First published in the Norwegian photography magazine Fotografi January 2020 issue
All photographs courtesy of the artist.
The self-published book is a gift in the form of a riddle to the reader. We had a chat with Damian Heinisch in hopes of getting a few hints.
Heinisch has been exploring and reflecting on his own family's fate, during and after World War II, for almost a decade. His new book guides the viewer from Ukraine to Oslo, through four seasons and a small part of Europe as it stands today. Heinisch's goal is to visit his grandfather's unknown grave, located in the area of a Soviet labor camp in Ukraine. After four train journeys the result was 4,136 analog images to be examined, to figure out which ones were cut out and which ones were allowed to remain. Later Heinisch clicked through the same train tracks on google maps to try and recognize his own pictures, so he could locate the destinations from the trip. This way of systemizing information is recurrent in his work. For example; the title of the book refers to the age of his grandfather, father and himself, when they each took individual train journeys that proved to play a critical role in their lives. It wasn't until Heinisch took the train ride that he discovered the link which became the foundation for the book. – We all took a train journey when we were the same age. My grandfather and father traveled by train from the same city at different times. In 1945 my grandfather’s journey went from his town in defeated Germany to death in Ukraine, while in 1978 my father's journey went from closed-up East Germany to freedom in the west.
Everything is connected in the end. Throughout the book Heinisch experiments with cropping and sequencing of 135mm photographs. The book is full of hidden references mixed with irony, sarcasm and humor, but also melancholy, longing and sadness. The pictures comment on each other and give subtle hints to the theme. He plays with destruction and perspective by placing heads in the fold, and simultaneously asks questions about gender, age, people's gaze, the happy and more melancholic sides and last but not least politics. – The pictures are more about manifesting emotions rather than conceptualisation because everything is ultimately a self-portrait.
Through this self-portrait, Heinisch wants to show the historical reflection from the perspective of an ordinary family. Millions of people have experienced World War II and the brutal consequences that followed. Some might never be able to let it go. Heinisch describes it as 'a feeling of melancholy, shame and a hidden capitulation'. – It turns out that humanity and free will have always defeated great totalitarian systems. I do not want to trigger a revolution through the book, but rather reveal a feeling that is buried in the unbelievable brutality. The book has clear references to the past, but also a concrete skepticism of the present because all the images are photographed now.
Life experiences and the reader’s references influence how you experience the book. Therefore, it is a book that you can constantly return to and keep discovering new details. The references are not only in the aesthetic, but also very rooted in life. – I just offer a perspective. It is a personal project rather than a political one.
Book details 45 Damian Heinisch Pages: 56 Dimensions: 278cm x 225cm PYLOD.COM Finalist in the Nordic Dummy Awards 2017Japanese binding
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