An Ideal City?

Nowa Huta, experimental city, created by communists' in Poland after World War II to produce New Man of the system. Symbol of modernity and progress, one of the leading tools to install new regime in Poland after 1945...


photographs by Henryk Makarewicz and Wiktor Pental


Unique photographs, forgotten and hidden for years discover first years of Nowa Huta, a symbol of modernity and progress, an idea of the urban ideal, a heady undertaking in the first years of installing a new regime in Poland after 1945. The construction of the “first socialist city” in Poland started in the summer of 1949. The workers town, which was to attract Poles from all around the country, was to be a direct contrast and challenge to the “reactionary” intelligentsia of Kraków. Nowa Huta was planned to be a modern, self-sufficient creation with its foundations firmly rooted on a metallurgical plant, the Lenin Steelworks. Even though the photographs of Henryk Makarewicz and Wiktor Pental were taken in one place – Nowa Huta – and were done during the first years of socialist construction in Poland, they nevertheless convey the atmosphere of the whole of Poland during the 1950s and 60s. The photographs speak of ordinary lives, which the authorities of the Peoples’ Republic of Poland where not always so keen on… Makarewicz, a cameraman for the Polish Film Chronicle, was inseparable from his photographic camera. Pental, a construction worker in Nowa Huta, inspected almost every corner of the new city as part of his duties. Both photographers made photographs for themselves, and were not contracted by anyone to make them.


Henryk Makarewicz (1917-1984)

Photographer, cameraman for the Polish Film Chronicle. He documented Nowa Huta from the very beginning of its existence. His recognizable and elegant style may be compared to Henri Cartier-Bresson: always there at the heart of events, waiting for the ideal moment, when all the elements he needs form the flawless whole. In the works of Makarewicz it is the perfection of form, the search for the ultimate shot.


Wiktor Pental (b. 1920)

Photographer and construction worker from Nowa Huta. In the humanist tradition, he is close to man, much warmer. Much like Robert Doisneau, to whose photographs Pental’s may be compared, the images concentrate on one theme. All of his photographs are about Nowa Huta, and the people that make up the fabric of the town. Pental always treats man with lightness and humour, never par distance.

Project co-financed by Ministry of Culture and National Heritage of The Republic of Poland