Photographer Michał Szlaga moved into the shipbuilding colony of artists in 2002. Even before that he had already been documenting the transformation that was taking place. And he continues to do it today. The mighty (literally and figuratively) book published in 2013 under the simple title “Shipyard” was, unfortunately, a cry in the wilderness of the man who saw the tragedy but could not prevent it. And what is worse,he seemed very lonely in this cry.
His story began with a map. On it he marked the historic buildings that had disappeared before it was published. Szlaga witnessed their death, photographed their demise He created a catalog of losses describing the most interesting history of Gdańsk shipyard dating back to the 19th century. Because the yard is not only August, postulates, cranes, Walesa and the fence he jumped over. It’s more than 100 years of tradition and its material remnants, which today are consistently destroyed to make way for developer housing projects and fast lanes.
Michał Szlag’s photographic prose is melancholic, but the tragedy in subsequent pictures is described with a cold consequence. This is because the photographer reached for the scientist’s instrument – he became a conservator of monuments, assuming that since no one had made an inventory of the historic yard, in the end he must do it. He was aware of his limitations and he invited specialists to cooperate over the book. It is they: Waldemar Affelt, expert on national monuments, and Jacek Dominiczak, architect, who were authors of professional texts in this album. Thanks to them, we can understand what we see in Michał Szlag’s excellent photographs. A tragedy written in dozens of acts, whose end, unfortunately, is still nowhere to be seen.
Michał Szlag’s photographic album is an absolutely canonical work for understanding what has happened with the architectural substance of the cradle of Solidarity. It was only after the publication of this book and the debate connected with it that the city authorities and the conservation services decided to take a closer look at the problem. Yet it was too late for many of the buildings.
Filip Springer (“Book of Delights”) Michał Szlaga – born in 1978, graduate and lecturer at the Gdańsk Academy of Fine Arts. He deals with photography and video. He debuted with a series of staged self-portraits called “What made me?” (2002). Systematically documents Polish reality (“Poland – Reality”/ 2007-2016/, “Pixel Prostitutes” / 2007-2016). In 2000 – 2013 he was occupied with taking photos of the Gdansk Shipyard – the already famous Shipyard project includes photographs showing the shipyard’s last years before it was demolished. In 2016 a copy of the exhibition of the STOCZNIA [SHIPYARD] project got to the Pompidou Center in Paris – almost 60 museum objects (slides, museum prints, a film and book titled “Shipyard”) were exhibited. For many years he has earned his living through cooperation with the press, he published, among others in Malemen, Przekrój, Newsweek, and in women’s press.