Martyna Niećko, UG student, nominated for Grand Press Photo

Zdjęcie nominowane do konkursu Grand Press Photo

Photo by Martyna Niećko, nominated for the Grand Press Photo 2021 competition.

A 23-year-old sociology student at the University of Gdansk has been nominated for the prestigious Grand Press Photo competition in the portrait category. Her photo depicting Ms Agnieszka, who was doused with sulphuric acid by an unknown perpetrator in the summer of 2019, is in contention for the prize. - 'When I was going to take the photo, I only knew about the tragic accident that happened to her. I immediately thought I would try to use light and shadow. I took an ordinary lamp with me. I wanted to show the drama that happened to my protagonist in a delicate but meaningful way. To leave space, not to cross certain boundaries. Not everything always has to be shown directly,' says Martyna Niećko.

Grand Press Photo is Poland's most important competition addressed to professional photographers. A UG student, recently nominated for the competition, admits that it is a great distinction for her.

- 'It's definitely a distinction for me, especially since the nomination was given to a photograph that is important to me. I met Agnieszka in November last year. Almost 1.5 years after she was doused with sulfuric acid by an unknown perpetrator. At that time she decided to tell her story and ask for help. Ms Agnieszka underwent many operations. The monthly costs of treatment and rehabilitation were far beyond her means. A fundraiser was set up and Agnieszka can still be supported today,' - says Martyna Niećko.

Martyna is currently studying sociology at the University of Gdansk, earlier she also graduated from the University of Gdansk with a degree in geography. Apart from studying she used to devote herself to professional running - she was a member of the national team, ran medium distances, and was also a medallist at the Polish Championships over 1500 m distance. Health problems forced her to give up professional running. As she had always felt a great curiosity about the world, she quickly found a new passion to pursue. It was photography. As the UG student emphasises, from the very beginning she was interested only in documentary photography, man and his history, and portrait became one of her favourite forms of photography.

In the photo Martyna Niećko, photo: Ola Olejnik

- 'I used to go to the mountains a lot and that is where I instinctively started taking pictures, back then still with my phone. Stopping, noticing frames, contact with nature was and still is a beautiful state for me,' - says Martyna Niećko. - 'When I started my studies, I thought I would deal with global problems, but I quickly noticed that it makes more sense to act here, on the spot. I became convinced of this while doing an "urban project" under the supervision of dr Magdalena Szmytkowska. I encountered a socially excluded place. I felt awful that the space I got to know from the inside out, where I encountered cordiality, was so unfairly and unjustly judged from the outside. It became important for me to touch the subject, to be close to people. It was around this time that I enrolled in a photography school where I met Renata Dąbrowska, an outstanding photojournalist. It was after her words that I finally dared to take out my camera and go out with it onto the streets of the Tri-City.'

Photography, as she emphasises, is for her above all an encounter. An encounter with another person and with herself. But she also sees it as a way to communicate, express herself, an inseparable part of her personality.

In her professional life, Martyna is also accompanied by photography. She quickly started working as a photojournalist, she was 21 at the time. Still in April 2018, being in the first year of the Sopot School of Photography, she borrowed a camera from school and photographed, and already in August, she completed her first assignment for Gazeta Wyborcza, where she still works today.

- 'In reportage/documentary work, the most important thing for me is an understanding approach to the characters, but I also think that it is simply curiosity about the world. Sensitivity is directly connected to this. Without this, there would be no desire to work. Everything starts in your head. This is followed by the will to act,' admits the UG student.

Photos by Martyna Niećko, UG student.

Zdjęcia autorstwa Martyny Niećko, studentki UG.
Elżbieta Michalak-Witkowska/Press Office of University of Gdańsk