In Karolina Gembara’s photographs of India, faces are obscured by flowers, pillows, and other body parts. The impression they leave is similar to what one feels when arriving someplace at slightly the wrong time – that something was just missed and no amount of searching will bring it back. But the urge to look, and keep looking, is vast –– and satisfying.
When we lie down, grasses grow from us (GOST Books, 2019), Gembara’s second monograph, is comprised of photos she took in Delhi between 2009 and 2016. They reflect her “love/hate relationship with the city” and are “borne out of a combination of fascination, homesickness and a feeling of transience,” she writes in her artist statement. During her 7-year stay in Delhi, Gembara, who is from Poland, moved a lot and found it hard to establish a home or a place she felt comfortable.
Never at ease photographing on the streets, Gambara developed her own visual language to reflect her craving for comfort in the city. The photographs were made with friends and acquaintances with whom she identified; she developed this process to avoid being a mere onlooker. Together they searched for quiet, isolated moments in a city where peace is hard to find. As a result, the reflective images are the opposite of what one expects from a city that contains nearly 30 million people. The tender images show softly shadowed walls, rays of light across thin sheets, still green foliage, and people at rest.
About the photographs, GOST states, “Their sentiment is a universal one, shared by many who live in cities far from home and try to build comfort around them.”