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Sharing a Secret with Michel Szulc Krzyzanowski

Michel Szulc Krzyzanowski is a fine arts photographer born and educated in the Netherlands. Michel regularly publishes photo books and has exhibitions – count of a 180 since 1971. For over a decade, his work is internationally oriented and uses our world as his canvas and inspiration. Next to his documentary photography, he makes autonomous conceptual photography on deserted beaches in Mexico. His last finished project showed The Most Beautiful People in the World and he currently works on What the World Has Never Seen Before (WTWHNS). He makes the impossible possible: to show and simultaneously hide secrets of people from all over the world. The contradictions of privacy.

Can you tell me a bit about the origins of the project WTWHNS?
For over a decade I perform worldwide photo projects. Each time with a relevant social subject. This time it is about intimacy and privacy; issues that are becoming more and more important. The intention was to create a photo project that initiates a general discussion about intimacy and privacy.

You’re talking about a general discussion, but what does privacy mean in documentary photography?
That depends of the discretion of both the photographer, the photo editor and the publisher. It is first the photographer, who decides to take or not take a picture of a person in his or her private situation.

Then the photo editor and the publisher decide how to treat the privacy of the person in the image. Obviously, more and more conflicts arise between the commercial interests of the publication and the possible respect for the privacy of the person in the image. The world is becoming more and more materialistic, therefore money wins more often than not. In the end, privacy is less respected because making money is valued higher.

Are you criticizing this idea in the project? And how are you remaining respectful with regards to the privacy of your subjects?
People are documented in WTWHNS who show what nobody has ever seen. These results are published in a high quality large size limited edition photo book. In that way, only a few people will see what the world has never seen.

This is like sharing a secret among a small group of intimates. Meanwhile, an extensive PR campaign is performed informing the press and thus the audience about WTWHNS. Obviously this creates curiosity, but the message is that not everything that is intimate is available for general publication.

WTWHNS is a statement: what is private should remain private.


Vanya Pieters is a young photographer and filmmaker based in Amsterdam. She will be accompanying Krzyzanowski to Istanbul to find people with secrets for his next project.

To read the full interview and view more photographs visit No New Enemies.


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