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Thursday, 23 January 2014

Photography and Walking: Do they Go Together

all pictures by Michal Iwanowski

I'm looking forward to the exhibition at Fotogallery in Penarth of the work of Paul Gaffney and Michal Iwanoowski.

Both combine extreme walking with photography. I've featured Gaffney on this blog before for his book We Make the Path By Walking, a project where walking becomes a meditative retreat from the world - a retreat that is at times complicated by photography as Gaffney recognises in this excerpt form this interview.

Over the course of the year, I noticed that my mind was usually preoccupied while walking, and I often found it difficult to remain aware of the present moment for any decent length of time. I also found that the act of photography was often counter-productive to my goal of capturing the sense of experience of the landscape, which often led to a sense of frustration. For example, if you’re walking in quite a relaxed state and you feel drawn to stop to look at something, you can quickly snap out of that moment when the camera comes out and you begin to try to figure out how to compose and frame the picture. 

Also on show is Michal Iwanowski's Clear of People, which is also based on walking and is also a retreat in many ways. This time the retreat is a temporal one. Iwanowski rewalks the path taken by his grandfather and his grandfather's brother in 1945, a path that went across rural Russia, Belarus and Poland. Along the way, they avoided populated areas, sticking to the forests and meadows of the devastated countryside.

Iwanowski walked the same path and lost himself in the landscape and the sky. Time lost meaning and he found 2013 and 1945 become one. He was together with his family as they suffered their way home. This is Iwanowski he says on his website

In 1945, my grandfather and his brother escaped from a war prison in Kaluga, Russia, and crossed over 2,200km on their way to Poland, where they were reunited with their family. 

As fugitives - the walked only at night, and avoided contact with people at all cost. Surviving on berries, mushroom and occasionally stolen potatoes or a 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.

In the summer of 2013, I retraced their epic journey and documented it from the perspective of a fugitive - staying Clear Of People. The journey took me from Kaluga, Russia, across Belarus, Lithuania, to Wroclaw, Poland, where my gradfather had found home and lived to be 92. His younger brother is still alive, and lives in Szczecin, Poland. 

The show at Fotogallery preivews on Thursday February 6th and I will be in conversation with both Michal and Paul on the evening, which is something I'm very much looking forward to.

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