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The Rule of Thirds

Photographer Alicja Zak on her relationships with the three places she calls home.



FEB 2016 // For Alicja Zak, there's a Latin expression that rings especially true: omne trium perfectumsets of threes are perfect. Alicja grew up in New York City and spent summers in Poland, but it wasn't until she lived in Spain that she felt truly at home. She uses photography, which has its own compositional rule of thirds, to show how, from this set of three places, she creates a home.

I am four years old and sitting on my grandfather's lap. His beard rubs against my face and it itches.

I am nine and eating gofry z bitą śmietaną i jagodami, waffles with whipped cream and blueberries. My nose is covered in whipped cream and my mouth is stained purple.

I am 13 and going to camp in Slovenia, headed on a 26-hour bus ride through Eastern Europe with a group of fellow Polish teenagers, total strangers. In the rest area parking lot we cook up some parówki for dinner and quickly become friends.

I am 16 and on the bus back to Poland from a summer camp in Spain. I flash back to the cute Dutch boys, my first experience with European club life.

I am 21 and sitting on a chair in my grandma's kitchen, answering questions about my post-graduate plans, and kindly refusing a third piece of ciasto for the fifth time. The smell of the pierogi she is making fills the entire kitchen, and I wonder how many times I've sat in this chair over the years.

I am back home in New York. As soon as I grab by Nikon I feel a rush of creativity. I look out the window and notice the sun gently illuminating the buildings. I snap a photo. I turn to walk back to my bed and notice the shadows of the creases in my bedsheets. I snap a photo.

I step out into the street. Instead of naturally rushing through the crowd, I decide to slow down. I look up. I see through people's apartments, through people's offices. I snap a photo. I see people at every street corner and a sea of yellow cabs. They honk as I stand in the middle of the street, snapping a photo.

I arrive at the river and see the Statue of Liberty against the backdrop of candy-colored clouds and delicate pink waves. The waves splash against the pier, and I hear the helicopters roar above. I feel at peace. In the distance I see planes departing from the airport and imagine myself flying away in one. I snap and photo and I head home. The crowd envelops me and once again, I am just one of eight million.

Me encuentro en España. I sit on my sand-covered towel and the wind blows through my hair. The salty air fills my lungs and saltwater thickens my hair. I take a deep breath and walk toward the waves. I close my eyes and lay back, buoyant in the saltwater, and I surrender to the sea. I hear the salt particles crackling in the water around me as the sun warms my face.

The sun sets behind las palmeras and the children play in the streets. I sit down at the bar with friends, ordering some sangria, croquetas y jamón. We raise our glasses and the velvety flavor of the wine hits my taste buds. ¡Salud!

Soon I find myself amongst the masses of people at the discoteca with the lights gleaming and the music pounding. The crowd envelopes me and I close my eyes and smile as I drown in la música.

Ojalá pudiera congelar estos momentos y vivirlos para siempre. 

Alicja Zak is a 22-year-old Polish American photographer and traveler based in New York City. Follow her adventures on *Flickr* and *Instagram*.

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