Posted by Paulina Wanowska on 14th July 2011
During one of those autumn days I used to wander about the old Warsaw quarter of Praga I found a small alley unknown to me. Its name was Krowia, which means Cow Alley. Within the fog I spotted an old, almost collapsing building. My first impression was fear. Fear and secrecy. The building was surrounded by a high fence with a plate on it informing that crossing it may put intruders at risk. The building could collapse any time. “No crossing. –I thought– No way”. I’m getting in…
The place reminded me of scenes from Polanski’s movies, showing a bombed Warsaw shortly after the war. The year was 1948. Smoke in the air and, under the rubble, imprisoned dolls, papers and many other things. The place was quite scary but I checked every single part of it. Every single recess. All the time I had the strange feeling that I wasn’t alone there. Noises, sounds. I didn’t know whether those breaths I could hear belonged to me or perhaps to some other… creatures.
During next few days I couldn’t stop thinking about that building. Krowia Alley was appearing in my thoughts, my dreams. A few months later I successfully passed exams at the Warsaw Academy of Fine Art, School of Graphics. My profession was photography. My parents gave me my first professional equipment: a Minolta camera. From then onwards, I saw the surrounding world as a game of lights and shadows. Shapes and symmetries. I was playing with forms and content. And one day I just started to save it all in my photographs.
The Cow Alley became my monad. During one of the photographic sessions both me and my friend heard the sound of steps approaching us slowly, but we couldn’t see anybody. It really was a methaphysic place probably inhabited by souls. I never found any more information about that building. I don’t know the reason why it has been burnt and whether there were any victims in the fire. I was so scared that on several occasions I run out of the building at the Cow Alley, but I kept coming back to that place in spite of my fear. The building gave me an inspiration, space in which I wanted to situate a human being.
I fell in love with photography and started to see the world as a moment, an instant which should be documented, preserved still within the image...
Text and images by Paulina Wanowska. The images belong to her series 'Monads'.