Zbyszko Siemaszko, photographer, architecture lover and Warsaw lover, lucked in to the perfect job. From the 50s through the 70s, he documented the rebuilding of Warsaw and the emerging Polish modernist school.
Siemasko’s genius for framing a picture, often taken from a distance, blurring detail, left you with a vision of the brave new world Warsaw’s planners were trying to create. Even if some of the concrete was butt ugly in close up.
Siemasko had several trademarks as a photographer. He loved high angles. He regularly hired a crane. That’s not a bad idea for architecture of course, but even with interior shots you often have the impression he stood on a table.
He prepared meticulously for architectural shots, looking at maps and plans, waiting for the light. Or something interesting to come along in the foreground.
Fate has not been kind to Poland’s modernist school and many buildings you will only find his yesteryear albums.
But in other parts of Warsaw, you can stand in exactly the same place where Siemaszko set down his tripod 50 years ago, and nothing much has changed.
There’s a new exhibition of his work currently on Krakowskie Przedmiescie, complete with commemorative, coffee table book. If you don’t have a coffee table, this .pdf from the National Archive offers a good collection.