Mining the cosmos in Kaja Rata's Kajnikaj

Kaja Rata lives in the Silesia region of Poland, a place where “nothing unusual happens”. “People are working hard as a miners, or drinking hard while they’re looking for the next job,” she says.
“But the mines are slowly disappearing, because it’s an unprofitable industry right now. Basically, I can tell that I live in vanishing location.”

Kaja Rata 2_670She’s opted to break up the experience by making Kajnikaj, a series whose title means “here and there” in the local dialect. Documentary but also somehow fantastical, it focuses in on the “grey destroyed monuments of the Soviet era” and a celestial colour palette to create something that looks cosmic.

“When I look at the sky over the decaying town, and when I build rickety contraptions, I am trying to find means to escape from the place I was born and raised,” she says. “Even though I know that it is a futile attempt.”

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Born in 1987 , Rata has been studying photography seriously for eight years; she graduated from the photography BA at University of Arts in Poznań in 2015, and started Kajnikaj last year on the prestigious Sputnik Mentorship Programme. The series isn’t finished but Rata says the end is in sight and it’s already picked up interest, making the shortlist for the 2016 Gomma Grant, and the screening programme at the forthcoming Fotofestiwal Łódź.

“I’m trying to build some stories between dream and reality,” says Rata. “I feel like a mad scientist or storyteller – you don’t know when I’m telling the truth, but it doesn’t matter.”

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Fotofestiwal Łódź runs from 01-11 June. For more information on Kaya Rata, visit

Diane Smyth

Diane Smyth is a freelance journalist who contributes to publications such as The Guardian, The Observer, The FT Weekend Magazine, Creative Review, The Calvert Journal, Aperture, FOAM, IMA, Aesthetica and Apollo Magazine. Prior to going freelance, she wrote and edited at BJP for 15 years. She has also curated exhibitions for institutions such as The Photographers Gallery and Lianzhou Foto Festival. You can follow her on instagram @dismy