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Over the course of a year, Ela Polkowska (b. 1977, Poland) frequently visited a particular family living in a small village somewhere in her home country. This family refuses to live by society’s standards, as is evident from the broken fences, piles of clothes, home-made repairs and so on. Their philosophy – why throw something away even though it’s damaged? It may still come in useful one day! – has resulted in an unconventional attitude towards consumption. Their home resembles a warehouse: a space packed with stuff, whether working or not – somewhere that should have fallen apart a long time ago.

For Polkowska, this disorderly environment must have been a photogenic heaven, full of remarkable and peculiar details. The elements within the tight confines of her frame representa life of improvisation, of surviving on minimal means, and of seemingly not caring what others think of such a lifestyle. These people wished to deny a clean world of order and yet the mess turned out to be impossible to control: the car crashed, their pets died and the family eventually disintegrated completely.

Ela Polkowska was selected by Magnum photographer Mark Power for a Portfolio in GUP #60.