Gdańsk is one of those cities you visit and immediately fall in love. With its charming Old Town, grand architecture and serene Motława waterfront, this Polish city of half a million ticks all the boxes of a tourist’s dream.
Gdańsk is also a very creative city. Back in 1997 when the residents were celebrating its one-thousand year anniversary, ten murals were painted onto the high rise apartments in the Zaspa district. More murals have been added over time and the suburb (right outside of the city center) is now a huge open-air gallery. with 60 large-scale murals nothing short of amazing.
You can appreciate the murals in-person, but if you can’t make your way to Gdańsk (yet), enjoy the breathtaking photography of Sacha Jennis.
Sacha Jennis’ stunning series, Zaspa District Gdańsk reveals not only the murals tourists now flock to photograph, but also the clusters of towering concrete blocks that are home-sweet-home to more than 30,000 residents.
Tell us how you got involved in photography and how long you've been shooting projects.
I got involved by traveling around as a twenty-something. I took many pictures but was disappointed in the quality so decided to start photography courses (from 2011-2016) :-). I was interested in specific off the grid scenes in foreign countries. So I did my first reportage about ladyboys in the Island of Koh Tao in Thailand. During my photography studies, I was interested the most in reportage and architectural photography. These are still my main specialities within photography today.
Your Zaspa district project really stood out to us. How did you find out about this place?
Thanks! After we decide to travel to Poland by campervan, I did some research on public housing, architecture, remarkable and interesting sights in the area we would travel. I always bring my analog camera as well and in particular in Eastern Europe, film matches well with what I want to shoot there. I read about the artistic wall murals of the Zaspa district in Gdansk. Having taken a look online at the area, I decided it would be a great location to shoot some film when we were in Poland.
What were your first impressions upon visiting the Zaspa district?
Since it is a small bicycle trip out of the city center, It's overwhelming to see the big apartment blocks and buildings rising up in front of you. They clearly demarcate the borders of the Zaspa district. I remember a vast and empty site just before entering Zaspa from where you can spot the church central in the district. Another remarkable characteristic were the pedestrian bridges across the highway and railroad tracks. You can see a lot of effort has been done to establish the connectivity of this neighborhood with the city center and others areas.
There's a huge art scene in Zaspa! Was there a particular mural that stood out to you?
Many of the murals spoke to me, specifically the ones with some semantics and double meaning to them. I like the combination of very colorful and artistic murals with the symbolic and cartoon-like ones. One of the first murals I remember is the giant dragon head holding a guitar shouting ‘Ozmo RnR’. It immediately triggered me to explore more ;).
What projects are you working on right now?
Well I have a lot of ‘want to do sometime’ stuff on my plate ;). I have an exhibition this summer featuring public housing in Antwerp and people living in these small apartments. I am planning to do some architectural shoots in the coming weeks (in the Netherlands). And a concrete project I am working on for some time now is the people of Sarajevo. Ever since I was in Sarajevo a few years back, I fell in love with this vibrant city and went back the past two years. I am also thinking of going back. I will need some more research to get more direction in this project, but portraits of the lovely inhabitants and to show them to the world, or Belgium at least, is already rewarding! You can find some pics here by the way (work in progress): https://sachajennis.be/daily-lives-the-people-of-sarajevo/.
Sacha Jennis developed a keen interest in photography when traveling around the world early 2000s. He decided to take photography courses, at first to improve his travel photography. When learning more about photography, he quickly became passionated and wanted to do more than just taking nice holiday pictures.
When traveling in South East Asia in 2011, he received a flyer for a ladyboys Christmas show in the Queen's Cabaret club in Koh Tao, Thailand. He got intrigued by the subject and after a brief talk with the owner, Sacha was allowed to make a small photo reportage about the ladyboys. Queen's Cabaret was his first, intriguing reportage on a sociological subject. This inspired the photographer to continue exploring fascinating topics with his camera.
Sacha focuses mainly on reportage, documentary and architectural photography. Subjects (and buildings) left unattended by many inspire and challenge him in illustrating their original beauty.
Rachel Ruiz-Oakley is the Managing Editor of Slide Night.