by Inigo del Castillo in New Photography on Thursday 28 November 2013

Photographer Marcin Ryczek took a photo of a man feeding swans on a snowy day in his hometown in Krakow, Poland. He posted this online, and the rest as they say, is history. Since then, his photo has been featured on TV and many publications. The photo also won First Place in the landscape/seascape/nature category of the 2013 International Fine Art Photography Competition. [Check out our Facebook Q&A with Marcin]

Your best known photo is “A Man Feeding Swans in the Snow.” How did that come about? What’s the story behind it?
The photograph was taken in Cracow from Grunwald Bridge. For a long time in my head, there have appeared many afterthoughts for both positive and negative aspects of life and their mutual co-existence and permeation. The main theme which accompanied these considerations was the symbol of “±”.I was looking for an idea that would allow me to present it in a photograph.

First, I saw an unusual contrast painted over nature: white snow and the black of the Vistula River, cut off from each other by an equal line of water. This scene reminded me of a yin-yang symbol and that was the initial concept for this image. Through nature, on a black background appeared white swans and on the black background, a white figure. So I photographed the moment, admiring this extremely simple and reflective scene. The ambiguity of this image stimulates the imagination and emotions, encouraging individual interpretation and reflection.

It was placed on the most popular social networks in the United States, China, Russia, Norway, Sweden, and many other countries. On the American version of Reddit there were more than three million page views and very positive comments in one day.

TV from Germany and Poland filmed a documentary about the history of the picture.

Thanks to a quick pick up from the blogosphere, the photo became an international hit. What were some of the outcomes of all that attention for the photo?
The popularity of the images around the world proves its versatility. It reaches out to the sensitivity of people on different continents, no matter their place of residence, culture, religion, or political views. I get a lot of emails where people from all over the world present their own, very different interpretations of the image. For the photographer, it is the greatest reward when the image/picture, which is an expression of his own thoughts, experiences and acceptance of the world around him, in such a profound way affects the imagination and touches the other person.

Your photographs reference geometry and symbolism, did this style come to you naturally?
References to symbolism is very dear to me. In addition to photographs, I am also passionate about computer graphics, which I have been studying: hence the graphic nature of my paintings. In the natural environment, I try to search for my photo shapes that relate to geometry, without using graphics programs. The graphic nature of the images must go hand in hand with their reflective, symbolic message. Then the image creates a coherent whole.

You can see more of Marcin’s work on his Facebook page or on his website.