I was born in 1987 in Krakow, Poland. At that time, the Berlin Wall was still standing and my parents wanted to escape the country. What they didn’t know was that they were facing the last traces of Communism left in the country.

In any case, we fled to Germany, where we stayed in a refugee camp for about a year. We then went to Canada for seven years. Our last destination was Switzerland, where I live now.

My Watchtower. This work is about my memories of youth under Communism. But since I was only one or two years old at the time, my memories are built from what my family and relatives told me about the period. What I do in my images is rebuild these memories and show the viewer that I am building and looking for answers. © Maciej Czepiel, Finalist, LensCulture Exposure Awards 2018

“If I Could Only Remember” is a voyage through my memories, about the moments I spent at my youngest age, until I was three years old. It all begins with my first memory, which coincides with the last day we spent at our refugee camp in Germany before fleeing to Canada. The memory is me sitting on the edge of a jacuzzi. I then see my mother wrapping me with a big towel.

Through this project, I am retracing the memories of what I lived as well as the memories my mind created from the stories I’ve been told by my parents and relatives. I’ve tried to represent everything as in a dream, or maybe a distorted memory.

Where Am I? This represents me being in what seem like a dream, but everything looks so real. I do these kind of portraits throughout the series in order to create a bond between the representation of myself and my parents. © Maciej Czepiel, Finalist, LensCulture Exposure Awards 2018

Some of the scenes depicted are anchored in the real world and then represented as if in a dream. I’m alternating between the two worlds as if I were confused about the truth and the representations I made myself believe are true. In these images, I am trying to show to the viewer my process of recreation, to show that I am looking for some sort of answer or maybe trying to recreate a truth.

Ultimately, this is all a reflection of my blurred memories that I am trying to rediscover, to imagine anew.

—Maciej Czepiel

This series was singled out in our Exposure Awards 2018. See all of the inspiring work by the 39 winners, finalists and jurors’ picks!