The saying goes that a picture is worth a thousand words — yet in Kinga Michalska’s case, it was worth much more, earning her the $20,000 Lande Award in Photography.
“I asked my friends to read the email that announced my scholarship, to see if it said what I thought it said — because I couldn’t believe it. I was honestly broke and hustling a million small gigs for a long time. I had never had that much money at once,” she says.
“More than anything, it felt like I actually deserve a space here at Concordia. The award gave me a sense of security that I never had as a young, immigrant artist, allowed me to focus fully on my personal work and create projects of larger scale.”
A Polish photographer based in Montreal, Michalska addresses themes of identity, gender and marginalized communities in her work. She also holds a degree in cultural studies from the University of Warsaw and a diploma in photography from the Warsaw School of Photography and Graphic Design.
“I’m really connected to Poland and to my cultural identity. Even though the political situation is very difficult and the government is ultra-Catholic, it is important to me to keep making work in Poland,” she says. “It’s a challenging political climate to create and be queer in. That was part of why I left — back then, there wasn’t much of a queer community. Now that I have more stability, it is time for me to give back to younger generations.”
Building bridges between people
Michalska, who’s currently in the second year of her master of fine arts in photography, aims to create an original and poetic body of work that talks about queerness through lived experience and builds bridges between people.
“Portrait photography to me is about building connections so people can feel seen and received for who they are,” she explains. “It’s a very intimate thing to hold space for another person to be vulnerable in front of the camera. I love the emotional space that this situation creates between myself and another person and how that can be translated into a photograph.”
Kinga decided to attend Concordia after finding out one of her favourite Montreal-based photographers, Raymonde April, teaches at the university.
“I knew about her photography even when I lived in Poland. I really related to her work, so I created a long-term plan to apply for permanent residency, wait two years, then apply for school,” says Michalska. “Not only was I accepted but I was also being offered this scholarship, which was extremely encouraging.”