Participants of the regional audition for a beauty pageant, Piestany, Slovakia, 2007


My American Dream

Couple years ago I started shooting a new phenomena in Polish popular culture - the bombastic castings for TV shows, cheerleaders performing at sport stadiums, open and mass auditions for top models. The changes were on the way. This reality, which in my school and student years was almost non-existent, was now becoming more apparent, more appealing, and more available.

Indeed, the world was changing before my eyes. When common folk populated the TV and the front pages of colourful magazines, it became common knowledge that looks do matter. Then came the recognition of public performance and presence in the media - the object of envy and rumour among those who didn't make it to the top. I decided to document this phenomena and follow the masses of girls answering to the call of the media in the pursuit of excellence in the mediocre East-Central Europe. They wanted to shine, and they found the key: being photogenic. I entered the universal world of striving for perfection and, to my surprise, I found it appealing to myself.

I simply can’t resist beauty contests. I like to observe the backstage of beauty pageant in little towns. The atmosphere is one of its kind, it is a mix of expectations, disappointments and discreet competition. I immerse myself in the ambient and I leave behind the culturescape changes in East-Central Europe. In turn, quite surprisingly, I find there place for myself.

I am no queen of the catwalk, but my world doesn't really differ that much from the world of my heroines. I believe in success and feel down when I lose. I do take part in numerous competitions and wonder: what for? Would this make my work any better if I won? And the lucky girls, are they really most beautiful of all? Nonetheless, we still believe this would give us prospects for better life and better work, bringing us closer to big names. It is true, that we are all different, but at the same time our beliefs reveal deeper and quite universal mechanism. Recognition is best thing that could happen, as it entails prestige and better start in life. Various prizes - a crown, a diploma, or a title - are the measure of value. The more, the better, if only for the sake of my CV.

I am aware that the way it all works is subject to various concerns, but honestly, I can't say whether it is good or bad that these are the rules of the game. For me, it is a little tiring, but I have not heard of a single girl withdrawing from the better side of this world. The stage is a stage, no matter what. No wonder, catwalk is a place to be - if only once in a lifetime.