Malgorzata Florkowska’s photograph, “Forgotten Luxary,” recently won “Best of Show” honors in Arts Clayton’s Juried Photography Competition. (Staff Photo: Curt Yeomans)
JONESBORO — Malgorzata Florkowska’s love for photography began years ago when a little girl’s face emerged from the shadows in her cousin’s home in Gdansk, Poland.
Florkowska, a native of Poland herself, was 7 at the time and her cousin was a photographer who turned his kitchen into a make-shift dark room. As they moved the print from one chemical to the next in the development process, the face began to emerge.
The details that caused the face to be so striking now escape Florkowska, who now lives in Griffin, but it had an impact on her because it put her on the path toward becoming a photographer herself.
“I just remember this was a girl’s face and I thought, ‘Ooh, look at this, it’s like magic,’” said Florkowska with a noticeable Polish accent. “I don’t remember (the details). This was so many years ago. I was 7-years-old so it was long time ago, but it was a beautiful image.”
Florkowska, who is a research professional for the University of Georgia’s horticulture department, won “Best of Show” in this year’s Arts Clayton Juried Photography Competition with a slightly grainy black-and-white picture she took of her friend, Andrea Noel, standing beside an old car from the 1940s.
The photograph — titled “Forgotten Luxary” — was taken by looking across the interior of the car, as if Florkowska was sitting in the backseat and photographed her friend getting out of the car.
“It’s like time was frozen,” said Florkowska.
As the “Best of Show” winner, Arts Clayton purchased Florkowska’s photo to add to the permanent
collection at its Jonesboro-based gallery. She will also get an exhibit of her work at the gallery sometime within the next year.
Florkowska was surprised when her work was named the contest winner. That’s because, she explained, she got the photo through luck and timing.
The back story is that Florkowska and Noel were on a tour of homes in Thomasville two years ago when they came across this vintage vehicle sitting on the side of the street, with its back doors open. So Noel went to look in the car from one side and Florkowska went to look in from the other side.
When Florkowska realized Noel — with her old coat with a fur collar, vintage-style glasses and pulled back hairstyle — matched the look of the car, she knew she had to quickly act. While Noel was turned to the side and looking down the street, Florkowska quickly took her picture.
“I thought, ‘Oh my goodness, the car and the coat — they look like from the same time,’” Florkowska said. “So that’s why I was so quick to take the picture. It was not staged.”
Noel said she didn’t think she even knew Florkowska was even taking her picture until after the fact.
“The interesting thing about that photograph is, first of all, that it’s not posed in any way,” Noel later added. “I am wearing this ancient coat that my aunt gave me, with a fur collar, and I had my hair pulled back and these granny classes, and then there’s this old car and she just happens to get this fabulous picture.”
The result was a photograph that looks like it could have been taken 60 or 70 years ago, but was really taken in the 21st century. The luck, Florkowska said, came from having her camera with her in that brief instant when all of the elements of photo came together.
It didn’t hurt that she had the intuition to snap the picture quickly so that it didn’t appear posed.
“You know, I showed this photo to a photography collector in New York, and he said, ‘This is a timeless photograph,’” said Florkowska.
In addition to Florkowska winning “Best of Show” in the contest, the other winners in the contest were:
• First Place: “Bubbles” by Dale Niles
• Second Place: “Grace in the Barn” by Donna Thompson
• Third Place: “Sara’s Spinning Room” by Donna Thompson
• Honorable Mention: “Jubal” by Cheryl Richey
The Juried Photography Competition exhibit will remain on display through the end of the month at the gallery, 136 S. Main St., in Jonesboro.