Damian Heinisch: 45
45 by Damian Heinisch describes a sequence of image fragments that emphasize and contrast human presence in their physical surroundings. Upon closer examination, the viewer becomes aware that all images are taken through a train window. The photographer’s journey, which takes him from Ukraine to Oslo through present-day Europe, is inspired by train journeys taken by relatives in 1945 and 1978, leading them to death or freedom. At this point in all three journeys, each family member turned 45.
The book’s narrative challenges the issue of forced immigration within the boundaries of Europe’s past and present. Eight months after the author’s return in 2013, a new conflict erupted in the Donetsk region, leading to an ongoing war.
The book received the First Book Award 2020 by Mackbooks.
“Image fragments passing by, contrasting the presence of humans with their physical surroundings. Clusters of film grain unveiling golden crosses, a burned-out car, a girl’s smiling face. Glory, destruction, hope! The train window becomes the stage. My journey, which took me from Ukraine to Oslo through present-day Europe, is inspired by train journeys taken by my relatives in 1945 and 1978, journeys that led to death or freedom.
Back in 1945, my grandfather disappeared from Gliwice in Upper Silesia along with countless other men. They were taken by train to a working camp in Ukraine. His grave is unknown and all that remains is a small diary he wrote throughout his deportation.
In 1978, following a lengthy existential struggle and forced political unemployment, my father left Gliwice with his family to start a new life in West Germany. I understood that my family’s lives had been considerably influenced by forced immigration and that trains had played a significant role in the process of resettlement. I began to respect the “forced” journeys of my family members while at the same time documenting my own. In the end, I embarked on three journeys. First, the physical journey, holding my 35mm camera to my eye for hours on end.
This led to the second journey into my developed films, where I started to extract human presence, confronting my findings, and contrasting them on the page. The final journey led me into the virtual world, mapping the train tracks kilometer by kilometer. The sequence is strictly dictated by the chronology of the journey.
As the trigger for this cathartic journey, Ukraine felt like the natural place to start the book. Texts based on the journeys of each family member complement the image sequence and help solve the puzzle. At this point in all three journeys, each family member turned 45.
The book’s narrative challenges the issue of forced immigration, which has influenced the lives of countless families in Europe and continues to do so today.” (Damian Heinisch)
Damian Michał Heinisch was born in 1968 in Zabrze, Poland. Lives and works in Oslo, Norway.