A Book Near and Dear


Polish psychologist and acclaimed author Ewa Woydyłło has a new book out this month. Entitled Good Memory, Bad Memories, it is her ninth publication with Wydawnictwo Literackie and—in classic Woydyłło style—it is a gentle and optimistic take on the self-improvement genre. The cover motto is you are what you remember, and each of the featured essays and interviews addresses the ways we can begin to affect our experience of our memories, thus effecting acceptance of life and the capacity to live fully. Skewing in favor of anecdotes and common sense over checklists and study results, the overarching message is not you should but you can. And that is a philosophy I share with the writer (along with a staggering amount of DNA, because, in addition to being a psychologist and author, Ewa Woydyłło is also my mom).

I’m pleased to report that I share another neat thing with the author—namely, a sense of authorship. At the behest of the writer and publisher, I shot the book’s cover image and selected the fourteen archival photo illustrations used in the text. Thus, my mom’s new book is also my photographic debut in the sphere of book publishing—and a first official mother-daughter collaboration.

Though my images can be described as studied and sterile, in the context of the book’s theme they may encourage an interpretation that reflects back upon their family-album origins. Maybe it matters that the little yellow vase in the cover shot is one I bought myself at a Danish thrift shop after my soon-to-be ex didn’t buy it for me; maybe it matters that the forget-me-nots in this little yellow vase are ones I picked together with my son in the woods near our home in Warsaw, though back when I first saw that vase in the shop window, I had my heart set on raising this child not in Warsaw but in Copenhagen. Maybe it matters that today both the vase and the flowers make me feel happy, not sad—though the memories they elicit are bittersweet.

In a recursive twist, each photograph illustrating this contemplative book on memory is itself a reinterpretation of a time or place or feeling remembered by the photographer. And now each has also become a document of my mom’s gracious invitation to join her in creating what is bound to be a book I never forget.

If you’re in Warsaw next Tuesday with nothing to do—join us for the inaugural event at Empik Junior at six o’clock in the evening on September 23, 2014.

All images by Natalia Osiatynska, 2006–2014.