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Chris Niedenthal at ASW: Photographs as Memory
Chris Niedenthal visit at ASW: Photographs as Memory

On January, 29th, at the invitation of the eighth-grade students, who are beginning their learning inquires into the Solidarnosc Union and the Martial Law in Polish People's Republic, our school welcomed a speaker, one of the most respected European photojournalists Mr. Chris Niedenthal. British-born, world famous Polish photographer, Mr. Niedenthal cooperated, among others, with such magazines as Newsweek, Time, Der Spiegel, Geo and Forbes. Often his photographs found their ways onto the covers of these magazines. He also was an award winning photographer during the World Press Photo, 1987 edition. He has been documenting Polish reality for over 45 years. Numerous venues have been exhibiting his photographic work.

Chris Niedenthal visit at ASW: Photographs as Memory

Mr. Niedenthal presented at ASW a selection of his photographs related to the Solidarity movement and the Martial Law in PPR, as well as instances of the normal daily life of the Poles in those times of great upheavals. Mr. Niedenthal turned out to be a skillful storyteller as well. Every photograph was accompanied by short stories that provided context details, added often with gentle humour. His presentation was attended by all of the eighth-grade students, as well as by many faculty members.

We wish Mr. Niedenthal were present in Individuals and Societies class the next following day after his presentation, to hear the conversations unfold. Ms. Tiffany Hay, the Individuals and Societies’ teacher, asked her students, “What did Martial Law look like?”

Chris Niedenthal visit at ASW: Photographs as Memory

The students’ response was overwhelming. They were able to describe in great detail what they took away about Martial Law photo presentation and specifically link their ideas to evidence from Mr. Niedenthal’ images. The learners were left with a clear impression of how uncertain and restricted life was in Poland.

The students were also able to describe the importance the Catholic church played in people’ lives. All of them were interested in discussing the 10-day pilgrimage - this stood out to them. Each student had their favorite image or story, and interestingly they were taken by the political advertising.

When I asked the class how would they describe life during communist rule based on the photographs, they responded with the idea that life was hard and a little grim but that people still had fun.  Their takeaways from this experience were powerful.

Chris Niedenthal visit at ASW: Photographs as Memory

We are very grateful to Mr. Niedenthal for visiting our school and sharing with our students his work and memories.


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