Wrocław woman records the ‘silent witnesses of untold stories’ with her haunting pics of abandoned sofas
For those living in Poland, it has become an everyday sight: a pile of discarded furnishings piled haphazardly onto soggy street corners or broken rural pavements.
To most, the ugliness is unspeakable. Others, however, see a beauty in the blight, and none more so than Katarzyna Aszkiełowicz who for the last two-years has run the Instagram page Kanapy Polskie.
Lionizing the humble sofa, Aszkiełowicz’s Insta feed awards hero status to the forgotten couches left to rot out in the open.
Taken in a variety of locations, the images show sofas in varying states of disrepair, all united by their apparent lack of love.
Preferring to see them as “victims of time”, for Aszkiełowicz these castaway objects are more than just rubbish: “I’m quite an empathetic person,” she tells TFN. “I like to see these sofas as having a soul and personality.”
Once playing an integral role in someone family’s life they are, she says, a witness to untold stories.
“They once had a family. People sat on them to talk. To celebrate birthdays. To celebrate Christmas.
“These couches were companions at family gatherings and important events; they overheard conversations, were used for making love and reading favourite books.
“They are silent witnesses to our everyday lives. Now, they have no-one. I feel sorry for them that they’ve been left to sit out on their own in the cold.”
Inspired by Poland’s other retro-influenced Instagrammers, Aszkiełowicz refers to her page as a tribute to the things that have been deemed surplus by the modern world.
Amassing over 1,500 followers, her posts have struck a chord with likeminded people.
She said: “I think the very concept of this page alludes to very common feelings that many of us may have: nostalgia, compassion, assigning meanings and the personification of objects.
“I would add that the photos (either mine or submitted by my followers) are very inspiring - they spark my imagination and encourage me to write. These little poems under each photo are my way of artistic expression even though I am no artist myself.”
By her own admission, however, the interest in her page has been something of a surprise.
“I started this for fun,” she says. “I just wanted to have my own little place on the internet to express my thoughts. I never imagined that there’d be so many followers or that I would be speaking to the English-language media! I’m so glad that I’ve managed to reach so many people with my texts and photos, away from noise and controversy.”
Snapping photos on her phone, and also publishing submissions sent in by followers, Aszkiełowicz says that her favourite images are those that feature an environmental context.
“I love things that have been absorbed by nature but that don’t actually belong there,” she says.
“For example, seeing a sofa by a lake or river or in the middle of a forest – a sofa can look so natural there, almost as if it has grown roots.”
A favourite shot, she says, is one featuring a sofa standing in the middle of the parched Israeli desert.
“It’s as if it’s waiting for someone to come by and sit on it and appreciate its presence,” she says.
It is the incongruities and contrasts that offer the richest visual thrill. In one image, an armchair sits by the riverside overlooking a swanky residential development in Gdańsk as if beckoning people to relax and enjoy the view.
In others, a foldable sofa-bed stares towards Kraków’s imperious Wawel Castle, while in Warsaw, a modest armchair stands dwarfed by the looming menace of the Palace of Culture.
Animals, too, have proved a favourite of Aszkiełowicz and her followers. Though breaking from form to show a mattress, the most-liked post to date presents a wild boar splayed blissfully on some bedding left on the streets of Sopot.
A former journalist by profession, and now the PR manager of the Wrocław Opera, for Aszkiełowicz it is this epilogue in the lives of the furniture she photographs that is the most compelling.
“It’s so interesting to see them being used even after being thrown away,” she says. “In many ways you could say that they’ve been recycled, but by their own set of rules.”
To see more of Katarzyna’s photos click here:
This article was first published in November 2021.