In Warsaw, a photojournalist stumbled upon a story of soulful tunes and abundant colours on the streets. The range is wide—from buskers to bands, from provocative scribbles to large-format murals—but there’s something for everyone to enjoy. Text & Photographs by Sayan Hazra
Warsaw was my first international destination ever. And I witnessed the sprawling Polish capital draped in three different hues—autumn, winter and spring—thanks to an invite to attend a photojournalism course.
Over the first two trips, I formed an intimate bond with this historical city that throbbed with art at every corner. On my third and final trip, I decided to capture the soul of the city through my lens.
Historically, street art has often been provocative and illegal and Poland has seen its walls spattered with rebellion since the 1970s. Be it political propaganda or pop culture messaging or simply football team symbols, Polish city walls have donned artwork for over half a century now.
But it has often come under scrutiny and was even categorised as vandalism by some in the past. The scene changed in 2009 when the festival Street Art Doping gave Warsaw’s walls exciting and original art forms, mainly in the gritty by-lanes of the old city.
More importantly, these large-scale murals were commissioned art and not spur-of-the-moment rebellions sprayed on in a rush. The support of city councils brought in artists from other countries as well.
While these large-scale artworks were legal and paid the bills for the artists, legitimising their art, they took on a decorative spirit and steered clear of controversies by remaining apolitical. Some murals are even used for commercial purposes.
Street art in Warsaw doesn’t end with murals; the city is big on music too. You can find live music concerts through the year, many of them celebrating the music of Poland’s most famous music export Frédéric Chopin.
You will even find 15 ‘Chopin benches’ in Central Warsaw, each playing a unique Chopin melody at the touch of a button. But the most colourful element of Warsaw’s streets is the music in Old Town.
From solo performers to musical bands, college students to the long in the tooth, amateurs to those launching their debut albums, the performances span a wide range. But if you have an ear for music, even a bench will strike a chord in Warsaw.