I’ve been working for some time now on a photo album with my best photos from 4 expeditions on the Kungsleden trail. It includes photographs from my portfolio, from an exhibition I had in 2023 and a few that I haven’t published yet. It is primarily a photo story but also weaves in thoughts found on the trail.
Work is still in progress, so I am releasing only the cover art as a teaser. The album will be first released as an ebook on the Apple Books platform. If there is enough interest, a print version will follow. There are also plans to make a small print limited handmade edition.
I will keep you updated on the progress here and the Mastodon platform!
I will also have some codes to give away for a free copy, so stay close!
Sometime between 2013 and 2014 I decided to commission a review of my photographs, looking for confirmation of whether the way I was photographing made sense, what mistakes I was making, where and what I could improve on. I had been photographing for about a decade by then, although I would describe that period as an intensive photography course, with the occasional intuitive slip-up when I was doing something at a decent level. I was mainly taking tight shots, searching for interesting details, looking at the world through focal lengths greater than 50mm. I sent out about 12 images for judging. My first portfolio ever. I expected criticism, of course, because that’s exactly why I decided to do it, but something more happened, I opened my eyes very wide. I found that the world was just as fascinating from the 17mm perspective, and the space allowed me to breathe deeper and gave me a sense of freedom. Landscape became my favourite subject from then on and I decided to start entering competitions with it. The first photo to win an honourable mention in an international competition is also one of my favourites, ‘One’.
Then there were further competitions including:
Fine Art Photography Awards (FAPA)
ND Awards Photo Contest
International Landscape Photographer of the Year
International Photography Awards (IPA)
MonoVisions Photography Awards
Monochrome Photography Awards
PX3 Prix de la Photographie de Paris
In the years that followed, in addition to landscape, my photographs were recognised in the categories of fine art, nature, conceptual and architecture.
All these awards and recognitions are very important to me because I am constantly aware that my artistic intuition has not gone astray and that what I am doing is still world class and improving.
So, after this long introduction, let me present all the awarded and recognised photographs with a final comment: the most honoured photo is “Flow” and the highest rated photo, i.e. the bronze medal at the competition in Paris, is “Only Birds”. Enjoy!
“Lutnik, Twórca, Artysta: Pracownia Stanisława Kurkowskiego”
Codziennie w naszym biegu nie zdając sobie z tego sprawy mijamy miejsca nieoczywiste, zaskakujące oraz ludzi, którzy są prawdziwymi klejnotami, gdyż robią rzeczy niezwykłe i mają niesamowite historie do opowiedzenia.
Wielokrotnie przechodziłem obok pracowni Pana Stanisława, zaglądałem przez okno i byłem zafascynowany tym co widzę. To jest okno do innego świata, tam czas płynie wolniej nawet niż na Placu Wolnica na krakowskim Kazimierzu. Pan Stanisław nie zwraca uwagi na przechodniów ponieważ przywykł do ich obecności. Jest skupiony wyłącznie na swojej pracy, bo tak wygląda pasja, która pochłania go całkowicie. Spogląda od czasu do czasu przez okno swojej pracowni na Plac Wolnica, bo jak mówi to go odpręża i nie wyobraża sobie już pracy bez tego widoku. W słoneczny dzień światło jest dobrze rozproszone, przy stole jest na tyle jasno, że można pracować bez sztucznego oświetlenia. Pan Stanisław buduje i naprawia instrumenty smyczkowe: skrzypce, altówki, wiolonczele. Od naprawy wiolonczeli dla Opery Wiedeńskiej po instrumenty dla dzieci “bo one (aut. dzieci) muszą grać, jeśli tylko chcą się uczyć i trzeba im w tym pomóc”. Być może ta pomoc płynąca z głębi serca przyczyni się do obudzenia w niejednym z nich pasji, którą będziemy mogli w przyszłości oklaskiwać w najsłynniejszych salach koncertowych świata.
Jego historia jako lutnika to nie tylko opowieść o rzemiośle, ale przede wszystkim o miłości do muzyki. Najpiękniejsze w skrzypcach jest to, że do końca nie wiadomo jak zagrają i czasami wychodzi coś fenomenalnego jak te, które wykonał z 400 letniego drewna odzyskanego z remontu kamienicy na ul. Kanoniczej w Krakowie. Jest w tym jakaś magia, tajemnica, bo mimo, iż wymiary i kształt pozostaję niezmienne, to każdy kawałek drewna, jego jakość, kraj pochodzenia, ułożenie oraz kształt słojów i sama obróbka mają ogromne znaczenie. Każdy instrument wykonywany jest ręcznie z wyczuciem, pieczołowitością i perfekcją. Skrzypiec nie da się zrobić w tydzień, samo lakierowanie i nakładanie kilkunastu jego warstw może zająć nawet rok. Instrument ukończony jest dziełem sztuki, to rzeźba będąca emanacją mistrzostwa, pasji i kunsztu zdobywanego przez ponad 40 lat pracy. W każdym instrumencie poza jego własną drewnianą duszą gra też dusza artysty, który go stworzył i może właśnie dzięki temy połączeniu instrument budzi się do życia dając muzykowi coś więcej niż tylko narzędzie pracy, a nam słuchaczom nieopisaną radość płynącą z każdym kolejnym wydobywającym się dźwiękiem.
Spędziliśmy razem zaledwie kilka godzin, ja robiłem zdjęcia, a Pan Stanisław opowiadał o sobie i o swojej pracy, o drodze zawodowej z rodzinnego Zakopanego do Krakowa przez Holandię i oczywiście o początkach kiedy kiełkowała w nim pasja, której efektami możemy się teraz zachwycać.
“Luthier, craftsman, artist: the studio of Stanislaw Kurkowski”.
Every day, without realising it, we pass places that are unexpected, surprising and people who are real gems because they do extraordinary things and have amazing stories to tell.
I have often passed Mr Stanislaw’s studio, looked through the window and been fascinated by what I see. It is a window to another world, where time passes even more slowly than on Wolnica Square in Krakow’s Kazimierz. Mr Stanislaw pays no attention to the passers-by because he is used to their presence. He concentrates solely on his work, which is a passion that consumes him completely. From time to time he looks out of his studio window at Plac Wolnica because, as he says, it relaxes him and he cannot imagine working without it. On a sunny day, the light is well diffused and the table is bright enough to work without artificial lighting. Mr Stanislaw makes and repairs stringed instruments: violins, violas and cellos. From repairing cellos for the Vienna Opera to instruments for children, “because the children have to play if they want to learn and they have to be helped”. Perhaps this heartfelt help will contribute to awakening a passion in many of them that we will be able to applaud in the world’s most famous concert halls in the future.
His story as a violin maker is not only about his craft, but above all about his love of music. The best thing about a violin is that you never quite know how it will play, and sometimes something phenomenal comes out, like the one he made from 400-year-old wood salvaged from the renovation of a tenement house on Kanonicza Street in Krakow. There is a kind of magic and mystery in it, because although the dimensions and shape remain the same, each piece of wood, its quality, the country of origin, the arrangement and shape of the grain and the workmanship itself are of great importance. Each instrument is made by hand with sensitivity, care and perfection. A violin cannot be made in a week; the varnishing itself and the application of its dozen or so layers can take up to a year. The finished instrument is a work of art, a sculpture that reflects the mastery, passion and craftsmanship of 40 years of work. In every instrument, apart from its own wooden soul, there is also the soul of the artist who created it, and perhaps it is this combination that brings the instrument to life, giving the musician something more than just a working tool, and us, the listeners, indescribable pleasure with every sound that emerges.
We spent just a few hours together, I took the photos while Mr Stanislaw talked about himself and his work, about his professional path from his native Zakopane to Krakow via the Netherlands and, of course, about the beginnings, when a passion germinated in him, the effects of which we can now admire.
In 2021 I was invited to participate in a photography event called „Light.sensitives” organised by the Department of Landscape and Cultural Heritage at John Paul II University in Kraków. The focus of the event, which brought together several writers and artists, was to showcase different visual forms of storytelling and to answer the question of what it is like to look at the world through the lens of a camera or camcorder.
“It is a real art to be able to perceive what escapes the attention of most people. Sometimes it is emotions, feelings, sometimes it is a ray of sunlight touching the leaves, sometimes it is a random arrangement of colours, sometimes it is a plant growing against logic on a pavement. It varies… But the essence is always that the framed reality has to tell a story.”
(university’s website event description)
My story and photo exhibition was about one of the most beautiful trekking routes in the world, the Kungsleden, which I visited 4 times. I fell in love with the far north, with this trail, with the unique and beautiful landscape, with the emptiness and the power of nature, which you can feel with all your senses. The emptiness gives you a sense of freedom, but nature is a constant reminder to be careful because you are insignificant. In my photographs I wanted to show the beauty of this place, carved by nature over millions of years without human interference, and perhaps infect others with this beauty. There are few places on earth where you can stand, look to the horizon and not see the concrete monuments of civilisation. Kungsleden is one of them.
This is a selection of photographs taken over several years on the trail and presented in the exhibition. Enjoy!
Everything starts and ends with paper and it’s quality. You start by coating the paper with a silver-based emulsion. The layer should be thin, but it depends on the paper how quickly it absorbs liquids. Sometimes the same brand of paper from the same manufacturer can vary from batch to batch due to differences in the pulp used to make it. Especially the handmade papers. If there are imperfections in the paper structure, chemical residues, they can now appear because of the difference in emulsion absorption. If that happens, the paper goes to waste or I develop it as an example for future reference. The emulsion takes between one and two hours to dry in a controlled humidity environment. When it is dry, it can be exposed. It’s a contact exposure, so the print is as big as a negative. Argyrotype, like cyanotype, is UV sensitive, so it is exposed under a UV lamp (UVA part of the spectrum) and takes between 4 and 16 minutes, depending on the paper and the density of the negative. Once exposed, development begins. There are three parts: a 7-10 minute rinse in distilled water to remove excess emulsion, a 2-3 minute bath in the actual developer (sodium thiosulphate) and a 20 minute bath in running water. After development, the paper must be allowed to dry completely, which takes about 24-36 hours in the press. The emulsion changes colour at each stage, from yellow before exposure, to orange and brown during development and drying, to black and white or various shades of sepia after drying. Again, the final result depends on the paper and you can check it when it is completely dry, so if there are any flaws… I start again. My record so far: 19 prints from one negative that didn’t work because of the paper, but I didn’t fail, I found 19 ways that it didn’t work 😉