Love for art behind the Iron Curtain

Hi, I'm Ula Lars. I was born in 1980. Rocky times for Poland, just before the civil war. Locked behind the wall, separated from the rest of the world. Unable to travel and experience the other and new. We reigned democracy in 1989 and life was difficult for many more years after that. We’re way behind fancy western Europe. You know, Paris, Amsterdam, Rome. Only in 2004, Poland joined European Union. Things started to shift. Slowly.  

As a family, we didn’t have much. Same as any other family in a gray blocks district I grew up. Albums of French Impressionists, Austrian Symbolists, and iconic Dutch painters, Rembrandt, Vermeer, Van Gogh were my means to escape. My fairy tales.

I was imagining long travels to the places far away. As a young girl, I made a list of all the mesmerizing artworks I’ve seen in the books. The author, the title, the museum where it’s exposed. My list contained places like Paris, Barcelona, Madrid, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Vienna, New York. Nobody in my family has ever been there. Neither any of the people I knew. Folks I knew didn’t travel abroad. And I had no hope that it’d be any different in my case. We were poor. No money for foreign holidays. The end.

Well, not. The stubborn dreamer I am and my list is mostly checked today. I’ve seen almost all the masterpieces I dreamt about. I worked hard, risked a lot and received plenty of support. Amsterdam in The Netherlands is my home base since 2006. I moved here after graduating with the communication degree, in Rotterdam.

My passion for photography started with my 16 years old Mom.

My Mom grew up in poverty. At the age of sixteen, she bought her first photo camera. Until this day it’s my most important relict I own.

If I say we had little when growing up, my Mom had nothing compared to that. Not even a bathroom with hot running water. And I had a bath! What a luxury! Come on!

When Mom turned sixteen and was legally allowed to work, she spent all summer working on the farm. Her intention was to help the family with the money she would earn. Her Mother ordered her to keep half of it and buy something precious for herself. My Mom bought her first camera. The passion for photography was born.

It’s also the first camera I ever used. With my first earned money I bought another. An upgrade. And since then I bought many more. I heard a saying once: “If you don’t want your kids to become a drug addict, teach them photography. If they get the bug, they’ll never have money for drugs". True.

Medium you chose to create with is a tool. There’re plenty of tools to choose from. I experiment a lot. Yet, sticking with the camera the most. I’m very attached to it. It’s the best personal tool in my box. Prolongation of my eyes. I want you to see what I see. To make you understand what I feel,  what I’m going through. Perhaps. Why? Maybe to tell you a personal story, to introduce myself? I want you to know me with the safe distance of a lens. 

We’re all photographers these days. More than drug addicts, I hope.

And there’s no need for fancy equipment to take a great shot. Equipped with two lenses and a personal sense of perception we’re able to create art.  

I honor my roots but having more than one place to call home is a great creative drive. A world citizen I am, wishing for a border-free planet. A border free Universe!

We’re a highly creative species. If we create equal conditions everywhere, for everyone, we don’t need borders anymore. I don’t know how to do that but I know one thing for sure. If you really, really want something much, you find a way to get there.

I’m not the first artist to have such dreams, obviously. Edward Steichen who served as Director of the Department of Photography at New York's Museum of Modern Art from 1947 to 1961 curated and assembled the exhibit The Family of Man, which was seen by nine million people. Nine million dreamers. It’s one of the most influential photography exhibitions I’ve seen so far. Twice.

My guilty pleasures are food and TV shows.

Fermented veggies are what I could sell my Mother for. Yes, she’s aware of that. Especially pickled cucumbers. Same as Petra and her mad relatives from “Jane the Virgin”. True, it’s an eastern European thing but highly contagious, if you dare to try.  Each year my Mom makes plenty of cucumber jars for me to consume. So I can be selling my art, only. Click here to buy your unique piece of art. I'm sorry, my pickles are not for sale.

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