The Secret, a graphic novel depicting the magical and illusionistic workings of the pinhole camera and the camera obscura, is a homage to photography, a process Andrzej Klimowski has employed for many years in his graphic design work, which is closely linked to the narrative arts – cinema, theatre and literature. The book also marked the transition from one way of working to another. Complex photographic layering and montage of imagery gave way to direct black-and-white ink drawings that share photography's preoccupation with light and shadow, allowing him to move the action through illusionary architectural spaces.
The book's protagonists inhabit the world of drawings, while scenes captured by the various cameras are depicted with photographic collage. The Secret has affinities with silent cinema, but unlike the silent film, which relies on captions and musical accompaniment, the wordless book allows the reader to search back through the pages to make sense of the narrative. It has a historical predecessor in the wordless narratives of Franz Masereel, but whereas Masereel was preoccupied with metaphor and symbol, The Secret is concerned with real and imaginary space.
Ultimately, this is a book in its own category. The iconography was worked out in many sketchbooks and with a folder containing photographs and archival references. A dry brush and ink technique was developed to work alongside black-and-white photo-collages rendered in coarse half-tone, reducing everything to line artwork ready for reproduction. This gave the book stylistic cohesion and pictorial unity as well as a simplicity that enhanced the flow of its inconclusive narrative.
The Secret was launched at the Polish Cultural Institute in London with an exhibition and Andrzej Klimowski gave lectures about it at the Derby Festival of Words and Lewes Live Literature Festival. It was reviewed in Eye, Art Monthly, Dazed and Confused and The Times.