Polish photographer Magdalena Siwicka looked after her friend’s daughter, Zuzanna, for some days. During this time, she started photographing the little girl, impressed by her appearance and personality. What began as a few instinctive shots, soon turned into a six-year long project. She built a trustworthy relationship with her subject and she counts on Zuzanna’s active role in shaping every shot. When we interviewed her about the project, Magdalena insisted that we question Zuzanna as well. To her, the girl’s involvement in the series is as important as her own.

Fisheye: Magdalena, how is it to work with Zuzanna?

Magdalena: Zuzanna is an incredible subject, a bit of a chameleon, with many faces, sometimes wild, sometimes peaceful. She comes from a family of artists: her interests revolve around art, fashion and music. She is insatiably curious, always providing inspiration. She is quite obsessed by David Bowie. The relationship of trust I built with her allows me to develop extended narratives across shoots, providing a level of intimacy and authenticity that is usually very hard to reach.

Zuzanna, how is it to work Magdalena?

Zuzanna: Magda is almost family. She comes over a lot; she is very nice and I like the way she takes pictures. I saw a lot of people taking photos of people, and they try to make it very perfect. Magda is different. They say “Put your face this way, make sure that the shadow doesn’t go on that shadow.” I am not saying that Magda doesn’t take photos perfectly but she is just more “You put your face the way you want.” She doesn’t move your face; she moves the camera more. Once, while I was posing for her, there was a very angry, silly and selfish bee that got into her hair. She ran away screaming but she left the camera on, to take a video of me rolling my eyes and going like “eeeh”. I like it because sometimes things are better when they are different.

Magdalena, what is it the most charming aspect of this project?

Magdalena: The most satisfying thing in photographing Zuzanna is the process itself. She is inspiring and stimulating. I see her as my friend and I treat her like a partner. While I did initiate our relationship by just following her with my camera, after a few years she started having an active part in developing projects. It became a place for her own self-expression. What was initially intended as a documentary project began slowly developing into a more creative endeavor. In the section Girl With The Mousy Hair, that explores Zuzanna’s obsession with David Bowie, she transforms from passive to active, from subject to creator. We planned the shoot together and she partly styled herself and did her own make up. I trusted her judgment and welcomed her ideas. I don’t know where working together will bring us, and neither does Zuzanna. This project is a bit like photography itself: part of it is exactly about not knowing what the final shot will be. I think that the best pictures are unplanned: the magic might lie in an expired film, or in a 1\125 of a second. It is a moment that I cannot and do not want to control.

Zuzanna, how do you feel about being photographed?  

Zuzanna: I am ok with people seeing my face. It is just a face, it is not ugly or anything bad, so there is nothing to hide. It just feels a little bit weird that there can be only one photo taken but so many people will see it. I think a bit about the fact that many people can see those pictures, but you never know, maybe nobody likes it at all or maybe nobody looks at it.

Zuzanna and Zuzanna © Magdalena Siwicka

Magdalena, do you feel closer to documentary or fine art photography?

Magdalena: In my work, I look for authenticity: this is why I spend a long time building real connections with my subjects. The people that surround me – friends and family, mostly, inspire me. Their thoughts, fears, feelings and emotions appear through the film, as well as mine. I have been very lucky through my life to be surrounded by people who have been a great inspiration and, most importantly, trusted me enough to let me photograph them. I admire photographers who can produce both documentary and creative work. I believe that these two kinds of photography can exist side by side and blend together. For me all the good creative projects come from the ability of the photographer to observe real life around him.

Zuzanna, what is your favorite picture?

Zuzanna: Once we found an old box in some storage. We used it as a prop; I put my arms inside it and posed. I like the photo that came out. It was in the David Bowie session, the box was all old with stickers from the shop and it said what fruits were in it, where they were from, the dates and stuff. The stickers were half torn off, there was some glass and other things. I like that one. I think that one was my favorite, it looks weird, slightly abstract.

The Girl With The Mousy Hair © Magdalena Siwicka
Zuzanna in Grat Milton © Magdalena Siwicka
Zuzanna in London © Magdalena Siwicka
Zuzanna in London © Magdalena Siwicka
Zuzanna in London © Magdalena Siwicka

Images © Magdalena Siwicka