Michal Iwanowski Photographer


Clear Of People

(2012 - 2014)

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.




ACW_logo_CMYK_landscape Picture 2 Picture 11 book cover