~ by Barbara van den Bogaard
I meet Michal in 2020 while working for BredaPhoto, a large international photo festival in Breda. As a filmmaker and interviewer I connect to many of the artists that are curated by the curators of the festival. In 2020 Michal is one of them. His work called ‘Go home, Polish’, was selected for that years’ festival and Michal would be part of an artist talkshow. This is why I got in touch with him this first time.
So what is this project about? Michal Iwanowski, who is both Polish and British, walked (and photographed) all the way from his home in London to his birthplace in Poland — registering his own emotions while encountering tremors of racism and populism unleashed by Brexit.
Now, two years later, I talk to Michal Again. This time I have a request and hope of him joining our storybook. We start talking about life right away. His father and mother live in Poland. They are 500 km away from the Ukrainian border. Michal talks to them on a regular basis and he tells me that his parents are doing okey. Him and me are talking about the complete madness of the war-situation Europe is in at this moment. We both have a hard time understanding how this could have happened. He says: “I have this dream that when I die, I have this five minutes of knowing before I disappear. So I can understand at that point in time, the things that I could not understand during my life.”
Michal feels like a friend. He is a person that feels so easy to love. This morning, when we talk on the phone he tells me that he works with kids. These kids fell out of mainstream education and are between 16 and 25 years old. With a group of volunteers, he helps these kids getting ready for college, against all odds maybe but with great success. Some of these young people are on the spectrum with Asperger, others suffer from anxiety or have a borderline diagnosis.
Three months ago he took on a job as a teacher of photography. He says laughing: “I’m 45 years old now and it is the first time that I’m in a job with a contract in an institution. It feels really grown up. I promised myself to be on this new adventure for 5 years and see how things turn out. So far, so good.”
There are two of his images from the series “Go home, Polish” that come to his mind when he thinks about what he wishes to share in Storybook. He will send them to me in the upcoming days and also will send me the stories that accompany the photographs. So it is still a surprise what image will be part of Storybook.
At the end of our conversation I ask him about a series of images I found on his website. They are stary images, as if human elements like hands and arms for example, merge into the universe. I cannot say if the hands I see hold on to something or let go of something. I’m intrigued and touched by the mystery the images hold. He tells me the unfinished story that is connected to this series. He also is in an ongoing process of creating a series on his mother. You can check out his work on his website. Please do. Michal is a person that you don’t want to miss while walking this planet. Check https://www.michaliwanowski.com