The white man

The photos of Ryszard Kapuściński are much less famous than his texts. Almost none of them displays any special artistic effort or great formal concern. They simply capture the moment with a clear purpose: “See. This is what I have now before my eyes.” They reveal the randomness of the road, but sometimes they are also provided with an obvious historical density. Time moves within them, they include a “before” and “after” and they usually highlight the object rather than the photographer’s look. The portraits are an epiphany of the character, framed in a basic context. In the photos of Kapuściński there is one constant that catches our attention. The faces of the people portrayed normally shines with a smile. Sometimes it is a hearty laugh, but even if not, there always appears at least a gesture of openness towards the photographer. In that smile, rather than in the technical expertise or in the manipulation of the composition, we see the photographer reflected. Someone in dialogue.

The question is: would they smile in the same way if they were white persons like him, and the landscape in the background would be, say, Warsaw, Berlin, Paris?

The types with service cap, combat jacket and baldric always smile in a different way.

A cartoon by Polish author Sławomir Mrożek

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