Beauty in the Everyday: Inside Kuba Ryniewicz’s Intimate New Photo Book

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Daily Weeding
Daily WeedingPhotography by Kuba Ryniewicz

The Polish photographer discusses his debut monograph, Daily Weeding – an uplifting ode to friendship, nature, and everyday life

Stretches of skin and stretches of sky can become the most engaging expanses – Kuba Ryniewicz’s images show as much. Born in Poznan, Poland, Ryniewicz studied philosophy in his native country before moving to the UK to study photography (Poland joined the EU during his final year at university). He’s since been based in Newcastle and worked on both commercial projects – for Balenciaga, Loewe, Stella McCartney – and personal projects, such as a longstanding love letter to India, where he has also lived on and off. His first book, Daily Weeding, encompasses 60 photographs in both colour and black-and-white, published by independent French editor NOTE NOTE ÉDITIONS. The book lovingly gathers wildflowers, flapping fabrics, cheeky shadows, firm brick, soft grasses, and tumbling limbs, weaving together playfulness and solemnity. 

Ryniewicz creates beautiful portraits, but has an expansive notion of what that term means. He loves to chronicle “in absentia” – imbuing the spirit of what is off camera into a still life or landscape, communicating presence through unexpected metonymic forms. We spoke with the photographer from his home – where he was perched next to a large framed image by David Sims – about his fondness for pastoral settings, his admiration of Georges Perec, and basking in the boring.

AnOther Magazine: With Covid, people have suddenly rethought the context in which they live and have fled compressed urban locations – but it sounds like this is something that you decided on a long time ago.

Kuba Ryniewicz: I live in a field. I mean, I don't live in a field, but the fields are just there. I’ve focused more on gardening. I grew up on a farm and my grandma did a lot of pickling; today, I’m growing my own plants and food. So it gives me more attachment to something I can call home. When you work in a creative industry, you never have time, because you literally just have to work. So this gave us more opportunities to be attentive to details, how we schedule ourselves when there’s not much to do.

AM: This is your first book. Did you have the idea for the project during the pandemic, or did it precede it? 

KR: We started working on this book before Covid, but Covid circumstances kind of helped, because I could spend time on it. I wanted to do something like a family album, about my surroundings and how we embrace the public space; how we mark our intimate space within the public space. It was important for me to invite my closest friends and make micro-stories around the people I love. We’d do sneaky meetings in the park – but no hugging. I also have some pictures of my neighbors, who I don’t really know that well, but I thought it provided a good element of someone who was close, in a different way. We’re always looking at the neighbours, like, ‘I know I recognise this person, but they’re not part of my gang.’

AM: In terms of your edit, can you talk about how you created this beautiful visual flow?

KR: I was really strict, because there were so many pictures – it was literally a few volumes of images. I thought, if it’s pictures of just people, people, people … then you cannot really have your own point of view, because you’re looking at anonymous faces. But if you bring a little bit of breathing space to that, with still lives and some landscapes, then you can be part of it, as a viewer. So the whole process was of reduction, rather than adding. 

AM: Can you talk about your relationship to photographing the body? It’s very intimate.

KR: For me, every picture in that book is a portrait. I do not distinguish the portrait as just a picture of someone’s face. John’s belly, for example, is a portrait. I look at parts of bodies. I love photographing bodies – and it’s very important to show different types of bodies. Because I’m also doing this fashion thing that is very much about a ‘perfect body’ … I want to show that beauty is in everything. I’m also talking about birds, a picture of a cow. I mean, it’s all on the same level for me. It goes back to the idea of animism. Even if it’s a pot, it has a little bit of soul!

AM: Olivia Laing’s beautiful text, which accompanies your visuals, references the photographer Peter Hujar. Are there other photographers or artists who shaped your visual leanings?

KR: Of course. I love Paul Strand, the project he did about the Outer Hebrides: he makes portraits of a village, of islands that border the sea. I love Wolfgang Tillmans, especially his older work from the 90s: the intimacy that he brought from the bedroom, pictures of socks, trousers on a rail. I love the fact that he developed his own language that we all had to learn. When I first looked at Tillmans’ work, I thought it was kind of boring, because it’s so normal. It’s what we see all the time, but never really embrace or name. And he put it into art form. I think it’s so contemporary. I really love what he does, in that sense: the presence and soul within something that is so ordinary that we never really have time to stop and look at it. 

AM: What about the title, Daily Weeding? Is it about ritual?

KR: I was gardening all the time, so it’s going back to this idea that something as ordinary as weeding can be almost … not religious, but it becomes something significant. You never glorify weeding, but it is actually quite important. When thing happen regularly, we forget to focus on them, though they give us a sense of status. The title is boring – but I kind of like that. Ordinary is great, it’s really underrated. And I like the idea that each individual image can live on its own, will speak its own language, will work not only within a group of images.

AM: Yeah – you can renew your gaze on a body of work, and you can extract a lot of things from a strong image. Do you have other projects on the horizon? 

KR: Well, I’m working on this project in India. I mean, I had to stop for a couple of years. I’m working on visual exercises inspired by Georges Perec’s writing, converted into photography. So, for example, standing on the corner for two hours and taking one photo every 10 minutes from exactly the same point. Perec’s writing is so important because it makes you feel so sensitive to everything that’s happening; there is obsessive attention to detail. I think it’s gonna take me a long time, but I like long term projects, because they can shift, they can change.

Daily Weeding by Kuba Ryniewicz is published by NOTE NOTE ÉDITIONS and is out now. The book launches in the UK at Donlon Books in London on November 18 and at NewBridge Books in Newcastle on November 25.