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What To Photograph In Krakow - David McGirr shares his advice on photographing the city of Krakow.
You will of course photograph the ‘A list’ locations, the ‘Postcard ‘ shots are obvious, Mariacki church (St Mary’s Basilica) Sukinennice, horse carriages, Wawel castle etc, but try to be different, not many of the photographers exhibiting in the city this month achieved this by following the pack and taking the same shots as everyone else.
I have to confess that after 12 years of visiting and now living here, I long ago stopped considering myself a tourist, yet I still do photograph the usual places, almost weekly. It’s a compulsion, an addiction, the city really is just so beautiful and looks great through the lens. Like living with a supermodel, you might get used to them, sometimes irritated by them, but it is so tempting to whip out the camera for just one more shot.
Such is Krakow, a city of superlatives, breathtakingly beautiful filled with many irresistibly photogenic places and people, crying out to be photographed.
As someone who is equally passionate about Krakow and Photography, I can assure you that there is no better time for a photographer to enjoy the delights of photographing Krakow than when you are surrounded and inspired by so many wonderful exhibitions.
Don’t forget to submit your favourites to the Krakow Post Photo of the Month, we would love to see your best pictures, who knows, we may even be visiting your exhibition in Krakow this time next year.
Krakow From AboveKrakow looks good at ground level, but it’s true beauty is revealed in greater splendour from above. There are many opportunities to get above those grand town houses and look down on the city.
- Akademia Muzyczna w Krakowie, Academy of Music, Cracow, Ul. Tomasza 43 – Take the lift to the rooftop café for splendid views over the city rooftops.
- Krakow Balloon, Most Gunwaldzki, A 10 minute flight in the tethered balloon to a height of 186m, rewards you with great panoramic views of Krakow and far beyond. 9am – 8pm, 38zl.
- Jubilat Roof Terrace, Al. Krasińskiego 1 – There is a choice of rooftop cafes on the roof of the Jubilat department store with views across the River Wisla to Wawel. Whilst there, browse the department store for a traditional shopping experience from days gone by.
- St Mary's Basilica Tower is open for visitors on selected days from May until August: Climb the 239 steps to 51m above Rynek Główny and look down at the hustle and bustle below. Time your visit to reach the top on the hour and witness the Hejnał bugle call from up close.
Photo WalksWander up alleys and passageways to discover wonderful atmospheric courtyards and architecture, find patterns in the stonework and staircases. Don’t be afraid to wander into these courtyards, go behind the large wooden doors and seek out the secret Krakow, hidden from the tourist view, seemingly frozen in time, unchanged for decades, sometimes centuries.
- Stroll around the Planty – The former moat, now a green park that encircles the old town. A welcome escape from the busy centre with numerous photo opportunities.
- Ul. Kanonicza is widely agreed to be the prettiest of Krakow’s streets, leading from Wawel castle towards the Rynek, take a detour at the top of the street don’t follow the crowds onto Ul. Grodzka, instead turn left to Senacka street, a surprisingly quiet little corner of the old town.
- Mały Rynek - Walk through the pretty, tranquil Plac Mariacki, by the side of the church and through the archway into the often overlooked Mały Rynek, a stones throw from the Rynek.
- Walk along the Wisla – Start in front of the Sheraton hotel where you will find chess players concentrating on their next move. Walk past Wawel Castle and the fire breathing dragon. Continue to the point where the Wisla separates two of Krakow most historical districts Kazimierz and Podgórze.
- Explore Kazimierz, often described, as shabby chic, the former Jewish centre of Krakow now reinvented as one of the trendiest parts of the city. By day, take in the history, and Jewish cultural heritage, by night the cobbled streets and alleys ooze atmosphere. The interiors of cafes such as Alchemia, Singers, Mleczarnia and Eszeweria have interiors reminiscent of half a century ago. The passage between Jozefa 12 and ul Meiselsa will be familiar from ‘Schindlers List’, and also happens to have a great beer garden.
- Cross the new footbridge and wander the atmospheric and evocative Podgórze. Don’t be put off by the often crumbling facades, a legacy of decades of oppression and neglect. Podgórze was the site of the Jewish Ghetto and this is where you can find many photographic opportunities such as Plac Bohaterów Getta, the scene of many atrocities remembered by the unique memorial, a fragment of the ghetto wall survives at ul Lwowska, not far from the former Schindler factory, now a museum and its near neighbour the Museum of Contemporary Art, Krakow (MOCAK).
- Visit one of the Krakow mounds, Kościuszko is the better known dominating the skyline above the Błonia Meadow with a fine view across the city and beyond, but I would suggest visiting Krakus mound. Located on the edge of Podgórze between the former Ghetto and the site of the Płaszów camp, near to Park Bednarskiego. The mound is much smaller but from the top you can look down into the Liban Quarry where Płaszów inmates were forced to endure hard labour and where more recently Spielberg recreated the Płaszów camp for the film Schindlers List.
MarketsKrakow has many markets which provide opportunities to capture some of the colour and character of the city:
- The Flea Market at Hale Targowe, an eclectic mix of goods ranging from rubbish to hidden gems and antiques.
- Stary Kleparz market, Rynek Kleparski – Mostly selling general goods, fruit & veg, busy and a taste of real Krakow life.
- Flower market, Rynke Glowny. – Colourful and accessible.
- Second Hand Clothes Market – Plac Nowy, Sunday mornings.
Night PhotographyMany of Krakow’s public buildings and monuments are floodlight and can attract photographers like moths to a lamp. Use a tripod and experiment with HDR techniques. Take in a jazz concert at Harris Piano Bar, Rynek Glowny or Muniaka, on Florianska, great for aspiring concert photographers or to relax after a day trotting around the exhibitions.
Street PhotographyIf snapping people in the street is your thing, then you will not be disappointed. Krakow is alive with opportunities for candid shots, whether it be street performers, kids chasing pigeons, chess players by the river, a sleeping drunk on the Planty or any one of Krakow’s esoteric or eccentric characters.
Social/Documentary PhotographySeek out the quirky unusual Krakow sights, try to document the aspects of Krakow life which are slowly disappearing. The kiosks, the Krakow pretzel (obwarzanek krakowski) sellers, communist era socialist buildings, traditional quirky eclectic shop window displays.
FestivalsMay/June is festival season, check cracowlife.com for dates of festivals during your visit.
Euro 2012It may be hard to escape Euro 2012. Whilst there are no games in the city, Krakow is hosting the English, Dutch and Italian teams and will be home to the Danish fans, as well as providing a huge FanZone on Blonia meadow. A chance to do some celebrity spotting and maybe Pap the Wags, who will also be in town.
Museum of History of PhotographyMuzeum Historii Fotografii, Jozefitow 16.
Black & WhiteKrakow is timeless, think black and white, think tones and textures, guaranteed that you will capture scenes which will be impossible to tell if they were taken yesterday or in 1940.
Photo Friendly CaféPauza Café on Florianska hosts great exhibitions in the main bar and in their upstairs gallery, better still they have a great selection of quality international photo mags available on the bar.
Vintage CamerasKrakow once had many Foto Komis, shops selling a huge variety of vintage or second hand cameras where you could snap up a bargain or treat yourself to a Russian Zorki (Leica Copy). One of the few surviving shops can be found at Zwierzyniecka 16.
Worth A MentionTwo great examples of Krakow photography past & present; Photo Bielec, Pl Inwalidow 6. A traditional photographers dating from 1938, where they still use old wooden box cameras and traditional techniques. In 1938 they photographed a 19 year old student, who later went on to become Pope John Paul II, the image was since seen across the world following his death. For a modern contemporary example of the best of Krakow’s photographers, who has made photographing the city an art form in itself. Visit their website: Pawel Krzan.
Check out David's article on this year's Krakow Photomonth Festival: Krakow Photomonth Festival Highlights