Musings: Monika Strzelecka’s Glimpse Into Childhood

When you know, you know. This is a saying often heard, yet not always understood.  But it’s one I’ll use to talk about Polish photographer Monika Strzelecka’s photos. I first saw the photo of her son and a horse on Your Shot (below) and I just knew. This photo spoke to me, it made me stop and want to know more. Scouring the many daily uploads in order to publish the Daily Dozen—the twelve best photos from the previous day—is difficult. I try to show a variety of images from the Your Shot community as well as take into consideration the members I spotlight, so as not to feature one member too often.

As I was pulling photos for a monthly edit, I noticed that I had picked four photos, all black and white, and of children who looked to be from the same family. They were all made by Strzelecka. I was surprised I hadn’t seen the connections before, but sometimes you can only see similarities when they’re together, right in front of you. I knew I had to find out more about the photos and the photographer. The work is technically sound; close attention is paid to the composition and the frame. There is a purpose and intent to Strzelecka’s photos, a body of work from a seemingly mature eye. So, it amazed me to find out that she had only recently began photographing.

It wasn’t until her second child that Strzelecka became interested in photography. Her husband had bought a camera to document their first son’s childhood, an expense she thought unnecessary at the time. However, her point of view changed dramatically when she was expecting her daughter. “I realized how fast the child was growing up, how he was changing and how elusive these moments were,” she recalls. “I think it is only when one has small children one fully experiences the pace of time.” She decided to save these moments and joined a photo class. She said she was “completely absorbed.”

Over the last six years, Strzelecka has had time to develop her unique style. She is inspired by photographers such as Diane Arbus and Eugene Smith as well as Polish photographer Tomasz Tomaszewski, who has helped guide her technique. Most of all, she is inspired by people, her three children included. She looks for the fascination and surprise that fill their daily lives. “Taking pictures of children is every parent’s natural need, I guess. All those moving moments when the small human being does something for the first time—smiles for the first time, the first steps, discovers the world we [have] all come to know quite well—we can see that these are people, although small, surprised by [what is] obvious to us.”

Two specific moments shaped Strzelecka’s perspective. The first was when she found her grandmother’s photo albums. “I remembered them from my childhood. I have always loved to watch pictures and listen to stories about them. Now I looked at them differently—I realized that the ones I loved most documented the most trivial, everyday moments. The pictures showed the past and that made them real. Even if they were less perfect than carefully posed portraits, they were more interesting. That struck me.”

The second was with a fellow photographer and friend as they were talking about their children. He told her how he wished he had shot the spontaneous moments; thinking less about the background and the technical details. She said, “All those thoughts led me to the conclusion, which was probably put best by Diane Arbus: ‘For me, the subject of the picture is always more important than the picture.’ I don’t want to make nice, colorful pictures. I want to show how it was. I want to tell a story with a picture.”

Strzelecka hopes to continue developing her photography and produce a series on the Polish countryside. See more of Strzelecka’s photos in her Your Shot gallery.

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