An Interview with Magda Kuca: Capturing Human Nature with Historical Photography


Magda Kuca – Artists Feature – VAA Member of the Month February 2022

Polish photographer based in London, Magda Kuca explores the cyclical nature of human ritual by utilising historical photographic techniques. Her artwork invokes themes of identity, memory, and folklore.

Kuca has worked as an educator, leading workshops on alternative and historical photographic techniques. During her career, she has collaborated with various institutions and galleries, including British Museum, University of Arts London, WeTransfer, Royal Botanic Gardens-Kew. 

‘I keep my mind open at all times, following my intuition both in life and at work.’

What does a day in your life look like?

Magda Kuca, Artist Interview, Artist insight

What I like most about my life as an artist is that no day is a typical day. However, I have certain elements that I try to incorporate into most of my days. After I wake up I exercise or do some yoga, have breakfast and prepare my lunch. I aim to get to my studio before midday. Depending on my projects I would spend time in the darkroom, creating artworks with my large format Camera, research for a project or prepare for the upcoming day if I am running classes the following day. I might then have friends over at my studio or go to an opening nearby my studio. London provides plenty of such opportunities. Other people and artists help me get inspired for upcoming projects.

What have you accomplished in the last year?

Over the past year, I’ve sold artworks to both private collectors and the public collection of Brent Museum & Archive in London. I had a show with Vogue in Milano where I showcased my ‘Grandmother’s’ project and photo book. I have put together an exhibition from the Family Tales project for which I’ve been collecting materials over the last several years. I had a solo show in Bydgoszcz, Poland at Vintage Photo Festival and won the 1st prize Grand Prix at the festival. Bydgoszcz used to be home to the Foton factory-our polish ‘ Kodak’-traditions of analogue photography are particularly strong there, so it was even more important to exhibit there considering that my practice evolved around them.

Just recently, I also took part in NFT residency with Photo Vogue and Voice (carbon-neutral NFT platform), merging the world of the digital and analogue through sound and animation.

I decided to return to my passion for photographic conservation and began to volunteer at the Centre for Photographic Conservation a few months back, helping to rescue and preserve some very unique and historic pieces.

I’ve also met tonnes of creatives who joined my workshops and worked with some really incredible artists along the way – Laertis for whom I’ve done a handful of album covers and music video and Tomasz Armada, an amazing artist and a good friend of mine based in Poland working within fashion. I’m pleased to say I’ve kept improving my skills in platinum and gum printing. Overall, it has been a very productive year!

What have you accomplished in the last year?

Review what you’ve accomplished every year. Give yourself a break but keep on track. Keep creating even though it seems like it’s not quite ‘it’; sometimes what I’ve begun to call ‘visual research’ can lead to great things. 

What piece of advice has helped you most in your career?

A valuable piece of advice from my painting teacher is to remember to leave room for passion within your creative practice. Even when you grow enough to make an income from your practice. I still follow that advice.

A professor of mine Jerzy Olek who was my teacher and mentor in the early days of my studies back in Poland taught me a lot about confidence, accepting who you are and using it to achieve your goals. He just recently passed away and that got me reflecting on all the values he had passed to me, he would always shows us photographs of his trips back from Japan, showing that there is another world out there to conquer, whether in general or artistically and that might be one of the things that gave me the courage to move abroad.

I’ve also started with mentoring sessions run by Karen since then extended the mentorship. Her help was and is invaluable! Since then, I’ve only recently became a member and art cafes and talks I’ve watch on getting gallery representation we’re informative and to the point.

I’ve also utilised various guides such as preparing your bio or guide to NFT, I can’t wait to see what else being VAA member has to offer.

Finally, what accomplishments are you most proud of and why?

Being able to support myself in London, having a studio space and being able to continue working as an artist-multitude of events had contributed to that and every little success is a step forward.

I believe I’ve heard Karen saying once there is no such thing as failure in the work of an artist as every rejection teaches us something-I stick with that and keep looking forward!

When it comes to particular accomplishments, I’m proud of appearing on the radar of brands such as Vogue, Lomography or WeTransfer, working with institutions such as the British Museum or Kew Gardens really gave me confidence. I’ve also looked back with a sense of accomplishment at my first solo show abroad in Paris during Festival Circulations where I sold some of my first works. Still, there also has been collodion work that I’ve done with the local community of crafters back in Poland, supported by City of a Poznan and working with the centre for Photographic Conservation, preserving and restoring 19th-century plates and photographs that gave me a sense of purpose and influenced my creative work.