Northern lights in Lovozero, Russia

Chasing northern lights

Kola Peninsula, Russia. 2011

A trip to the Kola Peninsula in Russia to watch the spectacle of northern lights.

The show wass truly amazing and worth the effort. Experiencing the North in winter was as much of an experience though. From Lovozero – a little village lost in Kola Peninsula, through Murmansk – the biggest city north of the Arctic Circle in the World – to the classic St. Petersburg – it was a feat to watch the everyday life unfold in these rough conditions with hardly any daylight and everything frozen like a rock.

Awards

The featured photo was awarded 2. Prize in Nature of BZWBK Press Foto 2012.

Publications

  • National Geographic Traveler 03/2011 – download PDF.
  • National Geographic Adventure Book.


Boeung Kak – the Vanishing Lake

Boeung Kak – the Vanishing Lake

Phnom Penh, Cambodia. 2009.

Until recently, Boeung Kak – an area centrally located in the capital city of Cambodia, Phnom Penh – was covered by the largest urban lake. Residential areas, businesses, restaurants, hotels, embassies and other local businesses surrounded the lake. It was a backpackers’ favourite spot for its plentitude of hostels with porches overlooking the lake 

In 2007 the Cambodian government made an agreement to lease the land to a corporation. This resulted in the filling of the lake with sand in order for the company to build condominiums and other complexes on the land. The change of the lake and the area surrounding the lake has had major social and environmental impact. Several non-governmental organizations in Cambodia as well as international actors have protested the destruction of Boeung Kak.

As of 27 February 2012 Boeung Kak Lake is gone being entirely filled with sand.

Awards

The featured photo was nominated to Grand Press Photo Contest 2009.


Pentacostal Romas

Pentacostal Romas

Bystrzyca Kłodzka, Poland. 2009.

“We are facing harrasments from two sides. One, because we are Gypsy, two, because we are Pentecostal, which is believed to be a sect” – says Andrzej Walawski, pastor of congregation of Bystrzyca. “But more and more community members convert”.

I accompanied the group in their daily life for several months until a young couple’s wedding.

The video cameraman at the wedding said “I was at a couple of weddings of white folks, where there was no alcohol. After few hours of heavy atmosphere the parties died. And here? I’ve never seen a party like this!”


Sandbox

Sandbox

Wrocław, Poland. 2008-2009.

A year of life in and around sandbox on one of polish backyards. The series was initiated by an episode of me being attacked by the youngsters after they found I was taking photos of them drinking in the what should be a playground for children.

After a year and grotesque moments, the sandbox again served as a drinking spot, but this time for younger kids.

Exhibition

pARTer gallery, Kłodzko, Poland. 2009.


Pan Tadeusz

Tadeusz

Poland. 2009

“It wasn’t a dream” reads the title of a short article in a local newspaper. Tadeusz shows it to me with pride. After the WWII he was admitted to the most prominent polish military college.

“A dream for all the boys” – he emphasised.

His life had a different destiny though. In his last years he lived in an attic creating meticulously handcrafted birdhouses. Those birdhouses could be found in many local gardens. But nobody knew the struggle Tadeusz was living through.


Minkebe Expedition

Minkebe Expedition

Gabon. 2008.

Gabon. Three Poles. Six Bantu Pigmees. 21 days of hike through virgin gabonese jungle. Traverse of the Minkebe National Park – the grandest refuge of wild elephants in the world.

The expedition was supported by World Wildlife Fund.

Awards

  • Kolosy 2009 – honorable mention
  • Nominee to National Geographic Travelers 2009

Publications

National Geographic Traveler (2009).
Download PDF.

Book


Wedding in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Ethiopian diversity

Ethiopia. 2008.

I was sent to Ethiopia with a group of tourists as an assistant to Jola, a very skilled tour-leader. As she was excellent in leading the group, I could focus on the vibrant and diverse life. As we drove through the North with a bus, I was allowed to sit on its roof. It was an amazing vantage point.

We traveled across most of Ethiopia.

I went back to Ethiopia a year later as the main tour-leader, thus I didn’t have the chance to take photos. But the change of life within that year was tremendous. Within a year China managed to pave most of the roads in the North and provide mobile network around the whole country. I haven’t been in Ethiopia since 2009 but from what I hear, Ethiopia has become an economic colony of China.


Caucasian Avalanche - before the surgery

Caucasian Avalanche

Mt. Elbrus Region, Kabardino-Balkaria, Russia. 2008.

An avalanche on Devil’s Face almost killed my best friend. That was the beginning of a freeride trip to Elbrus, Europe’s highest mountain.

Long way there

It took us 36 hours to get from Warsaw to Kabardino-Balkar Republic in Caucasus. Train to Moscow, plane to Nalchik, and marshrutka to Terskol…

The Devil's Face

A draft of Kostek's fall...

Though tired we couldn’t resist going skiing right away. It was a beautiful sunny day with fresh pack of snow. Without much thought and preparation we jumped on the slopes of Cheget. We wanted to hit a sole easy run, so we didn’t even take our avalanche system, nor cameras. By the time we got to the top the weather changed dramatically. It was pounding so hard, it was difficult to find a piste. We got lost and eventually ended up on a steep face overlooking Terskol – the village we stayed in.

From there it went abruptly fast… Kostek hit an easy-looking drop, I went after him. The rest of the team – there were six of us – were getting ready, when the snow pillow crashed down onto the field me and Kostek were standing on. Miraculously I grabbed a little bush and managed to stay afloat. Kostek was carried away by the avalanche… Deep in my heart I was hoping he escaped the snow somehow.

It took me about an hour to ski down the mountain. I started to stare at the immense slope (some 700 vertical meters) looking for Kostek. There was no chance for me to spot him. I headed to look for help, when I heard a faint voice… The avalanche took Kostek down the whole Devil’s Face, as the locals call it, what we found out later. He was barely alive. After some time the rest joined and some of them went to look for help. It took 2, maybe 4 hours before the rescue came. It took another 4, before we made it to a makeshift ambulance. The streets were pure ice, so we drove for another 2-3 hours to a hospital in Nalchik.

By that time Kostek was not responding anymore…

It was close to midnight (the accident was at about 11am). The hospital seemed abandoned. Suddenly a guy in a tall white hat jumped out from a corner and took Kostek to an xray room, that looked like an old garage. We were terrified… Then they took him for an operation and we lost Kostek from our sight. We were taken care of by patients of the hospital. They let us sleep on some beds, that were free and shared their food with us.

We had to wait until morning to find out, if Kostek made it… Apparently the guy in white hat ended up being one of the best surgeons of the Republic. He saved Kostek’s life.

Kostek remained in the hospital for another two weeks, while we tried to explore the daily life of Kabardino-Balkaria and the fresh powder of Caucasus. Although our spirits were terribly shaken, we still wanted to get to know the spot. Me and Gnali had the chance to go for a heli-skiing trip. There was army with rifles everywhere, as we were on the border with Georgia. Skiing wise it was nothing groundbreaking, but scenery wise it was breathtaking.

….

It took Kostek half a year to start walking again, as his pelvis was crushed into pieces. A year later Kostek skied down one of the most difficult couloirs in Tatras.

Tyrnyauz

Every second day we went from Terskol to Tyrnyauz to visit Kostek at the hospital. I didn’t dare to take photos at the hospital.

But we always used the opportunity to stroll around the city, the administrative center of Elbrussky District of the Kabardino-Balkar Republic…

Azau - at the foot of Elbrus

Tyrnyauz was not the only symbolic place to visit. Azau, the ski station on the footsteps of Elbrus, which we passed every day on our way to the mountains, seemed to be a place from a distant fairytale.

Skiing under Elbrus

After the accident it was really hard to focus on skiing. Both, because I couldn’t stop thinking about what was Kostek going through. And about the possible avalanches. Which did happen couple of times during the rest of the trip.

The scenery of Caucasus was a really good remedy though.

Caucasian Avalanche - skiing under Elbrus

Caucasian Viertolot

Despite the circumstances we decided to have an otherworldly experience and try heliskiing in Caucasus.

Climbing Elbrus

To top the caucasian adventure off I decided to climb Mt. Elbrus. I hadn’t even made it close to the summit, but the night at the “Botchki” or Barrels – as was the last refuge below Elbrus called – and the sunrise at the height of 4200m was still well worth the effort.


Palmyra Syria

The shattered ancient city

Palmyra, Syria. 2008.

Palmyra – ancient city in Syria, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. During the Syrian Civil War in 2015, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) destroyed large parts of the ancient city.