Photos

Photographer's Note

How close can you get ?

Is it possible to get so close to another human being with your lens that there is no more room for breathing…
So close…To share the wounds with another human being…
So close - to smell the sweaty odor of a dirty soldier's uniform ?
Is the lens of my camera so powerful to register that close encounter…?
----------------------------------------------
One of the oldest in my gallery… It's so old, that I suspect it was made before the photography was even invented.
Year - 1975
Camera: Smiena (!!!)
Location: Suburbs of Szczecin, very close to the East German border…

Here goes the story:

From the barracks of the Russian Division, stationed few kilometers away, some nutcase soldier broke-off and free as a bird was thoroughly enjoying the life style of a Polish countryside (or, the round softness of some Polish girl … Who knows?).
Hundreds of Russian troops were dispatched on foot to watch around every intersection, path, road, street in order to catch that poor soul (and, you must to know that our sympathy was entirely with that fugitive fella).
Group of 4-5 soldiers were positioned just around the house I lived in, next to the path leading to the Odra River.
It was my wife who said: Let's ask them to come to our house for cup of tea and lets chat for a while.
Finally, it was the 'komandir' of that group who decided (after long, long debate with his comrades) to step into the warmth of our living room.
A tea, a shot of something very, very special (Scotch whiskey - he never ever saw a bottle of Scotch whiskey at such close), some biscuits and a homemade pie, and this guy was completely softened and shattered to pieces by our hospitality, and by our enormous wealth (???)
Questions and answers were flying back and forth, and photos, his photos, our photos…

It was the awfully noisy squeak of the military truck' tires outside our window that made him jump in the air and run in panic out, trying to gather himself, tightening up the belt, buttoning up his uniform, mumbling 'spasiba' and run… run…

That characteristic ear piercing silence in our house after the thumping sound of his dirty, heavy, military boots faded away..

-----------------------------
Can you get any close than that ?
And it was 1975 and the camera was 'Smiena'…with the flash - but of course!

Before the photography was even invented…

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AzizS, marioana, luisafonso, ninaL, bantonbuju, bombilla, Nath, Clairedelune, Baileys, tigra, isabela_sor, designsoul, pilpel-adom, xuaxo, sebcz, plimrn, vizion, peck, s_a_s_h_a, serp2000, michelloupis - has marked this note useful
…………………………….

Photo Information
Copyright: George Grabarczyk (Polonaise) (18354)
Theme(s): Communist era, Pre-digital II, Dirty pictures, Life is real [view contributor(s)]
Original Date Submitted: 2007-02-16 11:12
Viewed: 1510
Points: 60


Discussions
To jmcl: Great note John plimrn 1 02-25 08:43
To pilpel-adom: Crib Polonaise 1 02-18 11:07
To designsoul: Van Gogh' ear ! Polonaise 2 02-18 00:02
To Clairedelune: How to understand ? Polonaise 2 02-17 00:03
To Nath: Flacha z whiskey Polonaise 1 02-16 21:24
To bombilla: Exquisitely unique Polonaise 3 02-16 16:32
To ninaL: Kostka lodu Polonaise 2 02-16 14:19
To ben4321: Fascinating past Polonaise 1 02-16 13:39
To bantonbuju: Pupka !!!! Polonaise 3 02-16 12:46
To jasmis: zaporozec Polonaise 3 02-16 12:44
To luisafonso: Sovet Army Polonaise 3 02-16 12:38



Critiques

AzizS (150)
[2007-02-16 11:22]



Very well composed, deserves respect (especially if you consider that the camera was a cmena :)
Congratulations


Gustaw (21360)
[2007-02-16 11:29]


O, ruski soldat! Pamietam bylo ich kiedys cale mnostwo w Legnicy. Gdy bylem w NRD tez tam chadzali calymi gromadami. Na szczescie pozostaly po nich juz tylko fotografie. Ciekawe archiwalne zdjecie.
Marek

luisafonso (13425)
[2007-02-16 11:42]


There's a lot of European history in that note of yours. What does CA means? Is it a ranking patent? Love the workshop. It makes even more sense. I too can hear the sound of his military boots fading away...


faubry (28742)
[2007-02-16 13:15]


Bonsoir George, again a beautiful typic George portrait, i like your style, very good work
soon
francine


ben4321 (9259)
[2007-02-16 13:31]


In thirty years time, all these digital images that most of us are shooting these days will still be as perfect and as sterile as the day they were taken. Where will the sense of wonder at discovering the past through photographs go for the future generations looking at the photographs taken today? No gritty black and white (unless some poor sap has "added grain" in photoshop), no scratches from the negatives sitting in a shoe box for thirty years, I could go on...
Thirty years is not so long ago, but looking at this it seems not only another time, but another world entirely.
As always George, it's fascinating to discover the past through your eyes.

Cheers,
Ben


bombilla (3361)
[2007-02-16 15:27]

Let's all have a drink to the echoing sounds of the boots running away. And also to the documentarians who think of the future and imagine the day when they will be able to remind others of the fear that noisy squeak can cause and how biscuits, pie and a warm room (and most of all a glass of Scotch, of course) can melt a cold winter, and a cold war, at least for a moment. Why, just look, today's the day. -Hugh



polter (4311)
[2007-02-16 15:47]


Właśnie dzisiaj sobie kupiłam film Michałkowa "Spaleni słońcem" i zaraz będe oglądała. Z gazetą dawali. Ja nigdy tej gazety nie kupuję, ale dzisiaj kupiłam. Przedziwny naród, jak by na to nie patrzeć. Dostojewski taki z jednej a gogolowski z drugiej. Prawosławny taki i pokorny z jednej a stalinowski i wszystko co za tym idzie z drugiej. A to wszystko skrzyżowane razem siedziało u Ciebie w pokoju pod regalem z ksiażkami, koło dziecinnego łóżeczka i się tak pięknie uśmiechało... Niech Cię. Duszę swoją rosyjską całą poskręcaną Ci w tym uśmiechu nieśmiałym pozwolił sfotografować. Czy można bliżej ?
A co do historii - prze do przodu jak ten czołg przydeptujac raz tę raz inną nację, to znów wszystkie nacje razem wzięte.

A smiena (smiena 3 to be precise) świetna była do slajdów - kolor obiektywu miała czysty, biały. Miękko rysowała, ale slajdy były super. Robiłam nią (nie powiem kiedy, żeby nie wyszło, że się urodziłam przed potopem) - i cudnie czysty pastelowy świat mi wyszedł do rzucania na ścianę :))) że practicą trudno było dorównać.


Nath (264)
[2007-02-16 17:10]


Jestem z Legnicy, zdarzyło mi się widywać takie obrazki. Raz byłam u znajomego gdy kilku rosyjskich żołnierzy zapukało do drzwi - sprzedawali benzynę na lewo, ale bardzo się spieszyli.
Wielu ludzi pewnie może opowiedzieć takie historyjki. Ale mieć do nich zdjęcia, bardzo dobre zdjęcia, to, jak mówi reklama, "priceless".
Tylko ta Whisky w PRLu mnie trochę zastanawia, to chyba było jednak rzadkie, ja nigdy nie widziałam ale może to dlatego że w czasach które ja pamiętam to czasem tylko bimber zostawał (jak się cukier dostało...)


Clairedelune (4735)
[2007-02-16 18:32]


It is difficult for me to comment this photo. I cannot pretend that I know what it is all about. If I’m able to speak at length about Catholicism, I can’t speak about Communism. I cannot pretend to understand the meaning of military boots echoing in a modest house in Poland in 1977. Oh yes, I saw movies, but this is not cinema. This is real life.
So, what’s left to me? To open my eyes and look carefully. And read carefully. And hear the emotions resonating through this photo, through your words. The photo in itself has a feel. Old photo, that’s for sure. I can’t help it, I like old photos, old buildings, old stories... I wonder, this man, is he still alive? Did he become a fugitive in his turn? How circumstances can make a man to act one way, or the other? And I see many books there... And old photos on a wall... And probably the bed of a baby... All that is moving George...
And your words... I cannot name the emotion coming from them. But there is emotion, that’s what is important to me. Even the "spasiba" is reverberating...
You will have to share this green smiley with your wife though. Not only she probably made the pie, but she was the one who had the thought in the first place. ;)

Claire


tigra (2948)
[2007-02-17 0:59]


Hello George
Very impressive portrait, should I say...
You are a real Master to my mind:)
Katia


ninaL (16171)
[2007-02-17 3:58]


O rany, ja zaraz odlece...!!! (;)))
Jurku kochany.
W drugiej klasie podstawowki uskladalam duzo pieniazkow na SKO (czy pamietasz, co to jest za skrot) ? no i kupilam sobie za nie aparat fotograficzny...SMIENA !!! Niestety, glupie dziecko bylam, po rusku jeszcze czytac nie umialam, na internecie tez sie nie znalam w 1973 roku, no i nigdy nie zrozumialam na czym polega "obsluga" aparatu. Gdy dalam do wywolania swoj pierwszy film, w wieku lat osmiu z groszami, wyszlo pare bladych zdjec...do ktorych pani fotograficzka dolaczyla reka napisana karteczke : deszcz i chmury : 2,8...slonce grzeje : 16...czy cos w tym rodzaju. No i to byla jedyna "lekcja" fotografii, jaka dostalam...bo w moim otoczeniu na prowincji bylam jedna z nielicznych posiadaczek aparatu fotograficznego...!!! Smienki, za niecale tysiac zlotych, bagatela, w tamtych czasach, to byla prawie pensja. No i na tym sie ze SMIENA skonczylo...dla mnie. Bo dla Ciebie, to dopiero sie zaczelo.

Piekny typ ten ruski soldat...czekaj, czekaj, on wode z lodem pije? Z lodem...? Niemozliwe. Przecie to imperialistyczna przyprawa do alkoholu !!! I na dodatek jedna kostke lodu zuje !!!

Piekne zdjecie. Z czarem.

Buzi dam Panu jutro...juz wszystko wyszlo...niestety...!!!

Grazyna.


Furachan (0)
[2007-02-17 4:14]


Like a picture from a long ago war... This "Russian Steve McQueen", unwanted guest, securing the borders of the Soviet Evil Empire (from both sides!!!) staring at us through the ages.
You are coming up with some powerful stuff, and the older the shot, the stronger it seems t me.
Amazing...
Francis


isabela_sor (34113)
[2007-02-17 4:20]


I saw your answer for our friend Claire, Together your note and this answer have a historical value!!!Really impressive series, George. When this pic was taken the photographer was in the soldier's mind and heart ....so close!
Best Wishes
With all my respect
Isabela


designsoul (21338)
[2007-02-17 16:52]


1977 ??? George, you had already been born by then? ;)

This shot is like Tarkovsky's Stalker, or even a Van Gogh self-portrait, etched in light and dark... the soldier's face, his awkward hand placed on that precious glass warming him, his innocent face ever so thankful and privileged, sitting in that quintessential East European interior packed with books, next to the baby crib... this is a shot that will stay with me for a long time, this face, the story you tell... the grain, the essential grain... his gratitude. Your wife, for one, should be equally celebrated here, lucky devil, she was the one whose heart had beaten for these poor fellows standing in the cold...
A most heartfelt, powerful work, George...
My hat's off to you.
sasa

pilpel-adom (2770)
[2007-02-17 19:30]


Gosh, George, you bring us god damn history to the Halls of Fame of TE!!!!
LOL!
Man, what a post!! Shucks, this shot is old as I AM!!!!!
You GET it!!?!? Like damn, do I need to get neated also?!
Awesome, Man, just awesome - so much can we learn about pass time, about how things never really changed at all...
I wonder where is this guy? What is he doing nowadays...
Great capture, no question about it, and good you took it - brings so much to TE!
Thanks, many thanks!
Chen


lemonice (633)
[2007-02-18 13:50]


Cześć Jurek
Dobre zdjęcie przypominające typowy komunizm, ale widać że już wtedy znali "Vodka on the rocks"
Pozdrawiam
Robert


prezntime (3937)
[2007-02-18 22:09]

Oh right...because the camera we're supposed to like this shot :)
I mean, yeah...your sorta close, but you got him drunk first...you dog. Taking advantage of this scared, brain washed young man to satisfy your photographic needs. Blinding the soldiers with your extreme wealth; you should know better than to show the goods of the Gods to us mere mortals. Like a deer in headlights...he should be out rustling up the other "nut-case", tearing him away from that buxom Polish girl...where it is so warm and soft...He is obviously a tyrant! Meant to deprive us of soft, warm, dreams huddled in the curve of some womans side.



Beautiful shot George.

Chris


xuaxo (4122)
[2007-02-19 8:17]


Cześć Jurek!
It seems a photo from WWII, except for the CA (Советская Aрмия) letters, maybe (because it was before the Красная Армия). When I saw it firstly I read: CA - Canada!!!

But then, it couldn't be, as they use the complete word. Then I read your amazing note.
I don't mark favorites at TE, but this is for sure one.
Na razie,
F


jmcl (12106)
[2007-02-22 0:24]


Hi George,

Here I am piling in late again .. hope you don't mind.
What to even say .. it is the eyes and the crib that speak loudest to me .. everything else seems to orbit that bridge.
I am starting to associate many of your images with this bridging of time and worlds ... maybe it is just that they do this for me.
I read your note to Claire.
and of course since I had to do music ...
I popped open my itunes and put on the Rondo from Alfred Schnittke's Concerto Grosso #1 ... I thought of it immediately .. this Russian composer painting this beautiful neo Baroque portrait and smashing it .. exploding it .. his most often played statement about his world .. a symbol that I can just can peep through the key hole of understanding .. I remember playing it for my class last year .. college sophomores born in 1987 .. they thought is was funny .. anyway I looked down on my indexing .. it was written in 1977.
checked out Smena's on ebay .. : )

Back to the opium of pretty bushes by the river ...

take care,

John

vs10001in (1456)
[2007-02-23 9:54]

Great...
Beautiful..
Very close..

Just beauty...
this is everything!!!!
-Regards,


sebcz (2345)
[2007-02-23 16:47]


Alez powiew historii... Notka niesamowita. Foto - no coż, portret. Gdyby byl zrobiony wczoraj, pewnie blyby full wypas ze swiatlem, rozdzielczoscią itd. Wiek zdjecia 'robi' klimat.
Pozdrawiam
Seb


batalay (15574)
[2007-02-23 17:41]


Dear George,

I knew if I glanced at your gallery, I would be captured. Anyone of the photos will do, and any of your recollections -- likewise. Here is a compelling portrait of the young soldier, who took a chance, and was rewarded by his experience. Of course, the portrait is first rate, you captured his soul, like the American Natives feared cameras would do to them, if they allowed a photograph. You have also masterfully focused on one eye (the center-line passes very near that eye). This was no doubt an intuitive choice!

Have a wonderful weekend,

Bulent


plimrn (16506)
[2007-02-25 8:41]


Dear George,
What an amazing photo!! I agree with your note to Claire; I suspect it may well be not just unique for TE but unique for the world. Clearly it took a LOT of pie and scotch to capture this one!! The story is very moving, I especially like your smart wife's role and your loving generosity in crediting her. Give her a hug from me and tell her I said to give you one herself. Ah well, as John says, back to the opium of pretty bushes. Do you suppose your wife could invite George Bush over for pie & Scotch?? HLJ, Pat



Mondaychild (1808)
[2007-03-07 4:46]


Hi George,

hmmm ... interesting photo, even more interesting note ... but it brings up some questions:
1.) Where did you get the Scotch whiskey from? I think it wasn´t easy in the "East" to get such things ...
2.) Were you frightened? I mean - were the Polish people (in general) frightened of the Russian soldiers? (I don´t know whether you had a reason for that - I was born 6 years after you took this photo, in a [rather free country ...)
3.) Why did you ask him in? Just because of hospitality?

Anyway, it´s a good display of times gone ... and this is also one of the best reasons for photography: even if we think a country/a town/a building/people/traditions will never change, once they do. Then photos are useful to remind us of the "good old days" or the not so good ones ...


jlynx (10315)
[2007-03-27 9:40]


Witaj,
A ja powiem tak: "zamienil stryjek, siekierke na kijek". w nieskonczonosc mozna by mowic o tych normalnych ludziach wymyslajac to to, to tamto. Ale rownie dobrze mozna by powiedziec: ci Japonczycy, tacy mili ludzie i tak wci±ż przepraszaj± w ukłonie; ci Niemcy tacy kulturalni i tak bardzo dzwigajacy kulture Europy; ci Amerykanie - ach Irak... A ci polacy tacy pobozni i w ogole.... I co z tego wynika? Otóż nic! Kompletne nic! Wazne jest jednak to co siedzi w czlowieku, a co przez fotografie wyciagnoles na sama powierzchnie szarego zycia. To wszystko pokazuje nam czlowieka rzuconego poza widnokrag normalnosci, czlowieka jak my gotowego kochac, ale i zabijac. Taki jest los ludzki czy tego chcemy, czy nie, a najsmieszniejsze w nim jest to, ze sami sobie go uparcie przedziemy. Fotka przede wszystkim tchnie minionymi czasami, ale i stanowi swego rodzaju uniwersalne memento. podoba mi sie taki przywolanie z przeszlosci.
Pozdrawiam,
Jurek



s_a_s_h_a (605)
[2007-05-04 2:17]


Hi George,
It's a very impressive portrait, piece of history and piece of our life in USSR.

Regards,
Alex


mortijo (10324)
[2007-07-02 1:52]


I've come here by accident..and I have been sitting here in front of my screen, staring at this picture, quite some time. Thinking, remembering, trying to re-visualize... An encounter with a Czech couple living in their car on a camping site in Lapad... They didn't even have a tent, they were frightened because the Russian army had just entered their country to 'save' them from capitalism... And Dubcek!... Strong memories...and you are reviving them with these photos.
Thank you for the note...

Regards, John


serp2000 (4044)
[2007-07-18 11:07]


Smena 8M? I have got Smena-Symbol, more progressive model.
Oh, my God! Where we was lived there? What's countries& What's politic system? I don't like Soviet communist times.
Somewhere I had the same uniform with CA letters. The sad times.
Thank you for the interesting story.
Best wishes from Ural,
Serghei


michelloupis (461)
[2008-11-10 10:36]


Finally I came to this picture. Let's not waste time commenting on the technique. It is a beauty. What an extraordinary expression! The Cold War turned warm. And a sublime note that slaps you in the face and throws you into real life. Thanks.

aristo, xuaxo, ninaL, mortijo, zmey, Clairedelune, s_lush has marked this note useful

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Points: 24
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Additional Photos by George Grabarczyk (Polonaise) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1785 W: 111 N: 868] (5802)
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