Attributing the photography created by Maciej Mankowski to any of the conventional aesthetic categories of photographic criticism is difficult. The photogenic nature of his work is undoubtedly of the highest value; the light, as well as the restitution of the deep half-tones, is in every case a praise of the masterful craft and unique visual culture of the creator.
At the same time, his images seem to result straight from the best tradition of classical studio photography, however with the use of high-tech devices, belonging to the world of advertising photography, or, if you prefer, commercial. To make it more complicated, the subject of his photographs is usually the naked human body, referring to the common perception of the nude act – a category which is often a priori ignored by modern art critiques.
Meanwhile the bodies on Mankowski’s photographs are not synonymous with classically understood beauty and they do not lure with eroticism, however they are not entirely deprived from it either. And this is where the key to understanding these images hides. In Mankowski’s photos the body seems to be a sign or an icon and, most of all, it speaks with a specific language of its own creating an unusual shape and form.
When you look more closely you can clearly see that these are athletic bodies, but it is not all about muscles – these bodies appear trained in the body language used, for example, by ballet or modern dancers. Yes, Maciej Mankowski undoubtedly creates a new image category in photography – let’s call them choreographic but they are far beyond the documentary photographs of a spectacle taken in the shadow of the footlights.
If photography means writing with light and the choreography writing with the dance (body), then Mankowski combines both to create a special harmony. In his atelier where he subjects the speech and meaning of the naked body to the rules of photogeny which is on the service of an intimate, personal mythology.
Body in the movement and dancing as well as static from its nature photography can resort only to a language of a sign, connotation, metaphor, parable or understatement, just like poetry does in speech; especially the tradition of the Japanese Haiku. That would be one of the elements, which, without the unnecessary noise – however unquestionably, introduce Maciej Mankowski’s photography to the field of modern art.
Bogdan Konopka, Paryż 2012