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Poland in Digital Photography of Georgene Bramlage

The Polish Center of Learning and Discovery at Elms College in Chicopee, MA presents "Polish Culture: Beyond Pierogi & Golabki," an exhibit of digital color photographs of Poland by Georgene Bramlage of Leverett, MA. The exhibit is free of charge and open to the public Monday through Friday, October 3 - 24, 2006, 1:30 - 5 pm; Sundays, 1:30-4:30 pm in the Borgia Gallery, second floor of the Mary Dooley Campus Center, 291 Springfield Street, Chicopee, MA 01013. All included photographs can be found on the exposition.

The exhibit is composed of digital photographs Bramlage made during a late summer trip in 2005 to Poland with a group from the Polish Center at the Elms College, and an Elder Hostel trip in summer 2006. The exhibit contrasts some of the old parts of Poland with the new. These photographs highlight Warsaw and a good part of western Poland. They include folkways villages (scansen) and contemporary towns, medieval towns and modern street scenes, along with ancient cathedrals and up-to-date churches. This photography project is part of Ms. Bramlage's continuing search and investigation of her cultural identity as a second-generation daughter of Poland. Stas Radosh (Director of the Polish Center at Elms College) and his course "Introduction to Polish Culture," originally taught at the University of MA (Amherst) and now at the Elms (Chicopee), are reponsible for Ms. Bramlage's beginning ability to understand and synthesize the history and culture of her ancestors.

Located in central Europe, Poland maintains its position as a crossroads between eastern and western European countries and cultures. While Poland's national origins date to the 10th century, its borders have repeatedly shifted due to a history of aggression and warfare initiated by neighboring countries. Border changes at the end of WWII (1945) could have overwhelmed the national mentality and culture.

However, today tiny Poland, the 8th most densely populated country in Europe, is a free democracy and looks to align with western countries. In 1999, Poland joined NATO and in 2004 the European Union (EU). Its citizens welcome prosperity while continuing to develop and enhance for visitors the country's history, folk culture, impressive architecture and beautiful natural landscape.

Some symbolic depictions of modern Poland found within Bramlage's images:

Green and gold backgrounds represent Poland or "Polanie," the Land of Fields / Living on the Field. Oats and other plants, along with agricultural and garden tools, connect with modern agriculture and exports of tissue culture plants and hybrids of modern ornamental plants. Mountains and forests continue to supply both pleasure and income for the Polish nation.

Our Lady of Czestochowa, Maximilian Kolbe, Pope John Paul II, and amber rosaries symbolize ties and traditions of the Roman Catholic Church and the strength that Polish people draw from this association.&nsp; The beautiful churches throughout the land are a source of pride.

Amber also represents a continuing source of commerce from prehistory to current times. The red and white Polish flag, sometimes with an eagle emblazoned upon it, symbolizes the centuries-old struggle to achieve a rich and independent country of international status. "Solidarity" represents the establishment of the first Autonomous Trades Unions and the official end to the Communist-dominated Polish People's Republic more than a quarter century ago.

Crocheted lace and pottery signify folk crafts as well as expanding international markets. They also represent the beautiful and tough women who have kept these crafts alive. Modern gadgets like cell phones and satellite dishes represent Poland's acceptance into the European Union in May 2004 and an exciting future as part of present-day Europe.

Georgene A. Bramlage
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