Marta Bras – the art of being yourself

Marta is one of the first Polish women I met in Seattle. We sat down in the famous Cafe Besalu in Ballard and talked about her photos.
One thing led to another and we’ve decided to create something together.

Marta is in the USA since 1997.
She lives with her husband and two teenage boys in a house facing a beautiful forest.
One of the rooms is made to be a small photo studio where she takes emotional photos of people.

Washington’s picturesque scenery might remind you of the place where you grew up – Warmian-Masurian Voivodeship is seemingly as enchanting. I wonder when you started feeling at home here?

Feeling at home is a complicated feeling! I think that even after so many years in the USA I still hang somewhere between Europe and the States – I’m never entirely at home.
Some sights of Washington state are indeed similar to Masurian forests and lakes.
The four seasons also make assimilation way easier when someone arrives here directly from Poland. This state concentrates all the scenery and climate that we’ve got in Poland.
Maybe apart from the volcanoes and ocean.

Poles need visas to the United States. But some lucky ones can also win the Green Cards in the annual lottery.

"Project SIS: Marta Bras"
photo: Marta BrasProject SIS: Marta Bras”

What was your first thought when you learned you won the green card?

To be honest, even before we got the news about the Green Card, Jarek and I, had already decided to emigrate. Back then we were seriously thinking about moving to New Zealand but it turned out that the casually filled-in at the post office form helped us pack.

We didn’t wait long – we threw ourselves into deep water, and in that moment we were learning how to swim. We were starting everything from the very beginning; taking any jobs that would help us survive.

The beginning definitely wasn’t easy.
Only after 2 years did I find a job where I could finally use my Psychology degree.

I think that situation taught me how to be humble.I also learned that no matter where I find myself, I will manage. Later, when we moved to Florida, I graduated with a degree in marriage and family therapy. It was a nice distraction from being a full-time mom.

Those of us who move to completely new places often have trouble meeting new people. How did you cope with that?

Establishing new relationships and making friends in exile is an interesting subject.
When we think of the Polish community, I have to say that even in the NYC where we landed first and where Polonia is quite big, the group is limited. I guess many of us open ourselves to friendships we would have never thought of or continued if we were in Poland.
On the other hand, some Poles decide to limit their contacts with other Poles.

New people come into my life in many different ways: through work, the place where I live and thankfully through my passions. Our children also always add some new people to this list.

Now my circle of friends consists of a few interesting Polish girls, few Americans, and a couple of people from various other countries. For me, the quality is more important than quantity in friendship.

Additionally, kids bring new people to our lives. It’s natural that some people stay in our life just for a moment and disappear when a particular situation or life stage comes to the end.
Others, on the other hand, stay with us for much longer because there is something more to them or the relationship.

Every city has a specific energy: New York and Miami are definitely much different than Seattle. What brought you here?

We were brought to Seattle by our dreams of the mountains and four seasons.
Jarek’s work helped to relocate.

As you say, all of these cities have different vibes. New York, at least how I remember it, is a place where everybody is in a hurry. You don’t really make eye contact with people on the subway or in the street to not put yourself in trouble.

Miami is different – there is a great influence on Latino culture and people are very friendly.
Many things are also put off until
mañana. What’s important is here and now, the rest can wait.

Seattle’s climate, on the other hand, is very similar to Poland. Four seasons, forests, lakes, mountains. People from here are very friendly but just to some extent, then Seattle Freeze starts.
I’ll never forget how one of our previous neighbors dropped in to tell us how happy he was that such nice people moved in… Then, for the next ten years, our friendship never went further than that conversation.
We obviously greeted each other on the street, but that would be it.

We met talking about your photographs but you also have many other hobbies: climbing, snowshoeing, volunteering in an animal shelter, and taking photos in your photography studio.
You also work as a psychologist!

Actually, the climbing gym is where I met my husband and I’ve been climbing since my college years.
This sport not only keeps me in shape but also allows me to meet many interesting people.
Snowshoeing is the newest idea for a winter sport. I don’t really have much experience with it but I’m sure I will have many occasions to get it.

Photography is definitely my life passion! I started my journey with photography while still in the remote era of analog photography, so I’ve been taking photos for a long time. However, a few years ago I made the decision to professionally develop in this field. Now, I’m mainly concentrating on portraits and headshots. People intrigue me and capturing something more than appearance is my main goal.

I believe that nowadays, in the quick selfies era, there is still some space for that special portrait.
I also really like to photograph children because they are completely natural. It’s priceless to be able to capture their lives – they grow and change so fast! Additionally, I’m interested in something completely different – real estate, architecture and the street photography. You can see my portfolio 
@lesmianka, @portraits_by_marta and

I currently have put off volunteering at the animal shelter but I’m sure I’ll come back to it.
Volunteering there combines my love of photography and animals. The shelter needs good photos of the animals to upload on their website and make it easier to find them new homes.

Unfortunately, I cannot own a dog due to my son’s allergies. So volunteering allows me to spend at least one day with the animals.

Finally, or maybe primarily, I work part-time as a therapist for families who face problems with parenting. I work with parents using mainly the Triple P (Positive Parenting Program) method that brings good results. This part of my life circulates around parenthood – the most difficult task on earth, that most of us don’t have any preparation for.

And after so many years in Seattle; do you have any favorite spots?

Definitely! I really like Whidbey Island with its ocean-meadow views.
Downtown Seattle constantly inspires me due to the abundance of street photography possibilities.
Clearly, the surrounding mountains with their wild nature also are on my list of favorite places.

"Project SIS: Marta Bras"
photo: Marta Bras “Project SIS: Marta Bras”