The artist began the development of the cycle in 1978 and continued almost until her death in 1997. Rydet began working on the cycle at an advanced age (when she was sixty-seven years old) as an established artist with a considerable exhibition portfolio. At the same time she occupied a separate position in the Polish photographic milieu, dominated at the time by male photographers and conceptual tendencies.
Sociological Record abounds in contradictions – rather than a cycle of research or inventory photography (as the title, originally provided by Urszula Czartoryska suggests), it is a total project that sits within the tradition of intuitive artistic atlases and catalogues. Hence the title of the exhibition, which omits the “sociological” aspect of the series: record is regarded as a method that escapes the rules of a scholarly inventory. Aware of the impossibility of completing her work and documenting all Polish houses (in the 1980s, Sociological Record was expanded to include photographs taken in Lithuania, France, Germany, and the United States, where the artist concentrated mainly on the apartments of Polish emigrants), Rydet engaged with her work with growing zeal and impatience; often, she seldom returned to the previously gathered negatives. She also started to visit the same houses after several years or more than a decade after her original visit, in an attempt to document the transfor-mation of the rural areas of Poland.
Many photographs from the analogue archive of Sociological Record result from Rydet’s obsessive desire to catalogue various objects or events (for instance, TV sets, kitchen tapestries, ceremonies, carts, traditional wedding portraits based on a hand-coloured photographs, gravestones), or escape the logic of the series altogether (various kinds of curiosities, sketches for neveraccomplished conceptual cycles, or visually attractive photographic “mistakes” made upon photographing mirrors, for instance). What is more, an analysis of unpublished photographs reveals that the artist staged the vast majority of the works – Rydet re-arranged photos on the walls, and assembled objects on tables into compositions. Thus, she created specific kinds of installations or assemblages that comprised elements found in the homes of people she did not know.
Always on the road and with a camera in her hand, Rydet never made prints from most of the negatives that Sociological Record comprises. As a result, only a modest portion of her work is known today, while some photographs have been re-peated many times at different shows, and in different formats.
“Zofia Rydet. Record, 1978-1990” at the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw in 2015 attempted to recon-struct an exhibition that never came into being: on the one hand, it relied on guide-lines from Rydet’s notes and private written correspondence, while on the other hand, it added a contemporary dimension to her work through the use of currently available technologies (especially in the case of prints that have never been produced before).