In 2010 I rolled into a project which became My Poland, a photography project documenting my view or passion for Poland. My Poland quickly developed itself as a street photography project.

Warm day at the odra poland theodoorthomas

Rules

When shooting street it’s always a good idea to be clear what rights and which restrictions you have to take into account.

In The Netherlands, the country where I live, you have the right to photograph anyone in public places without asking them for permission as is the case in most other countries. Imagine my surprise when I learned that Poland had different rules. Most Poles will tell you it’s just not allowed, period, however that actually isn’t entirely true it’s a lot more nuanced. Which makes sense, or else every tourist would be risking a fine or arrest as soon as they snap a picture. 
It wasn’t easy to figure out exactly what the rules are and to be honest I’m still a bit fuzzy on it but I kept these 3 rules in mind:

  • The person you photograph can’t take up more than 30% of the frame.
  • Photos of public figures/celebrities while performing their public/professional functions are allowed at all times.
  • Documentary shots of scenes, landscaped and/or gatherings are okay as well.

It can be really difficult to interpret the rule of law correctly from situation to situation, even police officers will sometimes struggle or get it wrong. When visiting Toruń I came across two street photographers and an angry father waiting around for the police to show up, so it does happen if you’re not careful. 

Effect on the project

To avoid any misunderstandings and difficult situations I decided to make my project less candid. At first I saw this as a major disadvantage. I didn’t realize then that it was going to be the base of what made the project work. By getting closer to the people I photographed I included myself in the photograph without being in it and thus genuinely capturing my version of Poland.

A couple more examples from the My Poland project.