London-based Joanna Wzorek’s work is a celebration of her Polish heritage, distilling art, politics, history and culture into her expressive and abstract compositions. She recently self-published a zine titled Summer, Farewell as an homage to her homeland.

We caught up with Wzorek when she brought her bold eye to fashion stories in Wallpaper’s November 2021 Art Special issue (on newsstands and available to subscribers), and she talked about tight cropping, compassionate audiences and what’s on her cultural radar. 

Wallpaper*: Describe your style and process

Joanna Wzorek: My practice is based on emotions that I express through bright colours and bold compositions. Three words that come to my mind are empathy, intimacy and humanity. These emotions can be an outcome of a political event, witnessing a moving performance, or seeing a painting in a gallery. Whatever that is, I deconstruct it while researching extensively. I then relive the moment while taking the photographs. 

As a creator, I think it is important to stay curious and aware of what goes on around you in the world. My main goal is to make the audience feel something and engage them for a little longer; we are bombarded daily with so much content. Another big part of my practice is my Polish heritage and the rediscovery of my own culture while living abroad. 

I tend to crop quite tightly, which could be described as horror vacui (fear of the empty). I’ve always had that need to fill the entire page or canvas with something. It could be my desire to be a painter, never realised due to my impatience.

Left, silhouette of model against squares of bold colours; right, bags by Louis Vuitton x Fornasetti
Left: coat, by Sportmax; right: ‘Capucines’ bags, from £3,700, part of the Louis Vuitton x Fornasetti collaboration, as photographed by Joanna Wzorek for the November 2021 issue of Wallpaper* (W*271)

W*: Tell us about how you brought your way of working to fashion stories in our November 2021 issue?

JW: As it was the Wallpaper* Art Issue, I wanted to approach image-making more from an artist’s point of view, creating abstract compositions and filling the frames with bold colours. Each feature had its own world and each had to be realised differently as if painting a new scene. 

W*: What is the most interesting thing happening within photography now?

JW: I think because of the pandemic we can now see and experience projects in more intimate and personal ways than before. There’s a lot of self-reflection and rethinking of what’s important in the projects I’ve seen, which makes them all more unique. Also, I feel the audience is different; there has been more compassion visible in people.

Ala, from Summer, Farewell by Joanna Wzorek
Ala, from Summer, Farewell by Joanna Wzorek

W*: What’s on your radar? 

JW: Culturally, the new album Colourgrade from Tirzah is a beautiful 41-minute-long journey into the soul. Also, the new Isamu Noguchi exhibition at London’s Barbican made a huge impact on me: early works that I’d never seen before, recordings of his interviews. It’s amazing to see the process and behind the scenes, which quite often is often lacking in retrospective exhibitions. On my radar is also the political situation in Poland, which I’m trying to keep up with.

W*: What’s next for you this year? 

JW: Like many of us, I have no idea what the future will bring, it all seems like it’s back to normal-ish, but it’s hard to make any plans as it all could change in a second. At the moment, I am working on another personal project that I started in the pandemic. Hopefully, it will be finished in the next year. §

Florrie, 2021 by Joanna Wzorek
Florrie, 2021, by Joanna Wzorek
Photographs from Summer, Farewell zine by Joanna Wzorek

Summer, Farewell by Joanna Wzorek