One of the most prominent characters in polish photography, Zofia Rydet was born on May the 5th 1911 in Stanisławów and diedon the 24th of August 1997 in Gliwice. She became active as an artist in the 1960’s, producing the photographic series “Little man” and “The passing time”. During this period she also started working on a series of photomontages, titled “The world of emotions and imagination”, which was published as an album in 1979 with an introduction by Urszula Czartoryska. It consisted of 70 photographs constituting 15 poetic montages and had a powerful emotional impact. “My “World of emotions and imagination” – as Rydet wrote – speaks about man endangered from the moment of his birth, about his obsessions, solitude, desires, about fear that only love can save us from, about the tragedy of passing time, fear of extinction and destruction”. From 1978 for almost the rest of her creative life she worked on her most significant artistic achievement, “Sociological Record”, a monumental record of man and society, enclosed in dozens of thousands of negatives, and taken individually across a number of regions in Poland and abroad, such as Douchy in France and New York. In 1980 she presented her conceptual cycle, “Endlessly Distant Roads”. Her last important series turned out to be “A Silesian Suit”, shot at the turn of 1980s and 1990s. It consists of collages and photomontages containing references to her earlier photographs, mainly from “Sociological Record”, which the artist composed in the style of sacred folk representations, with wild flowers, materials, and newspaper cut-outs. Her work can be found amongst the most important Polish collections, including the National Museum in Wrocław, the Muzeum Sztuki in Łódź, the Museum of Photography in Cracow, the Silesian Museum in Katowice, as well as the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, The Museum of Modern Art in Kioto, and the National Museum of Photography, Film and Television in Bradford.
The major part of Zofia Rydet’s work is currently held by the Zofia Rydet Foundation, whose aim is to promote and reinterpret her work. Since 2011 the Foundation has co-organised Zofia Rydet photographic exhibitions across Poland and Europe, as well as publishing a number of items.
by Karol Jóźwiak
Two pages of manuscript found in the archive.
I was born on the 5.05.1914 in Stanisławów. After passing my final examination in the Classical Gimnasium, against my own wishes and under pressure from my parents, I began my high school education at the College of Economics in Lwów. After graduating, I first worked in education and later as an economist. My primary interest was always visual arts, especially painting. I attended painting courses and devoted every spare moment to developing my knowledge of painting. My first camera, from 1938, was a small “Box”. Though it wasn’t possible to do much with it, and then the war came which interrupted all of my projects. It wasn’t until 1951 that I started to take photography seriously, when I became the owner of an “Exacta”. In December 1951, participating in my first competion, I was awarded the third prize in the Photographic Contest organised by “Moda i Zycie”.
In 1954 I enrolled in the so-called Higher Photography Course, organized by the Katowice Polish Photographic Society with the Association of Polish Artists Photographers. The course lasted about two years. In 1956 I became a member of the Polish Photographic Society in Gliwice. For the first time I exhibited my work, in Gliwice and later on in Katowice. In 1957 I received a distinction at the 10th Art Photography Exhibition in Cracow and my work was accepted at the international exhibition “A step into modernity” organized by the Polish Photographic Society in Poznań. At the same time one of my works was accepted at the 7th National Photographic Exhibition, organized by the Association of Polish Artist Photographers, and was given the “Photooptics” award at the 8th National Exhibition of Amateur Photography. The same year was the first time I sent photograms abroad, to Bordeaux, France, and two of them were accepted. I become a member of the Board of the Polish Photographic Society in Gliwice, first as a treasurer and then as the manager of the Artistic Section. In 1958 I took part in the following exhibitions: Charleroi (Belgium), Aneona (Italy), Copenhagen, Edinburgh (Scotland), Biela (Italy), Bordeaux (France), Torino (Italy), Brno (Czech Republic), Barreiro (Portugal). I was given the following awards: 1st Award at the exhibition in Gliwice, 3rd at the 8th National Exhibition of Amateur Photography in Cracow, 2nd at the 11th National Contest of Touristic Sightseeing Photography. In 1959 I took part in the exhibitions: Hertford (England), 5 exhibitions in Japan, Glasgow (Scotland), Pondicherry (India), Liege (Belgium), Edinburgh (Scotland), Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), Budapest, Barcelona (Spain), Aneona (Italy), Bergamo (Italy), and Barreiro (Portugal). In 1959 I had two of my works accepted at the 7th National Photographic Exhibition organized […]
[…] organized by the Association of Polish Artist Photographers in Warsaw. In 1959, I received the diploma in Bordeaux, bronze medal in Paris, 2nd Award of the Minister of Arts and Culture at the 9th National Amateur Artistic Photography Exhibition in Warsaw, gold medal at the 12th Amateur Artistic Photography Exhibition in Cracow, 1st award at the 11th Amateur Artistic Photography Exhibition in Czestochowa, 1st Award at the Lower Silesian Museum Contest in Bytom, and 1st Award at the Tele-Photo Exhibition, organized by Warsaw Television.
In 1960, I had my work accepted at the following exhibitions: South Africa, Budapest (Hungary), Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, Fukuoka, Sendai, and Sapporo (Japan), Melbourne (Australia), Birmingham (England), Salisbury (England), Edinburgh (Scotland), Sydney (Australia), Saluzzo (Italy), Pondicherry (India), Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), Hong Kong, Kolkata (India), Bordeaux (France), Gent (Belgium), Modena (Italy), and Newcastle (England.)
Two of my works were also accepted at the contest organized by the Museum of Modern Art in Australia and at the New Generation Exhibition in Milan.
In 1960, I received: 1st Award of the Minister of Arts and Culture at the 10th National Amateur Artistic Photography Exhibition, Gold Medal in Cracow, 1st Award at the exhibition in Szczecin, 2nd Award at the exhibition in Gdansk, Bronze Medal in Modena (Italy), and 3rd Award at the “Mimoza wettbewerb” contest (Cologne, Federal German Republic).
In 1961, I had my works accepted by the following exhibitions: Barreiro (Portugal), Allabat (India), Uintenhage (Africa), Melbourne (Australia), Glasgow (England), Birmingham (England), and Oslo (Norway). At the Portrait exhibition (1961) in Paris 5 of my works were accepted.
In 1961 I received the following awards: Silver Medal in Paris, Bronze Medal at the 2nd International Exhibition organized by the Association of Polish Artists Photographers in Warsaw, Silver Medal at the 2nd International Exhibition organized in Katowice by the Polish Photographers Association, the Photovizion Award in 1961 organized by the Museum of Modern Art in Australia, 1st Award at the Contest of the Society of Friends of Children in Warsaw, and 1st Award at the Contest of the Province Touristic Committee in Katowice.
In 1961, on the 1st of June my individual exhibition in Gliwice was opened, under the title Little Man. I plan to present this exhibition in Katowice, Bytom and Cracow.
Presently, I am one of the organizers (Exhibition Secretary) of the National Exhibition “The Song About Our Land”. In 1960, I was granted the AFIAP distinction.