Luiza Michalewicz with one of her photographs of Havana, Cuba, displayed at George’s on
Waymouth. Pic Mike Burton
WHO Meet Luiza Michalewicz, the 37-year-old mother of two who formerly turned her back
on psychology and marketing to follow her calling — photography. Michalewicz grew up in
Warsaw, Poland, and moved to Australia with her husband Matthew 11 years ago. “We’d
been here for a vacation to Australia and visited Gold Coast, Melbourne, Sydney and
Adelaide. We just fell in love with Adelaide.”
NEW HORIZONS “I grew up in a communist country where you had very limited
possibilities. This is one of the reasons why I never even thought I could follow my dream.
There was just one photography school in each big city and in each place there were about
hundreds of other young adults trying to get in,” she says. “I used to be an acrobat so my
focus was on sport. Once I got married I had more choices. I have a passion for biology and
psychology so I chose them because they seemed more sustainable (financially).”
UP START Michalewicz used to raise her hands (like a frame) when her mother was
pushing her along in her stroller. “Photography was sitting in my head since I was a child,”
she smiles. In 2011 she enrolled in a course at CCPC (Centre For Creative Photography).
“After the first three hours I literally couldn’t breathe because I was so excited. I knew this
was I was supposed to be doing with my life. It was so overwhelming — I learnt so much in
the first three hours and it gave me perspective on everything.” She pauses, thoughtful. “It
was like someone took a veil from my face and I could see for the first time. It was
SNAP HAPPY Inspiration unleashed, Michalewicz couldn’t stop snapping. “It’s my passion,
my curse and my love. I think about it non-stop. I don’t go out with my camera every day …
instead, the desire develops. The new idea comes and it’s a very long process for each
photograph but I think about it 90% of the time. I fall asleep thinking about photographs and
wake up thinking about it.”
OPEN AIR Her first solo exhibition in 2013 focused on Hindmarsh Island. They were
sleepless times. “Sometimes I barely breathe because I’m so focused. I’d go there for the
whole day trying to capture as much as I could. For 12 hours I won’t eat, drink or go to the
loo. It’s such an incredible feeling to be in that zone. Everything stops.”
MOMENT IN TIME In April Michalewicz travelled to Japan to photograph the
“mysterious” country and in August “dragged” her husband to Cuba. “I went to Cuba
specifically to take photographs. The main reason was because I grew up in Communist
Poland and witnessed the change to a capitalistic system from day to day. I saw this
incredible change … I was about 11 years old and people’s faces changed. It was an
incredible mood and uplifting for people. I wanted to be in Cuba at exactly the same time.”
HANG RIGHT The results from both trips can be found on the walls at CBD restaurant
Georges on Waymouth. Michalewicz uses a technique using HDR (high dynamic range)
which results in a vibrant, almost 3D effect. “You take between three to five
exposures of one scene and stick them together. It’s an old technique. It helps to bring the
textures and colours that we don’t see with the naked eye. There’s no stitching, or funny business, just the
setting on a camera.” Future snaps will be taken on home turf. “My next project is
to focus only on Australia. We have such a beautiful landscape and scenery on our doorstep.”
GOOD CAUSE Michalewicz is passionate about the importance of business, government
and individuals supporting local artists. “It enriches our culture and us as humans.” She is
also devoted to the wellbeing of young South Australians. Proceeds from sales of her work
go to Kick Start For Kids, a charity providing breakfast, lunch and mentoring programs to
disadvantaged children. “After breakfast they focus, behave, are happy and actually retain
what they learn. The little people are so pure and innocent. It brings immediate change to
PHOTOGRAPHER Luiza Michalewicz’s heart broke when she heard Ian Steel’s stories of
children going to school without breakfast.
The Semaphore Park artist, born in Poland, will donate all of the profits from her Cosmic
Fingerprints exhibition, which opens this Friday, August 1, to Mr Steel’s charity Kickstart for
Kids, which provides breakfast programs for schools across South Australia.
The charity this week celebrates signing up the 120th school to its school breakfast programs
and this week has announced a significant partnership with the Commonwealth Bank.
The undisclosed sponsorship for one year, with the possibility to extend it for two years, will
see the free breakfast program delivered to regional schools around the state for the first time.
CBA staff will be on hand as volunteers in the areas.
Kickstart for Kids currently provides 20,000 breakfasts per week and 700 – 800 emergency
lunches to 120 public and some semi-private schools.
Mr Steel, a student mentor and coach, said the partnership would go a long way in the
charity’s aim to double the number of assisted schools in the next 12 months.
“I realised that most kids were turning up on empty stomachs, either because families didn’t
care or just didn’t have the means, and that was causing behavioural problems.
“As a father, I couldn’t ignore the huge difference a good breakfast makes in controlling so
many aspects at school whether it’s feeling cared for, longer attention spans or positive
Mr Steel said it costs $1200 to feed an entire school and CBA’s support means the charity is
one step closer to helping and reaching out to more needy children.
National Pharmacies is another major sponsor of the charity and a number of smaller local
businesses and suppliers also assist with the program.
The charity, which has been running for eight years, has a goal of raising money to set up its
own cold store, so it can become more efficient logistically.
Michalewicz’s funds will go towards this project and the charity’s general activities.
Michalewicz said she had been working on the exhibition for about nine months.
“Each of us has a unique story to tell — a cosmic fingerprint that we leave behind,’’ she said.
“This collection of vibrant colours, lines and patterns represents the passage of time, our
personal experiences — our unique life story. Through different colours and arrangements,
we can identify and interpret our unique existence: childhood memories and hopes, first love,
excitement and monotony, happiness and sadness, failures and accomplishments.
“I’d like people when they look at my photographs – I want them to stand in front of them
and spend some time and think about what story there is for them in that photograph.
“If it evokes feelings, it doesn’t necessarily have to be positive but I want people to stop for a
change, because we rush so fast through the day … I wanted to make a collection of
photographs which evoke some deeper thoughts.’’
The photographs are unaltered with no digital retouching after they are taken.
The Cosmic Fingerprints exhibition is part of the South Australian Living Artists (SALA)
Festival. It opens this Friday at Georges in Waymouth St and will run until August 23.
I am fascinated by extraordinary individuals like ballerinas, belly dancers, flamenco dancers and geisha. I call them Women of Art. My goal is to capture their essence and narrative through my photographs. These women inspire me because their life’s commitment and devotion to their profession is undivided.
One of my long-term projects focused on Cuban ballerinas, who are regarded as world class ballet dancers. It was an 8-year pursuit, 2 trips to Havana with multiple obstacles and unknowns, unexpected turns of events and personal griefs while creating this collection.
I wanted to show how underprivileged young women from a third world country could achieve the highest level in their profession.
There is so much instability in their life – no running water, limited electricity, poor quality of food, no parents to drive them to ballet school and back, no comfortable bed, no new dancing shoes or clothes. No promise or outlook of a better future.
These are the women that inspire and motivate me. I travel around the world to meet them and capture their strength and determination through my camera lens.