A “sociological record” of inside all of Poland’s homes

One woman aimed to photograph every Polish home and create a “sociological record”:

In 1978, there were 35 million people living in Poland, but that didn’t stop Zofia Rydet trying to photograph the homes of every single one. That summer, the 67-year-old began the monumental project she called her “sociological record,” travelling the length and breadth of her country on foot and by bus.

By the time she died, in 1997, the series, which is currently on show at the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw, comprised nearly 20,000 images from more than 100 villages and towns…

Over the years Rydet perfected a particular method for obtaining the best portrait possible. “I knock on the door, I say ‘hello’ and shake hands. I enter the home, look around carefully, and I immediately see something beautiful, something unusual, and I compliment it. The owner is pleased that I like it, and then I take the first photograph. Everyone has something in his house that is most precious to him. If I manage to notice this, then this person submits at once.”…

Rydet preferred photographing rural homes to those in the city, whose interiors she found sterile and uniform. She believed wholeheartedly in the socio-historical value of her endeavour, convinced that her pictures of personal objects and private spaces defined the people who owned them, and “revealed their psychology.”

Sociologists may often be associated with large-scale surveys but there are creative ways to obtain sociological data in everyday life, whether walking all the streets of a city or photographing thousands of homes. Of course, taking the photographs is not enough (even with the massive effort it would be to travel around and interact with all the residents): sociologists would want to look for patterns which might include things like decorations, spatial arrangements, markers of social class, the setting of the home, and so on. If this Warsaw museum put out all of her images – nearly 20,000 according to the article – it would be interesting to walk through them all several times to see what pops out.

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