Zofia Rydet (1911-1997) was without a doubt an icon of Polish photography. She owed her reputation to a unique project, Zapis socjologiczny (1978-1990), which she launched at the age of 67. In the dozen or so years that followed, she took some thirty thousand black-and-white photographs. These were mainly portraits of people taken inside their homes, surrounded by items that defined them. Rydet’s original idea was to cast the human figure as an element of the interior, on a par with its decor. Over time, however, the persons in the photographs began to play a more prominent role. The photographs included in Zapis were mainly taken in rural areas such as Podhale, Upper Silesia, Suwałki Region, Rzeszów Region. Over time, the project grew to encompass other parts of Poland, including cities, among others Łódź, Kielce, Gliwice, Szczecin, Gdańsk, Gdynia and Sopot. The urban part of Zapis socjologiczny consists almost exclusively of portraits of artists and people of culture. She photographed them against the backdrop of their apartments or studios. This was also the case with the protagonists of the photos showcased at this exhibition: members of the artistic milieu living in Sopot, most of them associated with the State Higher School of Fine Arts in Gdańsk (currently the Academy of Fine Arts).
Zofia Rydet visited the Tricity several times. In 1980, on the occasion of a trip to Gdańsk, she paid a visit to the famous Berger Villa at 24 Obrońców Westerplatte Street, the former home of the State Institute of Fine Arts in Gdańsk with its seat in Sopot. At the time, Rydet photographed the painter Adam Haras, later professor at the Academy of Fine Arts in Gdańsk.
During her subsequent stay in Sopot in 1982, she portrayed, for the first time, painter Kiejstut Bereźnicki, who already enjoyed fame and recognition at the time as a professor at the Gdańsk Academy. She also stopped by at an apartment at 37 Chopina Street to visit an exceptional artful soul, Dr. Jadwiga Titz-Kosko, director of the Rheumatological Hospital in Sopot and founder of the “Za Falochronem” nursing home in Gdynia. It was only natural that the nursing home became the main focus of Rydet’s visit to the Coast, as she took a series of portraits of its residents.
Rydet’s next visit fell in 1983, and it was then that most of the Sopot section of Zapis Socjologiczny, presented here, was created. Together with Leszek J. Pękalski and Paweł Borowski of theAssociation of Art Photographers in Gdańsk, she visited the likes of Józefa Wnukowa, Hanna Żuławska, Alfred Wiśniewski, Kira Pepłowska, Eugeniusz Dzierżencki and, once more, Kiejstut Bereźnicki.
In 1989, Andrzej Różycki made the film The Infinity of Distant Roads: Zofia Rydet Overheard and Observed, A.D. 1989, which is also featured at the exhibition.
Rydet died on August 24, 1997 in Gliwice.
Zofia Rydet was a recipient of multiple awards and honors, including the AFIAP and EFIAP titles and the Witold Romer Award. Her pieces are featured in Muzeum Sztuki in Łódź, the National Museum in Warsaw, the Museum of Photography in Cracow, the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, the Museum of Modern Art in Kyoto, and the National Museum of Photography, Film and Television in Bradford (UK).
The artist’s archive is supervised by the Zofia Rydet Foundation.