Ballarat Artist Aldona Kmieć is a Polish-born photographic artist working in Ballarat and Melbourne, with an interest in documenting regional communities. Raised on a farm in communist era Poland, Aldona’s work explores memory and identity. Often combining photography with elements such as sound, text and physical objects, Aldona’s site-specific installations provide a 3D perspective for her images.
In 2020 Aldona was commissioned by the State Library of Victoria to take part in a multi-story documentary project Focus on Country Victoria. A social history of Victoria, these images capture ordinary moments in extraordinary times, as regional communities still reeling from devastating droughts and bushfires faced the new challenge of a global pandemic.
Aldona has exhibited extensively; her photography is held in public and private collections. She has been the recipient of a number of prizes, including Under the Floorboards art residency award, BAF’s Eureka Prize Award and CCP Leica Salon prize. Aldona was also a finalist for the 2014 Bowness and Maggie Diaz Photography Prize.
‘I think of my photographs as pages of an unfinished book that is yet to find its title: they appear, stack up, populate my personal space quickly and often reveal themselves in dreams. They are living organisms, against all odds – they communicate and connect with other photographs and take on their own path. It’s almost as if I’m not there to facilitate it at all.”
I grew up in a small village in Poland during the fall of communism and the start of democracy. Our family nearly lost everything during WWII.
When I was a kid, nobody had much money to go out. Our social life happened at a house or while working, or on a street outside your home. No internet or phones, just close-knit community. I had a second-hand piano accordion. Together with my childhood friend, I would play to anyone who was passing by.
As a child I made a promise to myself to learn foreign languages, and to one day leave my village to explore the world. It was a ridiculous dream to have at the time, but it was my dream. The world I grew up in was the world where men played cards, women cooked food and children listened to stories about the war, memories veiled in a thick smoke of cigarettes. I wish I had a camera back then, when I hid behind the bed, my eyes were wide open from fear and excitement of stories being told, stories of war relived once more.