Friday, February 17, 2012

Interview with Polish Photographer/Poet Danuta Antas

Nostalgy 2, 2010

Danuta Antas

Countless as the drops of rain
Swept by a wind like autumn leaves,
Words, invisible, living for fractions of seconds
In an undefined space.

What a power is hidden behind them,
Mysterious force,
Which creates worlds so beautiful
and delicate
like a cobweb sprinkled with rain
in the sunbeams.
Yet, at the same time,
In one brief moment
Can turn them to dust,
to nothingness, to Hell?

The word, one little word
Can turn a happy man's paradise
Into the Hell of perpetually dying love.

Glimpses, 2010

Danuta Antas and I shared some things last year: we both suffered accidental falls causing serious physical injuries that sidelined us from our usual creative activities for many months.  While reading her blogs I discovered we also share many of the same feelings about the forced downtime as well as life lessons coming from such experiences.  We both realized how precious it is to be active and healthy and to simply be able to work and fully enjoy our friends, families and familiar surroundings. 

Danuta's love of the simple things in nature shines through her artistry, revealing just how spectacular these familiar surroundings can be.  She graces the viewer of her work with a very enhanced awareness of reality.

Now we are both well on the road to recovery and after a long delay, I'm finally able to present this remarkable artist on Mavor Arts.  Danuta is both an amazing photographer and a poet whose work conveys a spirituality I find reminiscent to that in the exquisite digital paintings of Helene Kippert, interviewed here last November.

Elinor Mavor:  I am so glad you and I are well enough again to be back to work!  To begin our conversation, will you share with us your fascination with "beautiful ugliness"?

Composition 1 from "The Soul of Human Dwellings" series 2010

Danuta Antas:  My fascination with the beauty of things commonly perceived as ugly began three years ago.  My life partner, Andrew and I started a real estate business which gave us many opportunities for business trips outside the city we live in.  It was then when I noticed lots of abandoned, decaying buildings.  Seeing these places raised my awareness concerning individual human lives, time, and generations passing.  Looking at what were now ugly, dirty, collapsing dwellings made me think of the people who used to live in them, of their lives and their stories.  I have sensed the presence of souls in some of these places.  Suddenly, the remains of a life would begin to emanate with invisible light to me.  Whenever I encounter such a place, I am deeply moved by its atmosphere.  It is what I refer to as "the beauty of ugliness". 

Later on, I created the image below I call "The Secret Garden",  inspired by the original photograph.  Since that first encounter, we have returned to this place several times during different seasons.  Each time we have been as enchanted by the mystery of the house as we were when we first saw it.

 "The Secret Garden", 2010

EM:  Which person in your life has been most influential in your artistic pursuits?

DA:  Definitely my father, however, I do feel that all people I have encountered in my life have had some special part in letting me be who I am today.  My father was a unique person, one with a powerful mind, imagination, vision, and great heart.  He noticed my passion for art very early and encouraged me to pursue my dream.  Both my parents provided me with every opportunity to develop my artistic skills.  Even though it was not very easy for them at that time, they supported me in everything so that I was able to attend a fine art secondary school as well as complete a five-year Master Course in Fine Art and Art Education at the Nicolaus Copernicus University in Torun.  Presently, it is my daughter, Monique, and my partner, Andrew, who encourage me to work and explore my inner visions.

People, Photograph of Andrew, 2010

EM:  Would you care to talk about your "dark period" and how this has affected your work?

DA:  It is not easy to talk about this because it means remembering a painful time and recalling deep, strong emotions.  Such a time for me fell between 2001-2004.  During these years I lost two very important people in my life to tragic illness and death:  my father and my husband.  This time also coincided with very demanding English Philology studies, writing BA and MA theses and with my daughter's growing up.

For these terrible losses to have occurred in such a short period of time was really almost too much for one soul to bear.  For quite awhile I was physically burned out, emotionally knocked down.  My whole world had collapsed, the framework of my life shattered.

As I was working through my grief, I did some things that helped me recover and, as they say:  from ashes, phoenix arose.

It was a time of reawakening and searching for understanding.  In 2004 I started to write short texts that I would call "reflections" rather than "poetry".  They all appeared in my mind suddenly, usually when I was falling asleep at night.   I would jump out of bed and hastily write down words and thoughts that were emerging.  "The Words" (at the beginning of this article) is from that period.  I also started to draw small images with a pencil I used while studying English.  It wasn't a special pencil for artistic work, but rather a kind of automatic office pencil.  Yet, it is still very dear to me. Over a three-year period I wrote many such reflections.  They were never published, but some of them received honorable mentions in local poetry contests.


Seemingly we know each other best.
Always together                                                                                                         
Me and my person.
We know everything about ourselves,
Only not.

Who are we?
We can see us in two miorrors,
The reflections of which are mutually

One of them,
there is in ourselves.
The other one,
Broken to millions of pieces,
which is as many
as people around us,
Showing us who we really are not.

The truth about me is
What I can give to others,
having nothing myself.

EM:  Do you prefer shooting in black and white or color photography and why?

DA:  I can firmly say that I prefer black and white.  I have always preferred B & W art, whether I did drawings, etchings, and now photography, and I have always paid special attention to light in my art.

Light is by far the most crucial factor, while all the other elements like colour, texture and shapes are subordinate. So when it comes to my photography, the B & W mode enables me to experience a scene to its fullest potential.

B & W mode is perfect to explore light in all possible dimensions.  Of course, I shoot in colour, too, but each type of photography I treat differently.  The colour works are more like illustrations for me, while my B & W art, I would say, is a more intimate experience.  It lets me focus on feelings and spiritual dimension.  I would say that B & W art invites me to enter the scene I am depicting.  It avoids distractions that colour usually causes.  It is a sort of sensation we experience while sleeping or dreaming.  Then, we are "in the scene"; we are the actors.

Nostalgic Landscape, Image 9

EM:  Your photography of trees is extensive and awe inspiring.  Describe your feelings and intentions when creating these pieces.

DA:  I am in awe of trees, actually, and this fascination is a complex one.  On a physical level I am enchanted by the diversity of shapes, textures and lines, plus the majesty of some trees and their incredible ability to firmly hold heavy, prominent branches.  Manmade constructions wouldn't be able to carry such heavy loads without additional support.

There is also another aspect that makes me so in love with trees.  While being in a wooded area, I sense energy and peaceful love emanating from the trees.  Thanks to trees I understand what Antonio de Mello discussed in his books about what true, unconditional love means:  all encompassing love, the love that does not judge, separate or discriminate.  For instance, trees offer shade to everyone on a hot sunny day, no matter who they are.  Moreover, the silent pride of the trees reminds me of very wise old people whose eyes express unspoken truth.  For me, trees are a linking element between heaven and earth.

EM:  Can you share any techniques used in creating the unique artistic results you achieve in your photos?

DA:  I have developed my own digital technique I call "digraphy".  It is coined from "digital" and "graphics" and my goal was to create a photo editing method that would simulate the look of traditional graphic arts such as etching, aquatint, etc.  How I did this was by experimentation and partly by chance.  The core of this technique is mixing different layers in Photoshop CS4, some in reversed mode and some in drawing mode.  I was encouraged to experiment in my art classes and it became the basis for developing my own "style" or "look".

Digraph 1, 2011

EM:  Which one of your photographs is a favorite of yours and why?

DA:   My favorite photo is the one below I call "El Paradiso Mio.  It depicts an ordinary creek, found by accident while we were celebrating my nephew's first wedding anniversary.  The young couple organized a picnic for this occasion taking us out of the city to get away from the summer heat.  While exploring the area, Andrew and I found this place close to our gathering, hidden behind thick bushes.  On such a hot day it was indeed like a paradise.

I am a little bit crazy about all kinds of water: running, still, lakes, rivers, seas.  Close to water I feel an incredible thrill and inspiration that I can't really explain.  But this piece shows how I perceive the natural world, the way I sense reality.

My initial shots of a scene like this one are just the beginning of my process.  After that, I manipulate the results to elicit my emotional and spiritual interpretation.  The finished piece is not literal, but rather an enhanced and even imaginary reality, uniquely my own.

El Paradiso Mio, 2010

EM:  What are your plans for future projects?

DA:   This year I am going to do exhibitions in my hometown as well as in Warsaw, Poland's capital city.  In my hometown I look for a public kind of venue to bring art to the people.  In Warsaw, I think it will be a private gallery.

I am also going to publish a photo album with my B & W works and I will be focusing on further developing photographic themes I started some time ago.  One I call "The Silent Pride of Trees" and the other one, "The Soul of Human Dwellings".  Until my physical therapy is finished, I will be staying close to home, but after that I plan to travel again and will be creating a series on medieval architecture.

EM:  One final question, Danuta.  Will you name the most important inspirations for your work?

DA:   Outside of nature, water and meditations, I would have to say, Rembrandt and Goya among the Old School of artists.  Among contemporary artists, Bruno Mercier, Philippe Marchand, Michael Massaia and Cole Thomson.

EM:  Thank you so much, Danuta!  I am sure everyone reading this will appreciate getting a glimpse into your special world and unique vision.  We will be looking forward to seeing your new projects.

"Awakening" from "El Paradiso Mio" series, 2010

Danuta Antas was born in 1961 in Poland.  She is a graphic artist, fine art photographer, art teacher and English Philologist.  Since 2009 she has been devoted exclusively to fine art photography and graphic design.  Danuta's art works are mostly inspired by nature and by spiritual meditation.  The artist is focused on a wide choice of themes, from landscape, nature, portrait, architecture and abstract.  All of them reflect her deep spiritual approach.

Website links:


1989: CUPRUM 4TH Nicholaus Pruzi Biennial of Graphic Arts in Intaglio Techniques,
Lubin, Poland,  Sponsor Award
2011:  International Photography Awards (IPA): Two Honorable Mention Awards
for "Awakening" and "El Paradiso Mio".
2011:  Prix De La Photograph Paris (PX3), Official Selection, Danuta Antas Photography


9/21/11 through 12/15/11:  The Energy of Trees Exhibition, Portugal
2011:  PORTRAIT 10th National Exhibition, Kolo, Poland
1989:  DIPLOMA '89 Group Exhibition of Fine Art Faculty Graduates, BWA City
1989:  CUPRUM 4th Niolaus Pruzi Biennial of Graphic Arts in Intaglio Techniques, Lubin, Poland 
1989:  The 15th International Independent Exhibition of Prints, Kanagawa, Japan
1988:  ARSENAL '88 Juried National Exhibition of Young Polish Artists, Warsaw, Poland

Danuta has been included into the 10th edition of Hubner's Who is Who in Poland and will be featured in the upcoming Hubner's Who is Who of European Women.

Nostalgy 1, 2010
All images in this article:   copyright 2012 by Danuta Antas.  All rights reserved.


  1. Danuta's photographs are gorgeous -- I can also see the spiritual element you mentioned. And the digigraph is absolutely awe-inspiring. I see what she means when she says light is the most important element in a photograph -- I often feel less aware of the colors in my own photos than in the way light changes the image. Even though she's in Poland and I'm in Arizona, I definitely relate to the idea of "beautiful ugliness." I'm fascinated by the cacti and trees here, how they're twisted by circumstances. I like to say they have "gnarlitude."

    I love this interview!

  2. Thanks Emily! While I was working on this interview with Danuta, I thought about the hikes you and I have taken and your many wonderful photos of those "gnarly" wrecks that do so add to the strange beauty of the desert.

  3. Loyal fan of black and white here. Really like the shot of the hands and book.
    Here's a quote I remember from years ago, wish I knew the author:
    "Color is for vacation snapshots -- black and white is for the grit of reality."
    Great interview!

  4. :)I am pleased to hear that you appreciate my b&w world:) and in this place, once again, I want express my deep gratitude to Elinor, who noticed this spiritual touch in my works and did this interview with me. Art speaks best for us:)
    Wishing you all wonderful inspirations:) Danka

  5. I understand the mystique about black and white artwork and photography, Danka and Chip, but for me the exquisite, deft touch of color added to your piece at the end of the Interview, Nostalgy 1, just blew me away. The feelings evoked by that photograph are just so poignant, and the hint of color magnifies the emotion.

    1. :) Elinor, lots of my works are edited in both, colour and monochromatic mode. The photo you have mentioned above, too, has its b&w version. You may find it on my website in my portfolio Nostalgic Landscape series. I wonder if it will equally speak for you like the colour version?:)

    2. Oh, yes, I did see this photo in both modes, Danka. With your other photos I appreciate each mode on a different level, but with strong positive impressions for each. But the way you added that delicate hint of color beaming through the trees and washing over the strolling figures was the master touch for me on this particular piece.