A guide to the New East
New East 100

7/100

Joanna Piotrowska

This Polish photographer is exploring vulnerability in her alternative guide to self-defence

The powerful and unsettling vision of Polish photographer Joanna Piotrowska first gained international exposure when her book FROWST was published in 2014. FROWST is a family album, but of an unusual kind: images of cosily paired bodies, meeting and converging, channel anxiety and complex power dynamics of family ties.

  • Joanna Piotrowska, FROWST (2014)

  • Joanna Piotrowska, FROWST (2014)

  • Joanna Piotrowska, FROWST (2014)

  • Joanna Piotrowska, FROWST (2014)

  • Joanna Piotrowska, FROWST (2014)

  • Joanna Piotrowska, FROWST (2014)

  • Joanna Piotrowska, FROWST (2014)

  • Joanna Piotrowska, FROWST (2014)

Piotrowska is interested in domestic spaces, both intimate and claustrophobic, and the way structures like family, school or government impact an individual. In the project, which was completed after she was awarded the Jerwood/Photoworks prize, Piotrowska developed these ideas further, photographing girls aged between 11 and 17 re-enacting poses from self-defence manuals — a take on society where violence against women is increasingly normalised and growing up as a teenage girl means being stuck within strict social boundaries.

  • Joanna Piotrowska, Untitled. Originally commissioned through the Jerwood and Photoworks Awards 2015

  • Joanna Piotrowska, Untitled. Originally commissioned through the Jerwood and Photoworks Awards 2015

  • Joanna Piotrowska, Untitled. Originally commissioned through the Jerwood and Photoworks Awards 2015

Piotrowska’s work is particularly relevant in the context of feminist struggle in Poland — in October 2016 mass protests forced the government to back down on legislation which would have outlawed abortion. Set against that backdrop, Piotrowska’s vulnerable bodies in stuffy living rooms suddenly seem very powerful.

Text: Anastasiia Fedorova

Image: Joanna Piotrowska

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