Karolina Gembara

Karolina lives and works in Warsaw. She was based in Delhi from 2009-2016 and has been a member of Sputnik Photos since 2018. She obtained MA degree in International Relations and Diploma in Journalism, before studying Art History, photography and participating in Sputnik’s first Mentoring Programme. Currently she is a PhD candidate at SWPS University, Warsaw. She exhibited in Cambodia, India, Ireland, Nepal, Poland. Her work has been published in BJP, RPS, GUP, OjodePez among others. She has published two books: ‘Fitting rooms’ (Towarzystwo ę, 2013) and ‘When we lie down, grasses grow from us’ (Gost Books, 2019). She runs participatory photography workshops for migrants.

When we lie down, grasses grow from us

In 2009 Karolina Gembara moved to Delhi to learn photography and stayed for seven years. When we lie down, grasses grow from us, comprises photographs taken during this period, as Gembara developed a love/hate relationship with the city, borne out of a combination of fascination, homesickness and a feeling of transience.

During her time in the city, Gembara moved around frequently and found it difficult to establish a home, or a place where she felt truly comfortable. She met many in a similar position – housing was temporary and even romantic relationships were somehow superficial and makeshift.

“The pictures I took during those years speak about that craving for comfort in the big city, and the loneliness that accompanied us every day. They also reveal my own need for a home and an attempt to create one.”

Gembara was never comfortable taking photographs on the street and so, over time, cultivated her own visual language – one which prevented her from being a mere onlooker. She turned both to friends and people she could identify with, and to those with whom she could talk. She began to search for the quiet, isolated moments she shared with her subjects in a city where peace is scarce. As a result, the reflective tone of the images in the book is the antithesis of the imagery associated with outsiders to Delhi, and show a contemplative and tender view of the city. Their sentiment is a universal one, shared by many who live in cities far from home and try to build comfort around them.

To view more of Karolina Gembara’s work please visit her website.