Exhibition of photographs by
April 27, 2018 – February 22nd, 2019
A.R. Gallery, 71 India Street, 2nd Floor, Brooklyn NY
I really like people who have a passion, a concept for themselves, and yet they are also gushing with positive energy and are able to pass it over to others. Such a person is Marek Rygielski – a man of many talents, an artist, photographer, traveler, and enthusiast of lonely bicycle trips. His latest exhibition – “Can I get your smile?” – can be seen in the AR Gallery of Janusz Skowron at 71 India Street in Greenpoint.
The opening of the exhibition on Friday 27 April was accompanied by intense emotions. The spacious rooms in the gallery were provided by the host Janusz Skowron. The first guests who came to the exhibition found … bare white walls and the author – Marek Rygielski, who handed out the photographs and encouraged the visitors to stick pictures on the walls as they pleased.
The empty spaces of the gallery were filing with every minute as more and more guests were arriving. At the peak moment, when all the photographs had already found their place, some 150 women emanated spontaneous smiles from the pictures, and they were answered by more than one hundred equally smiling faces gathered in the viewers’ gallery.
We all know how many emotions can be conveyed with a smile, although many people cannot smile “on cue”, thinking they look unfavorable then and automatically withholding their smile. However, Marek managed to capture some universal truth in one place and at the same time, to catch this unique moment of transformation of strangers, with a simple question: “Can I get your smile?” It was enough for a changed face to look into the photographer’s lens.
One of the features that connect people of all races and cultures is the ability to smile, the ability that we have, regardless of what language we speak, what religion we profess, what color we have. A woman does not have to be slim to look beautiful. She does not need expensive clothes, a new hairstyle or branded shoes. The beauty of a woman lies in her approach to life, which reflects her smile, energy, and self-confidence. We see such women in Marek’s photographs.
The idea to make such photos was born during a conversation with the curator of the exhibition, a photo artist Jagoda Przybylak, who presented pictures of men smiling at the Parade Hats. Marek, teasingly, and perhaps to hearten himself, said he would do better pictures – smiling women. He fulfilled the promise on Easter Sunday during the Easter Bonnet Parade on Fifth Avenue.
“It was spontaneous,” he says, “I did not have to ask for long – one question and a camera lens were enough. I wanted to get the first reaction, the effect of surprise. From the male point of view, this is a kind of prey, get 150 ladies’ smiles, but I do not treat it that way. I believe in the energy of the truth of this smile, in the fact that it has practical application, it is a kind of purification.
“I also do not want it to be a violation of privacy, I do not want to trade someone’s honest reaction. A single photo is not really of any value, these photos only start working in a group.
“Why did I do this exhibition? I made it for people from the Amber Senior Club, which is adjacent to the AR Gallery. Everyone entering the club must pass these photos there. Together, smiling photos act like a sluice for a better world. I know how much an elderly person has problems, which we, a little younger, still do not realize. I thought about people who have every right to complain about health, about adversity … It’s supposed to be for them, purification and positive vibration. Perhaps the positive change will be the most visible in older people and this exhibition will, perhaps, get them to feel a bit better.”
The vision of these photographs as an exhibition was the idea of Jagoda Przybylak – it was thanks to her suggestion that the photos were framed so that only the smiles could be seen. It was also her idea to organize photos as a rippling, slightly chaotic and constantly changing stream flowing on the walls of the Gallery.
Marek Wójcicki from Markowa Apteka was the sponsor of all photo print-outs and advertising materials, and thanks to Janusz Skowron, the exhibition got a beautiful setting.
Marek Rygielski moved from Warsaw to New York in 2001. He is the artistic director of Kurier Plus, an experienced photo editor, and photographer with an excellent, creative eye and a solid background in the publishing industry and online publications. His passion is street photography. He loves photographing the places he is in, treating them like a diary of a journey through life. He does not know if he can still look at the world without a lens.
By Jolanta Szczepkowska
published in Kurier Plus, Polish Weekly Magazine, May 5th, 2018
translated into English by Dorota Rygielska
edited by Emily G