Hetflaisz has a deep sense of nature, the magic of the earth and man’s place in it. Raised in a small village in communist Poland where beauty and art were not celebrated or even noticed, he ventured into the natural world around his parents’ farm.
This love of the natural world led him to read environmental sciences at Warsaw University. Later, he recognized his true calling to be photography. “Spiritual ecology” was the term the great Austrian-born colour photographer Ernst Haas called his (and by extension Hetflaisz’s) type of photography.
This, Hetflaisz’s first exhibition, is divided in two parts. The Fragments series comprises photographs taken around the world over the past four years. The subjects include Masai settlements perched on a cliff’s edge in Tanzania; still water in the pool of a fountain in Antigua, Guatemala; the space within a progressing glacier in Patagonia, Argentina.
Yet each picture is indefinable, timeless, impossible to categorize, symbolic. The glacier becomes a womb or a wave; the Masai settlements appear to be intricate lace-work, or perhaps seed pods. Each picture challenges the viewer to make up his or her own story about what they are seeing and, like origin myths, where it came from.
Nowhere is Hetflaisz’s sense of poetry more present than in his Shadow Figures series which often leaves the viewer confounded, not from confusion, but in reverence of the beauty of the work and his mastery of the photographic process.
This series places a universal being, an “everyman” into a variety of timeless, Arcadian and dream-like settings. In reality these settings range from a ryokan in Kyoto, an eyrie on the banks of Lake Atitlan in Guatemala and a gazebo in Hetflaisz’s garden in Kent. Yet, to the viewer they represent landscapes as universal as the central figures within them.
Like the poet Wordsworth who gave voice to the “everyman,” Hetflaisz’s gift is that he can recognize the beauty and worth that come from our dream-like states and present them without judgment. To quote the mythologist Joseph Campbell, Hetflaisz’s photographs are “a dialogue of unconscious forms put forth by the unconscious mind and recognised by the conscious in continuous interaction.”
Hetflaisz’s believes that labels limit one’s experience and blind us to life’s essential truths. For him, photography is not about capturing a scene or a person, but about setting-free the imagination on a never-ending enquiry into the mystery of our universe.