Polish family, Loughborough, England | 1976. (Picture: Our Lady of the Gate of Dawn (Matka Boska Ostrobramska).)
Czesław Siegieda – Photographer
Czesław Siegieda, born the son of Polish immigrants to England in Leicestershire in 1954, showed an interest in photography from an early age. From his teens he photographed the Polish community he grew up in, moving through fêtes and funerals with an ease only available to an insider.
For many years the archive remained private, initially out of respect for the sensitivities of his parents’ generation: nervous of their position as ‘guests’ in a foreign land, they were determined not to draw attention to themselves. This initial impulse of discretion soon gave way to the more prosaic demands of life and work. For decades the negatives sat unheeded in a drawer until, in 2018, two years after his mother’s death, Siegieda began to publish his work online, drawing the attention of notable photographers such as Martin Parr and Mark Power.
“I am a missionary when it comes to the value of documentary photography and here is an example of what can be achieved. Getting to know, and to record one small slice of life in Britain so thoroughly and effectively is an achievement that has to be celebrated. Rarely do you encounter a project of such empathy and thoroughness and I am delighted that, forty years after they were taken, these images are finally being published in this handsome book.”
The images in the Polska Britannica book, taken between 1974 and 1981, show the staunchly Catholic traditions and national customs so faithfully maintained by the community as they rebuilt their lives following the trauma suffered during and after the Second World War. Whilst many of Siegieda’s images display a sharp eye for the absurd and all are marked by a visible affection for his subjects, his photographs of his close family are notable for their intimacy.