The streets of a city steeped in martial law, the flat of a suicide victim, a mental hospital, a prison, the pages of fictitious newspapers, the camp of the last of the Europeans – Zbigniew Libera was there with his photo camera. 169 photographs collected for the first time in a single volume are an effect of an uncompromising, 30-year journey through the ashes of modern civilization.
I shall begin with a personal and emotional remark: I believe Zbigniew Libera’s Photographs to be among the most complete and insightful artistic statements on the relation between the individual and society drawn up over the last quarter of a century. It would amount to a truism to call this cycle mature as it comes from an artist of a singular, astute intelligence, whose biography abounds in extreme experiences. His work has developed over the period of the last 30 years across the border of different historic epochs and dissimilar politico-social realms, through variegated personal relations and financial situations. Thus, the collection is rich in many ways: formally, as it merges various conventions and genres of photography – intimate, ‘amateur’ monochrome photographs with monumental, meticulously staged ‘moving image’ panoramas, studio photos, photomontages and intricate photos within photos – and thematically, as it guides us from the scenes in the prison yard to abstract literary journeys and staged futuristic fantasies, further on to attempts at an alternative history. Then there is the ideological layer, which manifests the intriguing evolution of the artist’s stance – from anarchic, transgressive self-expression to an engaged critique of consumerism and neoliberal order, stoic reserve to representation, history and art itself. There are as many routes to explore this surprising and seducing collection of images as there are viewers. Yet, there are three threads that I find particularly significant as they bring to the fore the inspiring complexity of Zbigniew Libera’s photographic œuvre.
dr Martin Maneke (excerpt from the afterword)