Filed under: Senior Project | Tags: ethnography, Law, photography, poland, policy, Senior Project, study abroad, sustainability
Mike Kersula, Matt McInnis reflect on connections
Nature of Poland, featuring photos by Matt McInnis and ethnography by Mike Kersula. The exhibit explores Poland as a country of contrasting environments, from moss-covered old growth forests to smoggy industrial wastelands.
The exhibit came about following the annual United Nations conference on climate change hosted by Poland last December. Kersula and McInnis attended the meetings-but with more than the treaty process on their minds. They wanted to understand how people of a post-socialist society connect to nature.
Kersula, of Bellow Falls, Vermont, worked on ethnography. Having studied in Poland in high school and college, he is fluent in Polish and was able to easily converse with people from all walks of life. McInnis, of Portland, Maine, took a more objective eye, looking for the aesthetic moments that would frame the contemporary Polish sense of nature.
The combination was a powerful one for the pair. During their ten-week sojourn, they sometimes waited hours for the proper conjunction of light and setting, while also spending days speaking to various individuals. Says Kersula, “sometimes people were quite amused with our questions, like ‘What does nature mean in Polish?’ It’s not a question people usually ask.”
But such questions led to some fascinating discussions-and striking photographs. The two talk about their time with Janusz Korbel, a journalist-turned-activist. Speaking about the forest, Korbel recalled to Kersula the story of an engineer, “a developer destroying nature. He starts to cry and says that he remembers from his childhood a beautiful river. And now, this river looks like a wide road, you know, it’s completely destroyed, and he starts to cry. So it shows very clearly that if we feel some connection with nature, it has value for us. Then we can protect it.”
The exhibit contains large photos, of up to 24 by 30 inches, and interview excerpts and translations. To see more of McInnis’ images, visit www.mattmcinnis.com.
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