The photographer who walked 2,000km from Russia to Poland to retrace his grandfather's daring escape

Polish-born, Cardiff-based photographer Michal Iwanowki can truly be said to have suffered for his art: his photobook Clear of People is the result of a walk of a whopping 2000km from Russia to Poland.

The journey was a retracing of the steps of his grandfather Tolek and great uncle Witek, as they escaped a prisoner-of-war camp in 1945. The result is a set of haunting yet quiet images, showing sometimes barren landscapes, snow, and horizons that speak of a chill that comes from combining the present with horrific remembrances of the past.

"I followed his footsteps for personal reasons. Hoping that if I walked long enough I might find him. Tell him it mattered. Hoping that the landscape might connect me to a time and people long gone," says Iwanowki. "But what had started as a quiet tribute soon turned into a meditation on the strength of the human spirit. How do you carry on when your body gives up? What hope drives you blindly forward when your life is so obviously disposable?

"I have no interest in judging history, nor am I interested in glorifying my relatives. But just what happens to all those people who one day wake up to a war? Who mourns the lost ones? Our landscape is crowded with ghosts on their way home. East. West. North. South. There is no room in history books to fit all those people. This book is theirs."

An exhibition of Clear of People is currently on show as part of Photo Ireland Festival in Dublin until 31 May.


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