“A picture worths a thousand words,” is not a cliche to photographers Katarzyna Owczarek and Marcin Owczarek. It carries a deeper meaning, which is profoundly reflected in their work.

Katarzyna and Marcin are a married couple who started working together in 2016. As fine art photographers, they tell stories based on surrealism. In their new series, “My Heart is An Animal,” they let viewers interpret their work based on their own life experiences. By communicating in surreal language, viewers are able to interpret each story differently, as this particular series highlights the connection between humans, animals and how they affect society and nature. 

We spoke with Katarzyna and Marcin to discuss fine art photography and learn more about the surrealism in their work.

Can you describe the connection you’ve cultivated between surrealism and photography, as well as how you initially got started in this category of photography?

Marcin: As far as I remember I didn’t start with photography. At the age of 17, I created my first paper-collage called ‘Requiem.’ Since that moment I tried to find the best medium to express myself. Primitively I used scissors, glue, and paper. Later, that wasn’t enough and the possibilities of creation for me were too narrow. In this way, I discovered photography and Photoshop. Subsequently, I started to connect collage and photography. In the beginning, I used to photograph every single element I needed in creation: buildings, monuments, animals. By using both methods, I developed in photography and started to create digital art, as well as mixed media art. All in all, I’ve been doing this for 14 years. In 2016, I decided to try something new, a different kind of photography, by limiting the level of manipulation and focuses more on the photography itself. In this way, we invented our current series ‘My Heart is An Animal,’ which combines photography in more traditional way, concept and storytelling.

Katarzyna: Our project is mysterious, surreal and has emotional vigor. To sum it up, our series are based on the poetics of surrealism, because surrealism makes visible the invisible and transgresses the traditional bounds of reality. Our minds work in a similar way—we feel comfortable in this kind of universe, so we decided to inhabit there and invite art lovers to visit us.

Can you walk me through the process of shooting your new series, ‘My Heart is An Animal’?

Marcin: The main inspiration behind the series is the relationship between human beings and animals. We wanted to stress the fact that we often forget how deep the connection is between animal, the natural world, and Mother Earth, and how we do not treat this kind of connection in a proper way. Animals are being abused, some species are close to extinction. By linking human and animal elements we want to say: we are all, one living organism and we should respect each other. When we use the animal mask and human body it also means that we share all these aspects of existence. In addition, our inspiration was our state of mind and the particular way we observe the world.

This series satellites around allegories, archetypes, symbols, and myths which are always up-to-date. The pictures have metaphorical and symbolic connotations. Using animal heads as a symbol and referring to instincts might be interpreted on many different levels. Symbols have many deep dimensions, they are stronger than passing time. Our human-animal instincts are simply universal and will be visible as long as this world exists.

Katarzyna: Moreover, when new concepts and impulse for creation appears (sometimes unexpectedly), we summarize it in a few sentences and make sketches in our notebook. This process is simply a conceptual part. In our case, to create a final picture (finished artwork), we also need to set off for the trip and find the best place that’s most visually attractive.  

You explained this series mainly deals with the relationship between human and nature with a strong emphasis on animals. Can you tell more about how this relationship interests you? 

Katarzyna: One of the most fascinating facts, regarding the relationship between animals and man, is how deeply we are connected with the animal and natural world. In our view, people simply start to forget about these connections. We do not live in coexistence—a man tries to force nature to fit the human scale and exploit it. Man wants to shape nature to his will. For some people, it might sound naive, but we believe we are all “children of the Earth” and every soul has the same right to be respected. The relationship between man and animal, such as dog, for example, can be emotionally powerful. We think everyone whose ever had a dog for many years can say something about this. We are interested in the polarity between man and animal, and it shows up in our work.

You also mentioned that animals sometimes show human emotions. What emotions/feelings do you think man and animal have in common? In what ways does this build a relationship? 

Marcin: Man and animals share in common many aspects. To start: people resemble animals and animals resemble humans (emotionally, physiognomically). We share the same set of needs—we need nourishment, we need to procreate to keep the species alive, we need to be loved and understood, we need warmth and shelter, we are all limited by mortal body, etc. They feel pain and they have memory. Animals as humans can live in groups, protect and help each other, have their own languages to communicate. Animals struggle with the same concerns as any modern man. All of these mentioned factors make the animals similar to us in many aspects and build a relationship between us and them.

How much of yourself do you insert into you work vs. your subjects? 

Katarzyna: To be honest we completely identify ourselves with the subjects of our works, and our works are also contributing to “Animal Rights.” We create art and photography through all our senses, emotions and interaction with the living world.

To wrap up this up, I’m wondering what you have planned for the future?

Marcin: We have a couple of new sketches, so new works will be revealed soon for sure. I can already say that two of our next works will be called ‘The Song of the Sea’ and ‘Who Am I.’ Now we’re just looking for the proper visual atmosphere and landscape.

Katarzyna: ‘My Heart is an Animal’ is an open-ended project, which we constantly develop. We also intend to create few sculptures which will correspond with our project, which we hope to achieve in 2018.

See more images from the series below and visit Katarzyna and Marcin Owzarek’s website for more of their work.