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Karol Grygoruk – I Love You Dad / 6×7 Leica Gallery Warsaw

The exhibition organized in connection to the premiere of a debut photobook by Karol Grygoruk, I Love You Dad in 6×7 Leica Gallery Warsaw. The work included curating the exhibition, and creating promotion strategies for the project. The project was managed by my agency REZO, together with Ana Zalewska, who managed the production of the exhibition and the book.

“The pictures are not made to disturb people’s consciences but rather to disturb their consciousness. The pictures do not ask to “help” those people, but something much more difficult; to be briefly and intensely aware of their existence, and existence as real and significant as their own”, a photography curator and critic Hugh Edwards noted in 1966. This statement could be applied to the work of generations of photographers, especially those whose images reflect how deeply they engaged in the given situations and how strong they managed to connect with the people they documented. The images that come to mind are those associated with the genre of participatory documentary, historic but timeless works by Walker Evans, Robert Frank, or Danny Lyon. Karol Grygoruk, with his work “I Love You Dad” follows their footsteps.

When Grygoruk started working on the project in the beginning of 2016, the turning point in the Thai society was already to be sensed: one of the longest reigning king’s in the world, Bhumibol Adulyadej’s health was on the fall, and the changes seemed inevitable in Thailand – the country of paradoxes. On the one hand Thailand is one of the most dynamic economies in Southeast Asia, which raise is represented by the magnitude of shopping malls, skyscrapers, and luxurious resorts. On the other side of this seemingly more progressive reality are however those who were left behind: people counted in millions, who survive in extreme poverty, deprived of basic human rights: of education, of gender equality, and of freedom of speech. What they have in common though is only one thing: they all say without any hesitation that they love the King. They have to.

Thailand remains under military dictatorship since 2014. According to the Article 112 of Thailand’s criminal code anyone who “defames, insults or threatens the king, the queen, the heir-apparent or the regent” faces up to 15 years in prison.” In the year 2017 Thailand’s lese majesty laws stays among the strictest in the world. Complexity of the power relations, and an ambiguous coexistence of the faces of the regime seem to be contradictory. Grygoruk captured this paradox showing that under the surface created according to the paradigm of power, there is a world that remains unseen, especially to the Western tourists and observers. In search of complexity between fascination of power, he pictures the troubling co-existence of obedience and resistance documenting various social groups that show shattered layers of the Thai society: people from the slum areas, lady boys, prostitutes, as well as teenagers whose fascination with the Western culture. Using photography and perhaps even most importantly – his sociological eye – he managed to develop significant language in his photography, a sociological narrative filled with symbols that transcend the cultures – the one he documents, and the one that he originates from. His images may seem straightforward yet they are always multi-layered, the situations he documents may seem intimate yet they become universal, the histories he depicts may seem location specific, yet they are timeless.

Through the individual stories we get the bigger picture, not only about the universal mechanisms of power, but also about the constantly repeatable mechanisms of history that unfold right in front of our eyes. Perhaps when we stop and look closer, we may also change its path.

Text by: Wiktoria Michałkiewicz