Willows are probably the most recognisable motif of Edward Hartwig’s work, as to them he dedicated one of his photographic albums, edited together with his sister and poet, Julia Hartwig, about which album he used to say:
‘Willows have been photographed by many’, he said in the introduction of that 1989 publication, ‘but nobody has ever dealt with the willow, especially in its entirety, this tree being so important to the Polish landscape and, which should be mentioned, is also disappearing. (...) I have focused on the willow as I remembered how my grandmother told me mysterious stories about willows. Various spirits, devils live in them... An album with an excellent introduction of my sister, Julia’.
He photographed willows almost as of the beginning of his activity, and it certainly came due to his photography that the willow became an important symbol, feeding the national Polish imaginarium. One of the first awards he was awarded with in a photographic competition regarded the presentation of a willow, which was also associated with an anecdote quoted by Hartwig:
‘Once again, I send a photo for a national exhibition of this kind: a willow, a road, and two peasants go by the road. I get awarded for this. Then, a year passes by, the organisers of another such exhibition send me a letter stating “Mr Hartwig! Please cut this willow out!”. Because all of the colleagues from the Lublin Photographic Society began to photograph this willow tree’.
At the beginning of his activity, Hartwig’s willows are pictorial landscape shows, with a soft drawing and mild chiaroscuro tones; with the passage of time, those turned mostly into monochromatic photographs with a graphic and plastically modified image.