Michal Iwanowski (*1977, Poland) is a Wales based artist photographer. In 2008 he completed his MFA in Documentary Photography at the University of Wales, Newport. His work, focused on the experience of an individual, explores the relationship between landscape and memory. In 2009 he won the Emerging Photographers award by the Magenta Foundation (Canada) and received an Honourable Mention at Px3 Prix de la Photographie, Paris. His latest project Clear of People, has been exhibited and published worldwide, and a book under the same title is due out in June 2016 on Brave Books. ‘Clear of People’ will be onext on display at Barcelona Doc Field Festival, May 0 September 2016. Check out his campaign at the bottom of this post!
Clear of People
In 1945, my grandfather and his brother escaped from a prisoner-or-war camp in Kaluga (Russia), and crossed over 2,200 km on a quest to return home. As fugitives – they moved only at night, and avoided contact with people at all cost. They slept in turns, deep in the forest, watching over each other, and dressing each other’s wounds. Surviving on berries, mushroom or an occasionally stolen cabbage, they endured extreme hardship and weather adversity.
Yet throughout the journey, their determination and their brotherly bond kept them alive and kept them going.
Three months later, in November 1945, they were eventually reunited with their family in Wroclaw, Poland.
They both lived interesting and long lives.
In the summer of 2013, nearly 70 years after their original journey, I decided to retrace their epic journey and document it through a modern fugitive’s eyes – staying Clear Of People. With the help of a diary my uncle had written, where I found a map he had drawn, I was able to navigate and follow their steps closely.
It was easy, at times, to ignore what year and what administration it was – with no obvious time or space signifiers in the forests, I allowed myself to be lulled by the monotonous sound of my steps; hypnotised by the trees passing my peripheral vision like a giant metronome. The process became a specific meditation on landscape, as I found myself standing in the exact spots they once stood, working out my own connection to the places.
As more and more people are on the move across the continent(s), uprooting their lives and fleeing from conflict zones, this body of work pays a silent tribute to the past and present fugitive on their quest for safety.
To view more of Michal’s work please visit his website.