80/ 28 November-16 December 2016

The birthday of prof. Jerzy Vetulani is an event which is etched in the social life of Kraków. It is also an unusual sociological phenomenon. Joyously celebrated since the early 1950s it has always gathered the most interesting personalities of various spheres. One of the birthday parties provided an opportunity for Piotr Skrzynecki and Joanna Olczak to meet; these two later went on to set up one of the best known satirical political cabaret shows in communist Poland known as Piwnica pod Baranami. The invited guests were mainly young, beautiful and talented (though not rich) - it was a mix of students from all universities in Kraków and from all faculties. 


To his eightieth birthday party, Vetulani invited Adam Golec, formerly of Gazeta Wyborcza daily, currently working as a freelance photographer. The professor commissioned a photo story of the party which undoubtedly in terms of both scale and the invited guests has little chance of being repeated and as such presented a fairly unique opportunity for the photojournalist.

Golec took up the challenge but suggested his own artistic concept different from the usual, accidental snaps of the crowd. Throughout the evening, he photographed the arriving and leaving guests in the company of the host in a mini-photo studio organised in a neighbouring flat. The photographer asked them to stand against a background made specially for the occasion by the painter Iwona Siwek-Front. Several hours of intense work to set up the studio, and later to photograph the guests resulted in an extremely interesting, important collection of photographs, a selection of which is shown at the exhibition 80 in Galeria Olympia.

It is not only a collective portrait, or rather a series of portraits of scientists, artists, entrepreneurs, officials, students who are the professor’s friends; in many cases the photos capture interactions and emotions present at the party as well as spontaneous gestures, facial expressions and glances – both the telling ones, straight at the camera, and those if in passing, with the subjects looking to the side. Some guests held their distance and stood perfectly straight.

The collection is therefore valuable not only because of its historical value. It obviously provides a record of this grand event, but even apart from such situational context the photos are simply good and moving.

The exhibition is done in the frame of the agreement with City of Krakow.