INTERVIEW: Magdalena Walczak

Fòcas Programme Director Katherine Parhar interviews Fòcas India exhibitor Magdalena Walczak, a photographer based in Edinburgh about her project ‘The Residents’.

© Magdalena Walcsak

F: Your project The Residents is based in the Moredun area of Edinburgh. You set out to record their ‘grey’ everyday lives, as you put it. Some of your images, though, depict moments of joy and simple normality. Did you find your insights changed and grew as you spent time in Moredun?

M: In my project I did not want to focus only on the problems of people and workers living in Moredun district. Their lives are not just a bunch of troubles, problems, struggles and tears. Over time, I realize that in the lives of those people there is time for a smile, fun and relaxation. What interested me the most it was a simple fact that they can put the problems away, forget about them for a second and just be happy and joyful. It was a great pleasure to experience those moments with them.

© Magdalena Walcsak

F: Housing and the welfare state are now key to the ideological struggle to reshape our society in – and after – austerity; with this project, did you set out to document the complexities of life in Moredun as a symptom (or symptoms) of broader social and political issues?

M: Apartments in Moredun are not popular among Edinburgh residents. Most are communal housing and very often temporary where the rotation of residents is very large. From my personal experience, I find the housing conditions proposed by the Council are basic and minimalistic. The shelters in these flats are for people in need, whose life situation forced them to make a decision to reside in this district. The problem is that for some residents this situation is just temporary and for others it is a matter of life choice. I found people in authority rather helpful.Most of the officers tried to identify with the problems of the residents, understand them and help them as much as possible. During the time that I spent in the Mordun, I wanted to show how the life of the people who found themselves in a life bend looks like. I became very involved in the lives of my models, made friends with some of them, and remain close to this day. With curiosity, I followed the residents and workers discovering interesting facts and moments of their lives and revealing their secrets. I wanted to convey to the audience how normality looks in another dimension, a dimension, which deviates from the living standards in more affluent areas. I wanted to show normal people even though they are struggling with poverty, addictions, running away from demons of the past or just found themselves in a bad place in life.

© Magdalena Walcsak

F: Where do you hope the project will lead you in your practice?

 M: I’m hoping to continue this project in the future. Thanks to this and other documentary project I would like to draw my viewers attention to the political and social problems in XXI century. The work, observation and analysis of the problems surrounding us gives me the power to keep on and to deepen my knowledge of social issues. I would like to share my observations with the viewers and share my work with the World. 

Magdalena is a Polish photographer based in Scotland. She works predominately in documentary photography and is fascinated with capturing the simplicity of everyday life and people around her.