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March 31, 2023


Photography by Monika Jurga
Interview by Karen Ghostlaw Pomarico

Monika Jurga is from Poland, living in different areas, from East to West, while residing for a while in the capital, Warsaw. Monika does not work as a professional photographer, giving her the freedom to explore the photographic world in her own artistic ways. She creates uninhibited by the pressures of producing her work for anyone but herself. She is not burdened with photographic equipment, and often her phone is the catalyst for capturing what is in her mind's eye. Monika’s images are playful, toying with exaggerated surreal elements, juxtaposed to photographic visual clues based in reality. She ignites the imagination, asking the viewer to embrace the bizarre, captivating them to enter her world, where the traces of reality are blurred and fantasy becomes the new reality.

Monika is a visual storyteller, who finds unique ways of defining the world around her, where anything she can imagine becomes the inspiration that drives her work. She has been described as a “Visual Poetess” translating her imagery into poetic prose.

We have the pleasure of presenting the work of Monika Jurga. Enter her surreal world, and find out how and ultimately why she creates these fantastical photographic images where her imagination will become your reality.

“Telling stories is what is important to me, because I think to myself that one life is not enough, so I live my life in my stories. When people say that they find themselves in my stories, that they are their stories too, it makes me very happy.”


THE PICTORIAL LIST: Hello Monika, please tell us about yourself.

MONIKA JURGA: I am from Poland. I do not do photography professionally. Sometimes what I do can hardly be called photography at all. Even my camera is not a camera “Sensu Stricto”, because it is mostly just a cell phone.

All that I do is just a hobby. The nicest and most beloved hobby in the world!

TPL: What would you say first drew you to photography? What is it about the medium that supports your work?

MJ: I grew up in a house full of art. An artist dad and a mom, a woman full of imagination. I was surrounded by paintings, drawings, lots of albums and books on art.

My two uncles had photographic ateliers, my aunt meticulously documented my childhood on slides, and my mother developed color films herself in a small bathroom. Something must have grown out of that.

I got my first camera when I was 8, but to be honest, I wasn't attracted to it then.

I'm not sure what exactly attracted me to photography but I think it was my inability to draw combined with the desire to express myself and show my world...and that's how it started.

TPL: How would you describe your photography, and what would you say you are always trying to achieve artistically?

MJ: I find it difficult to describe my photographs. Each work is different, because I have a thousand ideas and a thousand ways to express them. In the end it is what satisfies me.

I am not trying to achieve anything artistically. I would not dare to call myself an artist. I go my own way and I'm very happy that someone likes my works, that someone can relate with it. That's very nice.

TPL: Monika, your work has a surreal aesthetic, can you describe the creative process involved with the capturing of your photographs, and then the inspiration you find in editing them?

MJ: The creative process looks very different. For sure, it always starts with a photo and then I play with textures, overlays, make collages, add-on, cut, peel and stick, mix and mix for so long, until something that I like appears. And so, from an ordinary photo a picture or a whole story is made, often surreal.

TPL: How have you trained your eye to see the surreal world you portray, making references to reality, emphasizing everyday objects?

MJ: This kind of looking is due to my parents, home, books, paintings, exhibitions, thanks to which I have a kind of sensitivity that helps me see more sometimes. Despite my chaotic nature, I am very attentive, both to people and to everything around me, even the simplest objects.

TPL: What importance does storytelling or key themes hold for you?

MJ: I tell these stories mostly to myself. It often happens that I do a very cheerful and bright job when I am sad and would preferably not get out from under the blanket, and vice versa, when I am gushing with happiness, I do something gloomy. It's all about balance.

In my photo bag is: wallet, keys, raspberry lipstick and of course...cell phone because it is my current camera.

TPL: Do you have any favorite artists or photographers you would like to share with us, and the reason for their significance?

MJ: I have many favorite artists. Sometimes I worship their entire oeuvre, sometimes it is one tiny picture, a few sounds, a few gestures or a detail that impressed me at different stages of my life. I will try to list them in one breath: Klee, Miró, Chagall, Hundertwasser, Eliasson, Zaha Hadid, Lewis Carroll, Leiter, Bruno Schulz, Roy Andersson, Kafka, Calvino, Maria Anto, Steinberg, William Blake, Ueda, Konopka, Batsheva Dance Company, Quay, Koudelka, Narahara, Wes Anderson, Woodman, Satie, Ballen,...uff, I could go on listing like this until tomorrow!

TPL: What’s in your camera bag, is your equipment an integral part of your practice? What software do you use to process and visually render your compelling imagery?

MJ: In my photo bag is: wallet, keys, raspberry lipstick and of course...cell phone because it is my current camera. My cameras have always been small and did not require special bags, because they used to be either matchbox cameras or Holga medium format, and Lomo, Lomography cameras. In my house, of course, there are the truest and most diverse cameras but I don't touch them, because they are not necessary for me.

On the other hand, if I have to talk about software then there is more. I use a lot of programs and applications, but I will let their names remain my sweet secret. I use these programs depending on the need, and as I mentioned I mix and match.

TPL: Are there any special projects that you are currently working on that you would like to let everyone know about? What are some of your photography goals? Where do you hope to see yourself in five years?

MJ: At the moment I am working on the project “Light”, for which I was invited to Amsterdam.

It's a big challenge for me but slowly the ideas are coming out of the shadows, brightening up and heading towards “Light”. I hope that by the end of May everything will be clear. I don't have specific photographic goals, I let it all flow. Where would I like to be in 5 years? You'll probably be surprised, but in 5 years I'd like to be exactly where I am, because I feel like this is my happy time and happy place.

TPL: If you could just choose one photographer or artist to shoot or collaborate with for a day...who would you choose? And why?

MJ: I have so many favorite photographers that I could spend each of the 365 days of the year with each one separately but yes most, most, I would like to wander around the city with Ms. Eva Rubinstein. She is my great love at the moment and I think we would have a great time together.

TPL: What is the most rewarding part of being a photographer for you?

MJ: What I enjoy most are the kind words and gestures and the emergence of a kind of bond and understanding between us. That is the nicest thing!

TPL: “When I am not out photographing, I (like to)…

I like London fog, traditional Jewish songs, Czech films, Scandinavian crime stories, French language, Spanish spring, Portuguese wine, Norwegian fjords, Breton pancakes, Scottish tartan and Italian ice creams, but most of all, I love traveling the world.”

The Pictorial List would like to thank Monika for her expressive approach to photography. As photographers we can often get bogged down in camera equipment, creating work professionally to satisfy a clients needs, while Monika creates without inhibition and her inspirational motivation is pure imagination. Follow Monika on Instagram and experience a new reality for yourself.

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