Maciej Pisuk

Under the Skin Photographs from Brzeska Street


The inhabitants of Warsaw consider Brzeska Street, the very core of North Praga, the most neglected and dangerous district in the city (in my opinion the greatest local problem is stigmatization of the people living in the area). I would like to present you portraits of the street’s residents, my neighbors, acquaintances, friends, people among whom I lived for so many years. The pictures taken in this place constitute the vast majority of my photographic work so far.
I only photograph people who I stay in close touch with. The pictures are a result of the long process where the release of the shutter is essentially an element of little meaning.

The protagonists of my photographs possess something unusual: they have faces. I could risk and state that today almost nobody shows their face and there are only a few people who still have them.



The face disappears under layers of masks, which are adjusted to the roles that we are forced to play. We change our masks as easily as we change our identities. In public, we only present the image that we shape according to our needs. Our contacts stop being direct. Sometimes we communicate with each other but we are not able to encounter. I like thinking of my pictures as testimonies of the encounters and I count on them to convey a particle of the experience I took part in.




A graduate of the screenwriting course at the State Academy of Film, TV and Theatre in Lodz. Works as a screenwriter. The winner of prizes and awards on Polish and international photography competitions, among others: 2nd Prize at BZ WBK Press Foto 2006 (category: society), 1st Prize at ‘Warsaw Autumn of Photography’ 2007, 1st prize in the category of Photojournalism Non-Pro-People/Personality at PX3 Prix de la Photographie Paris 2008 Photo Competition, 2nd prize at BZ WBK Press Foto 2010 (category: portrait), Stockholm Photography Week 2012 – The prize for the best portfolio.
For a few years he has been working on a photographical documentary project concerning the inhabitants of the area of Praga in Warsaw.


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Maciej Pisuk



14 thoughts on “Maciej Pisuk – Under the Skin Photographs from Brzeska Street”

  1. I’m not sure of the photographer’s intent here. It seems to me, though, that he has used his tools to create a freak show to shock, rather to illuminate. I don’t know what these people look like in the normal light of day, or what the photographer’s agenda is, but an agenda there seems to be.

  2. While I see Jim’s point, the photos are superb. I suspect the photographer felt the normal light of day is how his subjects are normally seen and he wanted to probe where the normal light of day does not normally reach.

  3. Well I really enjoyed this essay. I read Jim’s comment this morning whilst walking at lunchtime and I was expecting something quite different, so I was pleasantly surprised by the photos. I don’t think the photographer created a freak show at all and I dislike the word freak. Perhaps a description like outsiders? I can see the Anders Petersen influence throughout the work, albeit a slightly softer approach to his portraits less intense maybe even more compassionate in some ways.

  4. Paul, I agree with you. “Freak” is entirely the wrong word – and the images are full of compassion. Thanks for making note.

  5. I don’t mind this one it is better then the other oneshave that “poor woeful me the photographer take pity on me” feel about them
    This guy evidently is part of the community sure he has a bit of a freak show feel but I reckon that is him a product of those environments Jukka, D’Agata,Ballen etc are all of the same ilk they are immersed in the life style itself. Just as some fashion photographers are about being a famous and the lifestyle, Parr and his popular culture, Robert Frank’s embracing of America,Prokudin-Gorskii and the embracing of the tsarist empire etc.
    The thing is that Maciej is at the beginning and does not have a entrenched personal signature which could be because he is still looking at the surface and hasn’t delved beyond the grime and into their personal space.

    Eastern Europe the photographers “eco tour” are all the rage ……… Maciej is one of the few who photographs their own backyard……. the others here just go back and see what they want to see, a premeditated position

  6. Could I look at these images for any length of time probably not, even if I was in jail I would have a pin up girl as the photo

  7. I have nothing but the utmost respect for anyone who can go inside like this, truly under the skin. It screams authenticity. Powerful, fearless, brilliant and above all, real, real faces. Just great work. Cheers to you.

  8. Interesting thoughts, Imants:

    I’ve been viewing the finalists’ essays differently from the usual straight-up efforts presented on BURN. From where they were, to where they are, is interesting in of itself to view, as it shows actual growth, and thus maybe a precusor to hoped-for later growth. (I generally like to go back to essayist’s websites to see past work, but for the EPF finalists I make a special effort to do so.)

    Continual development in the photographer’s work is as important to me as the uniqueness of voice and authorship is to David. I have the feeling the judges dug a little deeper into the past work of the finalists to see if in fact some sort of growth had been accomplished. I’m not sure you’re correct in saying Maciej is at his beginning, even if your resulting conclusion is worth considering. I don’t view his present work as embryonic – even labelling it sophomoric would be insulting. Maciej is a thinking photographer whose potential growth excites me much more than his present voice.

  9. Koudelka visited Look3 this year; here’s hoping David sat down for an interview with him. In the meantime, some excerpts from his Charlottesville lecture (with information about his formative photography):

    You and I do not differ much on this essay but based on Maciej’s earlier work, I sense the potential for his future. This I can see only by noticing which rung of the ladder he is on.

  10. Never stated that there was no potential
    This is an important factor does he have those skills with strangers
    “I would like to present you portraits of the street’s residents, my neighbors, acquaintances, friends, people among whom I lived for so many years.”

  11. Yes strangers… Imants has got a point there. Strangers are whole different kettle of fish. A bit like the difference between fishing in a puddle and a raging sea.
    If he proves and continues to have the same compassionate eye and hunger with those who are unkown to him…then it maybe big stuff…

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