The Photography Show marks Polish photographer Paweł Żak’s first New York exhibition. His surreal, eerily pristine still lifes mostly feature random objects such as bread crumbs or wood, sitting atop or hovering above a neatly clothed table. Żak’s specific setups begin as images in his mind. He quickly sketches a drawing. “It’s at first like a dream. If you don’t write it down fast, then it disappears,” he told Artsy. His sketches gradually become more precise, and then he gathers his objects.
Yet surprises still occur throughout the photographic process. He recalls a shot for which he knew he wanted a large rock. Once he purchased one from a garden shop and set it on the table, he realized it resembled a loaf of bread. It adopted new associations as he completed the process. For another image, he took shot after shot until he captured the exact moment he wanted: two pink balloons hovering at the same level above the table. Untitled #10-22 (2010), he says, came from anger and hunger. He was frustrated at his attempt to photograph pears and ended up trashing the whole setup. In the final image, the tablecloth is wrinkled, the pears on top ruined.