer – not an artist – by my definition and i enjoy people expressing somethign which has been real to them.. photographs which do not bore me stupid.. and even get my lover, who is not a photographer, involved on all levels..

    man – jim – you´ll have a field day when i get round to my essay being on burn :ø)

    REALLY have to go now.

  154. i´d rather earn from something which shares intimate experience and feeling than something which makes kids buy a hamburger :ø)

    and thanks for the natter.

  155. panos skoulidas

    have a great day… 4am…over here…
    time to go to bed…
    but i enjoy Jim tonight…
    maybe im dead tired Jim.. maybe thats why we cant communicate…
    i just still have a hard time to “accept” that f*****g Sobol…was such a cruel man..
    but you never know,… u never know!

  156. panos skoulidas

    ok… ALL…please take over the steering wheel….
    DEAD TIRED … i need to be at the hospital at 8am…
    Thank you Jim…( and goodnite )
    for the stimulation/conversation….
    but if i keep talking , i will regret it..
    see y’all after coffee…

  157. Wow! it gets heated here. First as someone who is married and has kids with a Japanese woman I have been looking forward to Rafal`s story for a while. It was not what I expected, as most everything is not on burn, and yet i liked it. To me there is not enough shown of the intimacy needed in a cross cultural relationship where your wife, traditionally the weaker and more more subservient side of an Asian relationship, becomes the boss, guide, teacher and mother. Maybe Rafal is not so helpless as i am here but I`m sure his wife takes on many responsibilities on his behalf and I do see some of that strength in her, the glasses especially are like a sign that this is her serious side for this particualr image. BUT it should not be under estimated, in conservative Korea, how empowering those near nude pictures are. Rafel shows respect by hinting at greater intimacy rather than showing it “full frontal” and he does this without the usual tricks of blur, angle, garin and lack of focus; he shows his love for his wife in the careful framing, even if it is just to show a part of her,and he shows us his passion for parts of her… How anyone can call that macho is beyond me.
    So I would like to see some scenery, something about the isolation of being a westerner, especially a non-American westerner, in Korea. If it is anything like Japan I am sure he has had it tough and some of the other work on his Flickr collections shows these things. But this is not the project Rafal wanted to show and this set of images is more an ode to his family of whom there can be no doubt he is very much in love with.
    This essay is not Sabine, Sabine is Magnum worthy work and singleminded in its purpose, which was to document a love affair in a culture removed from what we ordinarily know. That does not make it exploitative though. I felt uncomfortable when I first saw Sabine because it is intimate and unfamiliar and yes you do worry that maybe Sabine would not like her very private moments printed and consumed by strangers. But isn`t that true of all photography we admire, we admire it because we could not easily do it, we could not get the access, have the vision in that closeness and the bravery to put ourselves and our loved ones out there to be judged. It is so much easier with usual reportage and yet few ask if the famine vistim or conflict bereaved want their images on the front of papers and magazines. Sobel created a work that will probably be talked about for hundreds of years I don`t know if he planned it all along (probably) but that doesn`t mean he didn`t love her and the town he lived in. Journalists have to take a point of view don`t they and Sabine is journalism in a way Rafal`s work is not. I like journalism and was hoping perhaps that Rafal`s essay would strike a cord with my experiences here in Japan. Yet there is nothing there that paints a bigger picture, a story of the photographer himself, in a strange land where his wife and son become, almost by default, the only meaning in life. That they mean the world to him is clear: the images are poetry for his love, but as someone said Rafal is missing from them. He is there in the pictures of his in-laws, his life is read easier in their reactions to him and situations that are perhaps mundane to them but still full of wonder to him. And he has said these essays should be viewed together and when you do they make more sense but this one is, in my opinion, purely about love and though that wasn`t quite what I was expecting, I like it none-the-less.
    And I am sure is wife is proud of him.

  158. “Sabine”, Sobol famous? Come on, Jim, even as a photographer, there are better ways to get fame shooting an “eotic” relationship close, and still leaves us guessing if that was exploitive, pornographic, while the fame and $$ roll in.

    Again, I have no opnion so far Sabine” was exploitive. Sure could be, and also not by intention. But you seem to know Sobol better than us. I catch myself being exploitive easily, with a camera, while I travel. I don’t mean it, I love the world, I love people, but I love stealing their spirits, so to speak. MAKE IT MINE forever. Open discussion with no end, really. the egg and the hen, etc…

    One thing, a lot of great art would not exist if we go by the morales of exploitiveness. Shit,it’s not a perfect world, I have a feeling that is the reason for art actually (and a few other things, like Panos single-handedly, ahah, the search for an untied, unsubmissve, undrenched, japanese porn actress….Yeee haaaw?)

  159. Herve, we’ve probably beat this horse to death. I lot of great ideas here.

    I think these essays probably stay up too long, though. David needs to toss us another bit of beef to chew on. :)

  160. Yeahhhh….. “little pieces” by Rafal: a lengthy critical assessment and discussion of SOBOL’s intentions with “SABINE”…..


  161. panos skoulidas

    c’mon Jim… dont get “greedy”…
    but i agree… this horse is “dead”…
    morning y’all…
    driving to the hospital..
    ( Herve i hear u… Sobol stole the act… Now after all this discussion about Sabine in Burn…
    He must feel really “famous”…)
    (…unsuccessful attempt to laugh…)

  162. Ok, with regard to Sabine…….ummmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm…..as I’ve written before on this thread, at Lightstalkers (after I saw Jacob’s exhibition, long before either he or Sabine were part of Magnum or wpp radar) and as i’ve written countless times before, Jacob did not set out to…….

    o, fuck it, never mind…..

    i’ve reach the point (epiphany) where it’s better for me to just show work and work on my writing, as a way to deal with these issues….


    näkemiin ja katso u myöhemmin


    p.s. Herve, im so happy you’ve returned from T-land…enjoy reading thoughts, both supportive and provocative….

  163. Who said it was new, Jim?

    I’m just saying, a guy who doesn’t know you judges your character publicly (quite harshly), to a pretty large audience, an invite to respond should maybe be offered.

    I doubt he’d want to “play” either.

    The certitude with which you say things really annoys the shit out of me, Jim. Like talking to a teenager sometimes.

  164. jared, why would my opinions, regardless of how rigidly expressed, annoy you? Do you think that Sobol gives a flip what I say about him? Curious.

  165. Hey on a off note I really liked your “Can’t pay the rent” opening Jared. Really great concept. I wasn’t there, I just saw the video.

  166. In general I quite liked the essay. It had a nice tempo. However, I felt that it still had room to mature so to speak and this could perhaps only come with time.

    I have to agree with the other commentators that the photographer has to move away from ‘the masters’ in the genre and develop his own style. The continual referencing by Mr Pruszynski to people such as Sobol over the last month or so, will inevitably cause people to compare. Unfortunately, that it was what happened here.

    Anyway, here are a few observations that I made while watching the piece.

    To begin, I felt that the photos were to formally/rigourously posed. It seemed that the photographer positioned his subjects (wife and baby) in the large majority of the photographs according to some preconceieved idea (perhaps under a strong influence from his mentors?). There just didn’t seem to be any fleeting moments that were intuitively caught on the run that signalled the author’s own unique style. In this genre, that to me is where true talent lies – the ability to observe then capture an emotion or moment in a split second. That is what separates photographers from agencies like Magnum with the rest of us. The only photo that did demonstrate this was the photo in the taxi of his wife sleeping. I felt that this was the best of the piece as it wasn’t planned and shot over and over.

    This overly formal posing is also evident on the flickr set. I had a look at the flickr set as suggested by Rafal and it seems that for example in the great majority he positioned his baby in the middle of an open space in a shopping arcade then photographed conitinually from several angles. There are no great moments caught on the run. Hence, I have to agree with David Alan Harvey that the photographers persistant suggestion to look at his flickr set was wrong. This was the final cut/edit and ‘one’ has to learn to live with it.

    Also, I wasn’t overly impressed by the ‘noise’. I felt that the flash didn’t help the highlights and in a few cases they seemed blown. But, that could be just nitpicking on my behalf.

    I disagree with some other commentators that he was pimping out his wife. They are both in a mature relationship and it takes two to tango. That comment just felt plain wrong. I can see some trace/evidence of love in their relationship, but I didn’t feel that the photographer captured it in a daily setting away from the bedroom. Sex can sometimes obscure peoples true emotions as they get caught up in the act. I want to see real love through emotions that are validated by facial expressions in arenas out of the bedroom. Of course, harder said than done…

    Anyway, I look forward to watching the photographer mature and hopefully catch those forever fleeting moments such as Sally Mann or Larry Towell.


  167. Sorry for intruding but I find this thread rather interesting.
    Primary wife? A tool that we use to channel our art?
    Pal, you either have not found the one yet (and possibly never will with that mentality) or you have been hurt way too much by a lady that put HER life before you.
    Usual comment of men who can’t find a balance in life as partners/artists/professionals.
    Sorry. Also, don’t forget that practice may make us technically skilled but ART is either within you or it is not and does not ask for you to inflict pain onto others. When we have to ditch everything else life has to offer to produce something, we are nothing but flaws of human nature.

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