Sylwia Kowalczyk was born in Lublin Poland. She now lives in Scotland, in Edinburgh.

Sylwia studied graphic design and photography at Krakow Academy of Fine Arts and the Edinburgh College of Art. Her work has recently been recognised in awards such as Fresh Faced and Wild Eyed – the Photographers’s Gallery’s pick of the most promising graduates of her year, and reGeneration 2 as one of the most promising 80 young photographers in the world, an exhibition which is touring the world and published as a book by Thames and Hudson and Aperture Foundation. Her work was also recently featured in “The Decisive Moment: Contemporary Polish Photography Since 2000” by Adam Mazur.


A bit about Sylwia’s work

Sylwia’s early work such as Self Projections looked at using optical illusion to create an ambiguity about what is real and what isn’t. Later, she developed these ideas further, with Chicas (the awakening of sexual awareness of young women friends). Personal identity may be hinted at indirectly through a telling detail – a lock of hair or a mannerism with the hand, which may overcome more prominent features (a large nose perhaps).

In 2006 Sylwia suffered from a detached retina and was at risk of losing her eyesight entirely. A subsequent operation saved her sight, but introduced permanent physical deformities into the way that she sees the world – the retina – and her vision - was permanently distorted. The brain is remarkably adaptable at compensating and filtering out defects. But the fear of loss of eyesight and experience of distortion led to Nightwatching, which uses analogue trompes-l’oeils (ie. avoiding digital jiggery-pokery) to look at identity, fear, illusion and distortion.

Much of her work, and especially Temporal Portraits, references classical painting, and the way in which anonymity or, on the contrary, recognition may affect the way we perceive the subject in an image. Our society today is obsessed with celebrity culture and tends to dismiss photographs of unknown people as unworthy of attention. In classical painting we accept masterpieces despite the fact that we have little idea of the identity of the sitter.



2016 PDN Photo Annual 2016 Winner in 'Personal' category

2016 The Renaissance Photography Prize Shortlist

2011 Selected for Fresh Faced and Wild Eyed 2011, for The Photographers Gallery, London

2011 Shortlisted by the Scottish Parliament to take an official photo of HM The Queen

2010 Selected for reGeneration2 – Tomorrow’s Photographer’s Today, by Musee de l’Elysee, Lausanne

2003 Young Photographer Award of the City of Krakow

2002 Winner, Trzcianka Polish Portrait Competition for the series 'Selfprojections'

2001 Socrates/Erasmus scholarship to study at ESAG (École Supérieure d’Arts Graphiques), Paris




2019 Lethe - Summehrall, Edinburgh

2018 Lethe - Bratislava Photo Month, Gallery X, Slovakia

2017 Lethe - Blue Sky Gallery, The Oregon Centre for the Photographic Arts, Portland, USA

2016 Temporal | Portraits - Galeria ASP Karmelicka 16, Krakow, Poland

2012 Nightwatching - Pauza Gallery, Krakow, Poland, curated by Lukasz Kus

2012 Portraits - Wozownia Art Gallery, Torun, Poland, curated by Krzysztof Jurecki

2007 Chicas - Wozownia Art Gallery, Torun, Poland, curated by Krzysztof Jurecki

2006 Chicas - Boutographies Photo Festival, Montpellier

2002 Selfprojections - Parnas Gallery, Bratislava, Slovakian Month of Photography



2018 'Negotiating Identity' Gallery Foto-Gen, Wroclaw, Poland (curated by Krzysztof Jurecki, with Simon Crofts, Michaela Spurna, Ji Hyun Kwon)

2017 'Lethe'  selection of 10 works from the series, within 'Ambit', Photographies from Scotland', StreetLevel Photoworks, Glasgow, UK (with Tine Bek, Donnie MacLean, Blazej Marczak and Margaret Mitchell)

2016 'Lethe' The Renaissance Photography Prize, Getty Images Gallery, 46 Eastcastle Street, London

2016 'Nightwatching' I.Y.P.E 2016, Daegu Photo Biennale, South Korea (with Katrin Koenning, Wilma Hurskainen, Berndnaut Smilde and Yoshikasu Aizawa)

2014 The Collector's Eye, the Maloney Collection of photography, FOTOFEST Houston, Texas, USA (curated by FotoFest Director Steven Evans; with Lucas Foglia, Dina Litovsky, Sally Mann, William Wegmand, Toshio Shibata and others).

2014 ReGeneration 2, Landskorona Museum, Landskorona, Sweden

2013 ReGeneration 2, Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art, Salem, USA

2013 Today, See , Beom-eo art Gallery, Daegu, South Korea

2013 reGeneration2, The State Russian Museum and Exhibition Centre ROSPHOTO, St Petersburg, Russia

2012 Power to the Portrait, Edinburgh, Scotland

2011 reGeneration2, Galerie Azzedine Alaia, Paris, France

2011 reGeneration2, Caochangdi Festival, PhotoSpring Festival, Beijing, China

2011 reGeneration2, Centro de las Artes, Monterrey, Mexico

2011 reGeneration2, Rencontres Internationales de la Photo, Fez, Morocco

2011 reGeneration2, Aperture Foundation, NYC, USA

2010 reGeneration2, Galleria Carla Sozzani, Milan, Italy

2010 reGeneration2, Flash Forward Festival, Toronto Canada

2010 reGeneration2, Fotoweek DC, USA

2010 reGeneration2, Miami Dade College, USA

2010 reGeneration2, Pingyao International Photography festival, China

2010 reGeneration2, Michaelis Galleries, Cape Town, South Africa

2010 reGeneration2 at Rencontres d’Arles and Musee de l’Elysee, Lausanne

2007 EcoUrbanisme - The French Institute, Edinburgh

2005 Intimacy (Human People) by Completely Naked, Campbell Works Gallery, London

2004 Nova Polska – ‘Contemporary Polish Photography' with Anna Baumgart, Marta Deskur, Wojciech Prazmowski, and Pawel Zak, at Apollonia Foundation Gallery,Strasbourg, subsequently touring to Thessaloniki House of Photography and Zamek Cultural Centre, Szczecin; curated by Anne Laval

2003 3rd Biennale of Polish Contemporary Photography, Arsenal, Poznan

2002 Transphotographiques Festival, Hotel de Ville, Lille



2017 LM Magazine - November issue 2017, France/Belgium - interview by Nicolas Pattou

2015 Nightwatching, Monthly Photography Vol. 565 - February issue, 8 pages, South Korea

2012 The Decisive Moment. New Phenomena in Polish Photography Since 2000, by Adam Mazur, Karakter, Poland (in Polish and English)

2012 Portraits - objectivisation or surrealisation - exhibition catalogue with text by Krzysztof Jurecki, Wozownia Art Gallery, Torun, Poland

2012 Netherworld magazine, November edition

2011 Fotografia quarterly, Poland No.32/2011

2010 reGeneration2 – Tomorrow’s Photographer’s Today, Thames and Hudson

2007 'Chicas' catalogue text by Krzysztof Jurecki, Wozownia Art Gallery, Torun

2007‘EcoUrbanisme’ catalogue, The French Institute, Edinburgh

2006Fotografia nr 20/2006, 'Chicas', text by Krzysztof Jurecki

2003 3rd Biennal of Polish Contemporary Photography, catalogue, Arsenal Gallery, Poznan

2002 Miesiac Fotografie, general catalogue, publisher: Fotofo Foundation, Bratislava



2008 – 2010 MFA in Photography, Edinburgh College of Art

1997 - 2002MA in Photography and Graphic Design, Academy of Fine Art, Krakow

2001 Graphic Design Department, École Supérieure d’Arts Graphiques, Paris