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Excerpt from a letter sent by Zofia Rydet to Krystyna Łyczywek, Gliwice, January 12, 1982

Now I only feel good in my darkroom, when I’m at work. I spend practically whole days in there, even though the lack of ventilation is killing me. I only come out for lunch.

I still think about how good it is, what a blessing that I have my photography. I now work all the time on the Record. The more it grows, the more I believe and want to believe that it will have great value. Now I know for certain that the greatest value in photography is not artwork, which fades, but its content, its role as a document. In making these prints I am delighted myself at what I have managed to capture, so many details that speak of the people of our time.

Happily I bought a lot of paper, which I need more than butter. They told me at Foto-optyka yesterday that all the photographic materials are in the warehouse, but the price is inflating by 300 to 400%. Luckily I got a two-year scholarship, it’s helping me a lot.

I have some very fine interiors from our journeys round Kaszuby. I’m curious about your work, how marvelous it would be if I had it all in color. Oh well, I’ll never do it. How terrible that I have so little time left, and such hard times these are.

I began writing this letter ten days ago and I still can’t finish it. I get up around eight in the morning, breakfast, tidying, and at nine I shut myself up in the darkroom till one, then I go for lunch and maybe some shopping on the way home; usually I’m back at home around three, I rest up a bit then shut myself back up in the darkroom till seven. In the darkroom it is totally sultry, hot and stuffy. Then dinner, TV news, and a film, which are generally awful these days, but I have to rest a bit. Then I finish the photographs, I put them on glass, touch them up, etc. I go to sleep around twelve. Naturally, friends also drop by, interrupting my work, but they generally come around seven in the evening and that doesn’t interrupt my work. And I always have the feeling that I have to hurry, because when I’m gone no one will do it for me, and it will all be worthless. You have Ewa and she can always use your work, but no one is interested in mine, and if it isn’t finished and totally worked out it will surely get thrown away.

My pictures are various formats, but most often 24x30 cm, though also 30x40 cm; I also have twenty 40x50 cm photos, [but] unfortunately there is no larger paper, and I have to have a few larger-format pictures as well to keep it from getting boring. They aren’t only interiors, though those are the most important; there’s also a range of other series, like huts, details, various still lifes, women standing in doorways in very characteristic poses, portraits, etc.

I live and breathe these pictures and it works like opium, and I am so stubborn, like the time we took the trips in the heat to Kaszuby. Sometimes I return from the city, which is so terrible, ugly, sad, almost surreal these days (unfortunately it can’t be photographed), depressed and tired by the railways, but as soon as I enter the darkroom and I see my interiors under the enlarger the peace and strength returns.

Zofia Rydet in her darkroom, Gliwice, 1980s.