IF I COULD ONLY REMEMBER

Czepiel Maciej

2017 - 2018

Poland; Switzerland

I was born in 1987 in Cracow, Poland. At the time the Berlin wall was still standing. My parents wanted to escape what they didn’t know would be the last traces of communism left in the country. We first fled to a refugee camp in Germany for about a year before moving to Canada for 7 years. Our final destination was Switzerland, where I still live today. If I Could Only Remember is a voyage through my earliest childhood memories between the ages of 0 and 3. It all begins with my very first memory, which strangely enough coincides with the last day my parents and I spent at our refugee camp in Germany, just before flying to Canada. The memory consists of me sitting on the edge of a Jacuzzi looking at my mother who’s wrapping me in a big towel. Through this project, I am retracing the memories I have experienced but also those my mind created with the stories I’ve been told by my parents and relatives. I’ve tried to represent everything as in a dream, or maybe as a blurred memory. Some aspects of my work are anchored in the real world but are represented as dreams. I’m alternating between the two worlds as if I were confused about what it the truth and what is a representation I’ve led myself to believe was true. With these images, I want to show the viewer that I am looking for some sort of an answer, that I am trying to recreate something. Maybe I’m trying to recreate a truth. This is all a reflection based on my blurred memories that I am trying to rediscover, to put a fresh image on. This project is my final-year work presented at the CEPV in Vevey, Switzerland in June 2017. It was awarded the USPP price at this occasion.

This work consists so far of 26 photographs.

If I Could Only Remember was exhibited as part of the Pasquart Prize 2017 in Biel, Switzerland, at the 73rd Biennale of Contemporary Art of La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland, and was a finalist at the LensCulture Exposure Award 2018. More recently this project was shortlisted for the VFG Nachwuchsförderpreis 2018, was a finalist of the Swiss Photo Awards, was presented at Photo London 2018 and Voies Off 2018 in Arles...

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  • This photo represents the help my family received during difficult times we experienced in communist Poland.

  • This picture represents how people were trying to flee the country for a better life. There was always a chance of getting caught. I use this round form throughout this project to keep the viewer in a dream state. This image is between dream and reality.

  • This photo represents a watchtower. There was a lot of surveillance at this time in Poland, and people’s each and every moves were being watched.

  • This is a photo of me holding a picture of my parents at a younger age. I use these kind of pictures several times in the project to illustrate how I am looking for answers in my family archives. These pictures are also intended as self-portraits, because I never use my real face in this project (except for one picture of me as a child).

  • This is a representation of a watchtower. This work is about my memories of that time, but as I was only one or two years old, my memories are built from what my family and relatives told me about this period. What I do in this project is rebuild these memories and show the viewer that I am doing the work of building and looking for answers.

  • I use this round form throughout this project to keep the viewer in a dream state. Sometimes I create what seems like a real environment and sometimes I show abstract situations to create this confusion as to whether what the viewer is looking at is in real life or is a memory.

  • I took this picture of my dad to put it in resonance with another photo in this project where he is much younger. It shows how time has passed, and how memories have faded.

  • This is the Matterhorn, a well-known symbol of Switzerland. This photo represents me, looking at my dreams far away. Switzerland has always been in my mind, like some dream I’m trying to reach.

  • This picture talks about a past time and place. When we flee Poland, we left everything behing for our travel.

  • This work is about my memories of that time, but as I was only one or two years old, my memories are built from what my family and relatives told me about this period. What I do in this project is rebuild these memories and show the viewer that I am doing the work of building and looking for answers. Communism was why my parents decided to flee the country.

  • This is my fathers passport, marked with a stemp when he arrived in Germany and an other one when he arrived in Canada.

  • This picture is about a family story. My grand-father was a jeweler, but the communists closed his shop because they considered that what he did was meant for rich people. Those kind of practices were not allowed.

  • I use this round form throughout this project to keep the viewer in a dream state. Sometimes I create what seems like a real environment and sometimes I show abstract situations to create this confusion as to whether what the viewer is looking at is in real life or is a memory.

  • This represents me being in what seems like a dream, but everything looks so real. I use these kind of portraits throughout the series to create a bond between the representation of me and that of my parents, but also to create a transformation to these round shapes, as if they were becoming clearer and closer to the real world.

  • This project taks about my memories and dreams, this picture allows the viewer to enter those dreams.

  • I use this round form throughout this project to keep the viewer in a dream state. Sometimes I create what seems like a real environment and sometimes I show abstract situations to create this confusion as to whether what the viewer is looking at is in real life or is a memory.

  • This is the picture that started it all; my first memory, which strangely coincides with the last day we spent at our refugee camp in Germany, before flying to Canada. The memory is me, sitting on the edge of a Jacuzzi, I then see my mother, wrapping me with a big towel.
    With this project, I am retracing my memories of what I lived, and also the memories my mind created with the stories I’ve been told by my parents and relatives.

  • This represents me being in what seems like a dream, but everything looks so real. I use these kind of portraits throughout the series to create a bond between the representation of me and that of my parents, but also to create a transformation to these round shapes, as if they were becoming clearer and closer to the real world.

  • My memories are so real to me, I can almost feel everything I remember. If I could only be certain they are real!


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