Feature Photographer: Marcin Ryczek talks about getting one of the most iconic photos of 2013


Written by James Ratcliffe
15 Wednesday 15th January 2014

A Man Feeding Swans In The Snow has become one of the most loved, blogged, and talked about photos of 2013. We caught up with the man behind the photo, Marcin Ryczek, our feature photographer for January. 

We also took a look at the rest of his Collector's Series of symbolic conceptual photography, a truely beautiful collection of photos.

Your photo 'A Man Feeding Swans in the Snow' is one of the iconic shots of 2013. What was your initial reaction when getting such a photo?

Yes, this picture has met with extremely positive reception in social media. A Man Feeding Swans in the Snow, also received a number of significant competition awards, publications in the world's newspapers and exhibitions in Poland, Germany, Japan, China and France. It's strength lies in the fact that it gets into the hearts and minds of people in different cultures, on different continents, irrespective of their place of residence, religion, or political views. I receive a lot of emails from people from all continents, who describes to me their own, very different interpretations of this photo. This is it's strength. I enjoy these successes, but what gives me the greatest joy are numerous letters and phone calls from strangers, who are thanking me for my photo giving them a lot of joy in their lives, inducing deep reflection and positive emotions. What could be more beautiful for any author? And when this media popularity is confirmed by very positive feedback from business professionals and competitive adjudicator, it gives you a full satisfaction and a great incentive
to work.

A Man Feeding Swans In The Snow

Has the photo had a big impact on your photography career, as it has been covered across so many media brands and websites?

Certainly the worldwide success of  A Man Feeding Swans in the Snow has had a big influence on the development of my career, interest in me and my other pictures. Initially, the press and internet portals were mainly interested only in this photography. It was published in newspapers and websites almost all over the world including: England - The Guardian; Germany - Der Spiegel; Israel - Yedioth Ahronoth; Italy - La Repubblica; Denmark - Politiken; Switzerland - 20 Minuten; The Australian; National Geographic; TheTelegraph. It was also appreciated in several important photographic competitions, including the last Grand Prix de Découverte: International Fine-Art Photography Award, where it won first prize and it was admitted to the prestigious collection of the Bibliotheque Nationale de France. After these successes I noticed an increase of interest in my other works from a consistent and minimalistic series of symbolic and conceptual photography, maintained in a similar "climate" as '' A Man Feeding Swans in the Snow. It is also appreciated by specialists who often emphasize, that I have a unique and distinctive style.

Out Of The Grey

What has been your attraction to working in B&W?

I would describe my photographs as minimalistic, which means that my main objective is to keep a minimum in form and a maximum in the content. As to the form, I refer to the geometry, symmetry and straight lines. Black and white emphasize even the minimalism of my photos. Images created by using black and white are create a nostalgic mood, which has always been close to me in photography, music videos or in movies. Black and white is also a reference to the classic, which gives images greater nobility. It does not mean, however, that I am void of colour. If the use of colour in photography is justified, as in my picture The United States of India, then I will use different colour palettes. But I do so only in exceptional circumstances.

United States Of India

How long have you been practising as a photographer and what is your background in Art & Design?

At the beginning, it was a need to "stop in time" some exceptional faces, unusual places, interesting and culturally strange situations and customs, which I have observed during my many travels, especially around countries of East Asia. Later, especially after graduating in computer graphics, I had combined my two great passions: photography and graphics and began to implement to my painting elements related with graphics and symbols. This kind of photography welds very well with my sensibility and a technical workshop. I have focused on minimalistic symbolic conceptual photography and in it, I express myself. If my reflections, transferred initially on paper in the form of images, have an affect on other people, on their sensitivity and emotions. This for me is something amazing and beautiful, it is a timeless experience.

The Graph Of Life

What do you find inspiring?

In the natural environment, I tried to search for my photographs, shapes which can be related to geometry but without using any graphic programs. Graphic nature of images must go hand in hand with their reflective, symbolic message. Only then the image creates a coherent whole. Only this kind of photography allows me to express myself, it's something like "what is in my heart and soul", our experiences, doubts, questions, internal tensions and emotions. A transmission of our thoughts and reflections in the form of an image, made in the natural environment, not directed, often bided, becomes very real and authentic in its character. Component that connects all my work - which is very important to me - is the man who appears in these symbolic landscapes. His thoughts, aspirations and relationship with the surroundings, inspire me for exploration of new concepts and their implementation in a simple, natural environment. Inspiration for good and "real" pictures can be found almost everywhere. It is rather a matter of internal sensitivity, imagination and openness to people and the environment. It was not elsewhere but in Cracow, where I took my most popular picture, just next to my home, not some kind of exotic scenery.

Hiroshima - Phoenix rising from the ashes

Who are your heroes? 

The main subject of my work is a man, in relation with his natural environment, facing physical and cultural challenges within his environment. First of all, I want my works to be creative. So I don't want to make them only as the recapture of reality around me, but a conceptual image, which will encourage for reflection, move the imagination and sensitivity of people who would come into contact with it. In the presented image, there has to be some kind of central idea, thought, around which the recipient will be able to move his imagination by various topics. In A Man Feeding Swans in the Snow that main idea and concept, from which that image was created, was the eternal struggle and intermingling of good and evil, yin-yang symbol, the opposing but complementary forces. The United States of India is a symbolic statement of such culturally different worlds in just one image. It encourages reflection on difference of cultures, way of life, choice of values ​​and life paths, contained in the always present question "to have or to be". Graph of life is a question of how we perceive the evanescence and how variously that changing condition is perceived by us physically, spiritually or transcendentally. Hiroshima - Phoenix rising from the ashes, reflects my thoughts and emotions related to stay in this very important for the history of mankind place. Hiroshima, just like the mythical Phoenix bird, a symbol of eternal rebirth, was formed from the ashes and became a symbol of memory, peace and mercy. Each of these works , in their simple minimalistic form, is to be the medium of deeper reflective thoughts. My last work Out of the Grey refers to the human endeavours to change often "grey", dull and joyless life into new one, filled by more valuable content. Out of the grey (towards white) can also be seen from a spiritual and metaphysical perspective, as a natural desire to do good, or as the unearthly journey from Purgatory to Heaven.


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