/ Ruben van Luijk / Photo story

Notes from Poznań

Poznań is a city in Western Poland. From 2018, I worked here for two years teaching my native language. When not at work or drinking wodka, I cruised the streets with my trusted Agfa Clack to take pictures. This picture-taking became an art project when I found a photographic darkroom in the basement of an experimental theatre and started to print my negatives and positives on Warschaupact era ‘Document’ paper.

What is Document paper? It is essentially paper for making photocopies in the true sense – a thin emulsion on thin paper meant to copy documents, books or pictures. The product was not confined to Eastern Bloc countries but was much more persistent there due to the late introduction of Xerox copying. It is said that the authorities preferred to discourage the much more easy Xerox product because they feared it would facilitate samiszdat publishing and the quick reproduction of other dissident texts.

Printing on this paper, I found, gave me highly atmospheric images. It also brought about a strange time-warp effect. A city that in fast pace had come to resemble its Western-European counterparts suddenly seemed to be plunged back into its communist past. Apart from grim PRL remnants and spontaneous street scenes, I also liked to photograph eminently contemporary subjects. The result is a picture book eerily disjointed from history, a strange parallel universe, rooted on the one hand in the Poznań of reality, but on the other hand only existing in photography.

Ruben van Luijk is a Dutch visual artist living in Poland and Ukraine until recently. The darkroom prints from Notatki poznańskie will be featured in a solo exposition in Poznań’s Łazega Poznański opening November this year, and also in an accompanying artist book that will be available via uitgeverijnadorst.nl