photographic index

ba digital photography london south bank university

Agata Wierzbicka


 I live in a tower block
 Aga Wierzbicka
inkjet photographic print
 I wanted show girls, their characters, personalities through place where they live.
Image completed May 2007. Made in response to Anita Corbin’s photographic series ‘Visible Girls’. Girls subcultures box held at the London South Bank University, London. A series of 3 images.

 Girls, Subcultures
Measurements: 42cm x
Location: London South Bank University Digital Photography Dept
ID Number: PI-RGSB-AWP001(PI=Photographic Index,
Licensing: Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 UK: England & Wales, Aga Wierzbicka c/o London South Bank University, Digital Photography Course, UK

I have never belonged to any particular “sub-culture”. Personally, I never felt strong enough about any ideology or lifestyle to become a part of it. I find joining with a particular group or cult a bit dangerous as it creates differences and/or fractions between people. Also being obligated to follow the rules of one of any subculture stops you of trying new things. I feel that it’s good to be open for everything rather than limit yourself to one option.

Nevertheless I was always interested in people, especially girls playing with and enhancing their image. The way they dress and composite different styles together, different colours, make their make up or hairstyle. And also the way they live, where they spend time, how they design their space. I think its way of communicating with others and making statements about ourselves.

I like it when girls are not afraid to experiment with their look, to create their own image rather than follow any rules, like modern fashion for example. It’s fascinating how you can become your own artwork. Living in London every day I meet people on the street or on the bus who surprise me with various unique styles. Their own style, which doesn’t belong to any subculture or particular group. And because I don’t have a strong opinion about any subculture my project is about girls like me, who like to be visible but not conforming to a social group.

The characters in my photographs are girls who are not part of any ideological group. Girls who still trying to find their place in life. They not teenagers anymore but they not quite adults either. And their life is still a mess, disordered just like their rooms. They are living in the relatively poorer parts of London, in the grey, industrial blocks, working long hours in the local pubs, buying their clothes from markets or charity shops. But still they manage to colour their lives.

They all are foreigners; they left they own country and came to England to start their lives from the beginning. I think because they are from different countries (Paula is from Poland, Charlotte is French) they bring something new and fresh. They are picking up from English (Londonish) culture what they want but also keeping elements of their own culture. They are strong, intelligent girls, interested in art and literature and finding their own way of being creative. During my project I spent a bit of time with them and it helped to get know them better. Personally it was a new experience for me as for a long time I was focused on self-portraiture. So opening myself for someone else’s life experiences was a positive change.

All of girls from my project are renting their rooms and sharing with others so they have very little of their own space.
I find it very inspiring how they design their place and themselves, lives full of clutter, rooms filled to bulging with junk and life’s artifacts. They maybe have no money but they definitely have imagination. Paula is often finding things next to rubbish bins, like old furniture or old broken mirrors; things left over by people who no longer need them anymore. She is bringing them home, refurbishing them and always finding some space or use for them in her room (which she shares with two other girls). I feel strongly about this kind of ‘recycling’ as it is what my own art is often about.
I decided that I want to show these girl’s personalities, their characters, through the spaces they are living in. They place they choose to be their home.

I have always been a city person. I was born in Warsaw, the capital city of Poland.
I grew up in a run down, communist designed neighbourhood. Seeing every day dirty lobbies, worn walls, graffiti, and constantly broken elevators influenced me as an artist and helped determine my love of such things, my aesthetic. I’m not a fan of sweetness and light. I like noise when I’m failing asleep, I like travelling by bus, I like cheap bars, dirty streets and apartments on high levels. That’s why I chose girls living in poor, working class parts of London, as they are the image of the culture I’m interested in. London’s dirty tower blocks, it’s old, crumbling apartments with tiny rooms; it all became another character or personality in my work.

The town or city you are living in always has its own spirit, even if that spirit is banality and greyness. The role of a town in its people’s lives is very visible in Woody Allen’s films. Most of his movies portray an image of Manhattan, or New York, which shows that the town/city can be an important canvas or palette for the artist. It looks as though the atmosphere of Manhattan determinates its character’s behaviors. You can see a lot of the city in his films, streets, local cafes and shops but also a lot of relationship drama is placed in people’s apartments. Woody Allen (or rather the character played by Woody Allen) often comments on Manhattan and life in the city conurbations. I think that every town creates a particular mood which is very important for artwork.

I find the life of girls a bit schizophrenic. They balance between two worlds… in one they’ve got 48 hours of brainless work in the pub, and the second world they can be more like themselves, where they go to cinema, exhibitions or hunting for something unique in local charity shop.

In my work I wished to link to photographs of Anita Corbin, that’s why there are only girls in my pictures. I find the fact Anita was taking pictures of girls a strong element of her portfolio. It was very interesting to see the worlds that the girls were growing up in and inhabiting. It makes you wonder if they were ever having similar crises to you, similar problems and preoccupations. Was their life easier or more difficult? And was it really so different…? The thing I like the most about Anita’s work is that it’s not only about clothes or make up… Every one of her pictures contain a lot of emotions and atmosphere. From our meeting with her I know that she spends much time with girls, characters of her work, so she is able to get closer, to get something important or personal from them and still make pictures look natural.

Just like Anita, I took pictures of girls in their natural surroundings. But because I create my pictures rather than find them, all of my photographs are posed and later manipulated in Photoshop. I like to make colours look strong as I wants to emphasise that maybe girl’s lives seem to be dull and grey like tower blocks they live in but really when you look close enough their world is full of colours.

I’m not a documentary photographer. I pay to much attention to form and general aesthetics of photography. I like “unreal” pictures, created by me and my imagination. I am not so interested in situations from real life. That’s why colours and composition in my photographs play such an important role. I wanted them to still look interesting even when they out of context from the subject.

The main purpose of my work was to show individual people rather than a social group and their surroundings. I like my artwork to be personal and with emotion. I don’t believe in objective photography. That’s why my work shows my observations, the way I saw girls and their world.

3 Responses

  1. Roxanne Tucker says:

    This work was something that I really enjoyed looking at, I really like the photographers use of bright colours in all her photos, especially when the background for the images is very mundane. I think that all the photographs show that the girls have very different characters, in particular I like the third set of images, I like the fact they are all taken outside. I like the way she has used photoshop to edit her images but it is not too over the top and it really works well within the brief. I think that the models were very open to let themselves be photographed in their personal space and environment and I feel that the photographs really bring through a sense of pride in what the girls are learning about themselves while living in England. A really interesting set of images and a strong piece of text, both personal and informative.

  2. Bori Lugosi says:

    These photos are very interesting for me, as they show personal information about these girls and maybe because I can find some similarity with my self in them as well. The images are creating a good series next to each other,they are very well selected and edited in photoshop.
    The background information about the photographer is very interesting and explain well the personal motivation and the photos as well.

    The third set some why look different compare to the first two, as it dose not show that much information about the person. The images made me remember of the movie Run Lola Run, as any of these pictures could suit in to the movie.

    nice work.

  3. PiterJankovich says:

    My name is Piter Jankovich. oOnly want to tell, that your blog is really cool
    And want to ask you: is this blog your hobby?
    P.S. Sorry for my bad english

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