Author, Helen Tootsi

@helentootsi, Staff Writer
Los Angeles

Swoszowski is an anonymous bystander, openly looking at the world through a camera lens. Collection of moments of everyday meant for the naked eye to see; a CCTV still from a second in time and place, capturing the crispness of right now. Unobtainable feeling of familiar mixed with structurally well-composed brightness of a fracture in time.

PhotographyAmericanaUrbanSocialDocumentaryStreet

The combination resonating through Swoszowski's handwriting plays homage to emotion in Hopper’s paintings, and the colour combinations to Turrell’s fascination with light and space. For someone who doesn't classify himself as a brand of sorts, as an artist with clear solidified trademark, his style certainly has a flare of its own. Call it a brand or not. Unapologetically honest, architecturally calculated breaths of a moment in time. A fracture of life served in crisp and vivid tonal platter. With the vision of imprinting his style on the different parts of the world, Swoszowski pulls his inspiration from people and everyday moments life feeds him. Artist’s presence in the photography is minimal to non-existing. His process of anticipating and reacting, rather than being noticed, creates imagery comparable to untouched fresh snow. A bright, saturated and crisp snow.
The kind that reflects rays of uniqueness off the surface of moment just captured. Street photography is an art form where preparation, an eye to notice the unexpected and speed of reacting to catch the right glimpse meet. Cartier-Bresson once wrote: “A photograph is neither taken or seized by force. It offers itself up. It is the photo that takes you. One must not take photos.” And that’s what Swoszowski’s work is striving towards. With a strong belief that pictures are not taken for the people of today, the artist focuses on capturing a feeling. His images are intentional and layered. Artist’s buddhist upbringing in the middle of the concrete jungle of New York City combined with the exposure to various 1990’s fictional visual worlds across the movie and video game platforms infuses his creation with intriguing details.
The way visually calculated spaces collide with tonality, even emotion in his subjects, allows the viewer to really sense a feeling in an image. Swoszowski’s goal is to bring as many unique images into the physical world as possible, slowly moving toward the fine art photography realm. The continuous distillation of his own aesthetic language keeps the artist’s work live. I certainly am left with curious anticipation about the evolution in Swoszowski’s handwriting in the next couple of years. Will he mould his distinct style in fine art street photography? What will it look like?
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The Interview

How did the magic happen?

I was introduced to photography in 2003, I was in 9th grade and I was just as obsessed with cameras as I am now. It wasn't until 2012, that the thought of working as a photographer professionally was even introduced into my mind. In that period of time in-between, I had passionately pursued an education and career path as an industrial designer. I dedicated myself to the design process, and then all of a sudden I let that path go. I know industrial design has influenced my photography, though it is photography that truly liberated me as a creative.

And the streets?

I initially started shooting candids of dogs on the streets of New York. Being a dog person, they were simply what my heart was drawn to, and they were completely themselves in front of the camera. Eventually I caught a couple shots of people in frame with their dog, and I noticed I was drawn to these photos more. This was the transitional step that got me hooked on documenting people candidly, fuelled by love for dogs.

As a street photographer, do you ever think about your own presence in photos?

Absolutely! You know I think I have approached street photography for so long trying to make as little impact as I can on people around me. Really try to move incognito, because I found that the more I took candids of people, the more I wanted to remain unseen or unfelt what comes to presence. That means not disturbing the moment, you know?! Most of the people that I photograph don’t even notice that they have been photographed. You become very tuned to their reactions, big or small. Most people are so involved in their own worlds that you can float in and just take their photo.

It’s amazing how much body movement is involved with photography and candids. You are navigating around people that you want to capture and if you try and not to disturb them, or catch their attention; you learn subtleties of how to kind of dread lightly. So for a long time I restrained from any personal influence on a moment. And that has lead to some interesting things I have caught. It’s funny that now I actually find myself very much interested in having some sort of presence.

Why the change? Was that more of a professional progression or personal need?

No artist or designer wants to become complacent for sure. And I feel with myself and with my friends, and with the people we attract, they are normally the people who have the ambition to continually grow. I have noticed that this reaction to moments I have, has become so natural for me that I am doing it all the time. On camera or not. This has become the way I am living and breathing. I guess I’m now ready to express little more directly. I am still trying to figure out what that message is, what that emotion is, but it’s exciting. I think it’s just me wanting to express more powerfully, more vividly.

Do you ever subconsciously think about details you’re after when you shoot?

It took me a while to develop this, but I’m conscious of certain things in the moment of taking a photo, but I fully believe that my awareness extends into my subconscious. And so even when I’m going back through a photo and notice those things consciously after.
Everything was and is intentional.

I was curious about art before buddhism entered my life. Having two parents that were buddhist taught me to really focus on compassion and think about everyone. Every living thing. You are also studying your own awareness. Pushing it. This has absolutely influenced my curiosity of everyone; and for the subtle details. Sometimes I’m creating work and ask myself - am I truly diverse in types of people that I am capturing or am I gravitating towards one race, one sex, one type of person? I don’t feel that consciously, I don’t think so. What triggers that compulsion to document is something else beyond that. It’s body language, an expression or feeling that I see in someone else that resonates with me. I know that if it resonates with me it must resonate with someone else too. That's what I want to bring the attention to! Those similarities that extend beyond where, who, we choose to be, to represent ourselves. Those details.

Who is the audience for your work?

Because I grew up being shy for a long time, I’m the work that I am producing. It’s not for now! It’s not for people now. Ultimately it’s for everyone, but the only people who are going to pick up on it now are very small specific group. And...I’m not making work to be popular to anyone now.

Is beauty in details or is it in the bigger picture?

It’s certainly everything, but...Everything is equally as important. I very much wish for the people viewing my work to consider all the details because everything should be considered.
Photography is a practice of awareness of yourself, as much as of anything else. There is a point you start to ask why. Even before you take a photo, and you know you've reached a technical turning point. Your photos have intent. Then you start to ask why after you took the photo, and that brings you into your own psyche. The more you learn to shed your hesitation and trust your instinct, the more your work reflects yourself. Then you can start to learn things about yourself you weren't even conscious of. So details within the bigger picture I guess.

What would you like the viewer to walk away with after seeing your work?

Ah! I can’t say I have ever thought about that! I think the end goal ultimately is for them to walk out of the exhibit and immediately apply whatever they experienced inside to the outside. When they are inside the gallery, or wherever my work is being displayed, I definitely hope that they’d be curious about the photos from all different distances. To find something compelling about the work. The point is that they would project themselves into these photos. I’m hoping that people look at this work and get pulled into it whatever it is, may it be just some colour, or maybe they are wondering why this piece is hanging there in the first place. Something inside them is questioning. I know that all photos change the more time you spend with them. Knowing that people are going to develop a relationship with these pieces. It’s going to be a powerful and very personal bond, I hope. I’d be very touched and I wish I could kind of experience all of those moments with these people. One of my wildest dreams for sure is to see people looking at my work, then shoot that, and thought that turn it into more work.