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The Warsaw Voice » Culture » December 30, 2014
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Soccer Hooligans at War
December 30, 2014   
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A new photographic exhibition entitled Holy War at the Atlas Sztuki gallery in £ód¼ delivers an alternative take on battles waged by Polish soccer hooligans.

The pictures on show were taken by Wojciech Wilczyk, a photographer who has several other documentary projects under his belt. The new exhibition features a selection of pictures Wilczyk took between 2009 and 2014 focusing on animosities between supporters of different Polish soccer teams. The photographer took his camera to £ód¼, Cracow and several cities in Upper Silesia that have frequently seen violent clashes between hooligans who support local teams. Wilczyk chose to portray the less obvious side of the “wars” and instead of images of flares fired off at soccer stadiums or hooligans engaged in fist fights, he took pictures of graffiti sprayed, scribbled and painted by soccer fans, often accompanied by crass inscriptions. Wilczyk took a total of 4,500 photographs that on the one hand convey a sense of Polish pride, and on the other expose a not-so-latent anti-Semitism and a taste for violence.

The exhibition at the Atlas Sztuki gallery comes with a coffee-table book published by the gallery and the Karakter Publishing House. The book contains 391 out of Wilczyk’s 4,500 photographs with background information on when and where they were taken. A special glossary introduces readers to a variety of slogans, symbols and slang expressions used in the photographed graffiti. There are also three essays that form an academic commentary on Wilczyk’s project.

After the exhibition closes in £ód¼ in mid-January, it will travel to Olsztyn, Lublin and Tarnów.

Wilczyk, a lecturer at the Academy of Photography in Cracow, is a two-time nominee for the Deutsche Boerse Photography Prize. Five years ago, he started a popular photo blog at http://hiperrealizm.blogspot.com. One of his most famous projects is Niewinne oko nie istnieje (The Innocent Eye Does Not Exist), carried out in 2006-2008, which comprised photographs of synagogues and other Jewish houses of prayer in Poland that have survived to this day. The former places of worship now house various companies and institutions. Working on the project, Wilczyk discovered that the locals he spoke to were usually reluctant to answer his questions about the past.

Maria Sondej
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