Slackwater is a project based in the Grabówek district in the environs of the city of Gdynia in northern Poland. This is a region which has historically experienced extreme economic advantage on the one hand but has equally suffered from total economic collapse due to the rise and fall of Poland's shipyards. The tight-knit community featured in the project live on the periphery of this port city. They enjoy the freedoms associated with unregulated urban planning, but at the same time suffer from a lack of municipal services and neglect. It is a place in a state of suspense, frozen in time, replete with makeshift dwellings that are more reminiscent of the Polish countryside than city dwellings. This results in a sense of fragile temporality but also one of fierce independence. Grabówek is an unofficial town, a place which is testimony to the sociopolitical changes of the late 1990's in Poland. Additionally, it is a metaphor for the current crisis facing communities within Europe's increasingly failing economies.
This series of photographs was produced over a period of one year. It sets out to subjectively observe and celebrate the intimacies of life in this community, its people, its architecture and its positioning within wider Polish and European society. This is achieved by making subtle connections between various perspectives associated with being an insider/outsider, between citizens and the state and the relationship between the personal and political.
Slackwater carefully navigates between shifting positions and viewpoints, including direct references to my own family and the fragility and precariousness of all the people living in this community. Through a combination of a straight documentary photography and images imbued with metaphor and allegory, an intimate and personal insight emerges, revealing the state in which inhabitants of this area are living. It also critically exposes a sense of fragmentation, evoking painful memories of a former controlling state in a place where citizens are equally dispossessed.
The Copper House Gallery in Dublin
(photographs ©Barry Keogh)