Przemek Strzelecki’s work is a real discovery. A humanist photographer, he has devoted his life to traveling and photographing, and has managed to capture and document the world he sees and especially the life in remote parts of Mongolia like no other. “You only live once, but if you play it right, once is enough” he states and this attitude shows in his breathtaking photographs too.
How did you discover your passion for traveling? What was your first most memorable trip?
Long time ago when I was young my father used to give me to read a lot of books. Most of them about hard people living in severe places. There were I remember Jack London’s book, still some of them very important for me, for example, “ Martin Eden “, Jules Verne’s books, James Curwood’s books. Thanks to them I started to dream. About new lands, about discovering new animals, about living somewhere North, I always love wintertime. When I was 16 years old, by accident , I met a much older guy, up till now my best friend, who told me he is planning to go to Russian Siberia to see Lake Baikal. This information created an absolute mess in my head. After many meetings with my parents, many talks finally in July 1993 I left Europe sitting in the Transsiberian train heading east, leaving my small known world for the first time. My dream was realized. This journey was probably the most memorable ever. Because it was first one and the most important one for me.
Do you remember the first photo you took and were happy with?
Of course I remember, I had a beautiful almost not working Russian plastic camera called “ Smiena “. I was wandering around with it and taking pictures of all that impressed me. I still have in my head a picture I took of the duck’s nest with some eggs inside. But if it was a good one, I don’t think so. Few years ago, I finally comprehended what photography means for me.
You have seen many cultures, what has impressed you?
Yes, that is right. I’ve seen a lot of different cultures but the biggest impact on me was to discover Mongolian steppe lifestyle and the culture of the people living there. This has impressed me most. Most of these people are still not touched by the modern world, they live in a country which, except some cities and villages, looks like off-limits . Often you have got a feeling you step into a world without boundaries. In this uncluttered place with boundless sky above, with herds of horses and flocks of goats and sheeps ahead I feel best. It was the discovery of my life I think.
You describe your photography as Humanist. Can you explain what humanist photography means to you?
For me, humanist photography is like a compilation of almost all styles and genres in one, all of them connected with people. It is like street, reportage, documentary and fine art photography in one. There is no need to see people in picture but looking at it you know that somewhere beyond the frame you feel the human existence.
How does photography change the world and your vision of the world?
At the moment I am not sure photography can change the world. The digital era changed the world forever but I hope photography can help make this crazy world better. A good example is an album of James Nachtway called “Inferno” . I think only such a strong piece of photography can change anything. For me photography is the world. I can not imagine to go away with no camera in my hand, it is the biggest passion I ever had strongly connected to another huge passion called travelling. Photography often helps me to forget about the bad aspects of life.
What are you working on at the moment? Where would you like to travel and photograph next?
After eleven long trips to Mongolia with my camera I feel that this is the biggest and looks like ( I hope ) never-ending project I have ever worked on. Except Mongolia, there are so many great place to visit with a camera, South America, some corners of Eastern Europe, I would also like to take some pictures in huge, still undiscovered by photographers Asian parts of Russia. And more and more. But life is too short to see everything. At the moment I would like to go to Mongolia again next year. And this is a must! Now I live in the UK and having only few minutes to the seaside I am trying to show, using a black and white grainy film, the power of the sea. And soon I hope we will see the results. That is all. Thank you very much.
Interview by Robert Chang