The first part of research on the activities of Sputnik Photos - collectivity

The first part of research on the activities of Sputnik Photos - collectivity

‘Collaboration always already lies at the basis of the event of photography. Collaboration is the photographic event’s degree zero, as photography always involves an encounter between several protagonists in which the photographer cannot a priori claim a monopoly over knowledge, authorship, ownership, and rights.’ Azoulay, Ariella, ‘Photography Consists of Collaboration: Susan Meiselas, Wendy Ewald, and Ariella Azoulay,’ in: Camera Obscura Feminism Culture and Media Studies, May 2016

This was the basic assumption behind the over-decade-long studies conducted by the photographers Susan Meiselas and Wendy Ewald, and the academic and researcher Ariella Azoulay. The ultimate result and summary of their work is the book Collaboration. Potential History of Photography, released in October 2023. Together with a team of experts invited to contribute to the project, Azoulay, Meiselas, and Ewald propose a new approach to photography, defining it – first and foremost – as an ‘act of collaboration’ and an ‘event’. In this ‘act’, the photographer and the photographed, the community, the viewer, the authorities, but also individuals who use the image, reproduce or preserve it, can fulfill the equally important role. This act can also take various forms – ‘capturing the decisive moment’ in the photograph is just one of them and functions alongside such acts as collecting photographs, sharing, viewing, sorting, archiving, and commenting on them…


Photography perceived and understood in this way both arises from relations and has the power to create them. And although the authors strongly emphasize that collaboration in this broader sense is far from the simple definition of collectivity and describes a mode of working together ‘without implying a collective or aiming to form a collective,’ their studies constitute an important background for Sputnik Photos’ activities. Exactly at the time when Meiselas, Ewald, and Azoulay were conducting their research and rewriting the history of photography, the members of Sputnik Photos were testing the ‘forms of being together’ in practice.


In fact, collaboration has been the basis of their practice from the very beginning, and therefore since 2006. However, it has always exceeded the idea of a collective as such, understood as a group of people who share similar sensitivity and similar approaches to the role of the medium, a common goal, organization, and social bonds.

All of the abovementioned forms of collaboration reflect the explorations of artists around the world, they show the dynamic changes in the area of photography, and the book by Azoulay, Meiselas, and Ewald can serve as one of the proofs of this. In the Polish landscape, however, they often begin to emerge thanks to the initiatives of the photographers from Sputnik Photos. The forms of acting and working together become tools for new generations of artists. In this publication, which is the first of three publications planned, we take a closer look not only at the various aspects of creative processes, educational work, and solidarity activities carried out by Sputnik Photos but also beyond that – at how the perception of photography has changed over the last 20 years.


Marta Szymańska


E-book (PDF)


photographs: © Jan Brykczyński, Karolina Gembara, Michał Łuczak, Rafał Milach, Adam Pańczuk, Agnieszka Rayss;
texts: © Dorota Borodaj, Witold Kanicki, Ewelina Lasota, Marta Szymańska;
concept and editing: Marta Szymańska;
translation: © Aleksandra Szymczyk;
proofreading: Maja Nałęcka;
translation proofreading: Aleksandra Szymczyk;
graphic design: Dasha Abibok.

Warsaw 2023

Publication co-financed by the City of Warsaw and the European Union.