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Exposing Wounds: Traces of Trauma in Post-War Polish Photography

Gill, Sabina (2017) Exposing Wounds: Traces of Trauma in Post-War Polish Photography. PhD thesis, University of Essex.


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This thesis draws on psychoanalytic theories of trauma to interrogate works produced by Polish photographers after the Second World War. The aim of this thesis is to excavate traces of trauma latently embedded in post-war Polish art photography. By closely analysing a selection of photographs produced between the years 1945 and 1970, I argue that the events of the war cast a shadow over the lives of Polish artists. Rather than looking at photographs which directly visualise these traumatic events, I explore the ways in which these experiences manifest themselves indirectly or obliquely in the art of the period, through abstraction, a tendency towards ‘dark realism,’ and an interest in traces of human presence. Drawing on the photographs of Zbigniew Dłubak, Zdzisław Beksiński, Jerzy Lewczyński, Bronisław Schlabs, Andrzej Różycki, Józef Robakowski and other post-war photographers, I argue that the events of the war were not the only traumas to cast their shadow on the Polish psyche. Between 1945 and 1970, Poland underwent a series of transitions and changes in leadership, population and Party politics. Periods of optimism and leniency oscillated with phases of repression and social unrest. In my analysis, I suggest that multiple traumas can be discerned in these decades. What is at stake in this thesis is the proposition that a photograph can bear imperceptible traces of events that have wounded the psyche, which could not be articulated at the time, but which were made visible at a later date. Photographs made in the post-war years provided a space to belatedly return to encrypted traumas, to relay ideas that could not otherwise be articulated, and to acknowledge events that had been disavowed.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Photography history; 20th Century; Photography, artistic; Photographers; Psychoanalysis and art; Psychic trauma in art; Photography - Poland
Subjects: N Fine Arts > N Visual arts (General) For photography, see TR
T Technology > TR Photography
Divisions: Faculty of Humanities > Philosophy and Art History, School of
Depositing User: Sabina Gill
Date Deposited: 11 Jul 2017 08:54
Last Modified: 11 Jul 2017 11:17

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