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Socialism in the lens of Chris Niedenthal. Three meetings in Gdansk belonging to the Star Speakers cycle

Three presentations of photographs, full lecture halls, a lot of memories and autographs. Chris Nidenthal paid a day-long visit in Gdansk last week. The famous photographer was a guest of the third edition of meetings belonging to the Star Speakers cycle, which is organised by Olivia Business Centre for the sake of the Tricity business and academic circles.


chris-niedenthalThree presentations of photographs, full lecture halls, a lot of memories and autographs. Chris Nidenthal paid a day-long visit in Gdansk last week. The famous photographer was a guest of the third edition of meetings belonging to the Star Speakers cycle, which is organised by Olivia Business Centre for the sake of the Tricity business and academic circles.

Three meetings with Chris Niedenthal were held as a third edition of the Star Speakers cycle. Niedenthal is a famous Polish photographer and one of the winners of the World Press Photo competition. The photographer presented his photos at the Faculty of Social Sciences of the University of Gdansk and at the Gdansk's Academy of Fine Arts. He also took part in a gala at Olivia Sky Club — a conference centre at Olivia Business Centre. Especially the meeting at the university attracted much interest — students occupied even the stairs of the lecture hall.

Presentations of Chris Niedenthal's photographies filled all of the hour and half long meetings. The photographer commented on each of the photos and thus put all of them into a social and historical context. The leitmotif of the collection was "Socialism was, unfortunately, very photogenic". Among the photographs were pictures documenting big historic events and an everyday life of Poles in the previous epoch. Some of the presented photographs are known from covers of Western weeklies and many other had been previously unpublished. The author stressed that even unseen negatives, which he had sent abroad during the Polish People's Republic (PPR), still returned to him and that he did devote much time to sorting his archive — and de facto discovered his years-long photographic output.

The co-author of "Apocalypse Now"1

After the meeting, Niedenthal answered the audience's questions. People who attended the meeting were interested in many aspects of taking photographs in the PPR. They asked about the circumstances surrounding the taking of particular photos, general goals which a photographer then had had in mind, or problems caused by PPR's Ministry of Public Security. Other questions concerned photographic equipment of that epoch, opinions on street photography and current activities of Niedenthal.

One of the questions that appeared most often was about sending rolls of light-exposes films to editorial offices in Western Europe and USA. The photographer said that he usually had sent them on Thursday evenings by a freight plane so that magazines such as Newsweek or Time could develop them in their laboratories before the closing of an issue.

"Sending photos in this way was impossible after the martial law was imposed. As early as on 15th December, I began to consider how to send photos to Newsweek. Finally, I went to the Gdansk Railway Station and asked people who were departing to West Berlin if they could take my photos abroad. At the last moment, a student from West Germany agreed to this plan," said Chris Niedenthal. "If not for his decency, the world would have never seen the photos from nearby the "Moskwa" cinema. This is why, despite the fact that I still don't know his name, I see him as a co-author of these photographs."

Meeting a "visual historian"

The visit of Chris Niedenthal was a great opportunity to establish at least a short relation after the meetings. Many people who gathered at the meetings asked for autographs on books and albums of the photographer and expressed admiration as well as gratitude for his output, which is a visual testimony of history. At the meeting at the Faculty of Social Sciences there was even a person who asked for a signature on a photograph which had been taken many years ago with the photographer.

Niedenthal's presentations attracted also much interest from media. The meetings were mentioned, inter alia: on the "Gdansk Radio", in "The Baltic Daily ("Dziennik Bałtycki"), on the "Eska Radio" and at "Our City" ("Nasze Miasto") website. Interviews conducted by journalists from the "Trojmiasto.pl" website and magazines "Dolce Vita", "Anywhere", and "The Best of Magazines", were held at Olivia Sky Club.

More about Chris Niedenthal: http://oliviacentre.pl/en/news/330-the-power-of-an-image-chris-niedenthal-in-gdansk

The gallery of the photos from all the meetings: http://www.oliviasynergy.pl/pl/gallery/20150507-chris-niedenthal-w-gdasku-star-speakers-03

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Star Speakers — are unique meetings in an unusual place. It is a programme consisting of inspiring lectures delivered by international guests, which is carried out at Olivia Sky Club in cooperation with Gdansk circles of business, science, politics and media. The project is integrated with a series of lectures delivered at Gdansk institutions of higher education, which are dedicated to the Tricity student community. The goal of the project is a development and integration of international business relations, which help to strengthen the position of Gdansk in a global investment  point of view.


To guests of previous editions of Star Speakers belong professor Ian Angell from London School of Economics, a futurologist and an IT guru, and Derek Redmond, a British athlete, who specializes in long sprint running and is considered to be one of the fastest people in the world at the turn of 1980s and 1990s.

The initiators of the cycle are, inter alia, Olivia Business Centre and the Gdansk Global non-profit.


1The title of one of the most famous Niedenthal's photographs

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