"This is not real life" © Dominika Gesicka

There is a place where no one is born and no one dies. Of course you can die anywhere but you cannot be buried here as it has been discovered that bodies fail to decompose here. You cannot be born here because pregnant women are to return to the mainland to give birth. There are no cats, no trees, no traffic lights. There is no amusement park, but there is a circus troupe. In the winter time it is completely dark, but in the summer sun never sets. The place is called Longyearbyen and it is the largest settlement and an administrative center of Svalbard. It is also the world’s northernmost city. Although it is difiicult to regard it the best place to live, many people fall in love with it at first sight. Some people came here just for two weeks and stayed for five years or more, but not many decide to settle down here permanently. Sometimes you have an impresssion that people here are trying to escape from something; that this is just a retreat. This is not a real life.

I done all photos in Japan, but it is not a story about this country. Although I have used its traditions and religion. And the fact, that for me, it was a completely unknown territory. The main motive is the Shinto, japan mythology (yokai) and way of thinking about the sacred. But Shinto is another cover, artificial dictionary which allowed me to understand what I say. It is in the Japanese relationship to nature, something to give me hope, the conviction that we are part of nature, that we not strayed too far.

Turkish Empire was governing lands from Hungary to Georgia, from Algiers to Eritrea over half of millennium. Its collapse gave countries to the generations which lived under Turkish occupation. These terrains are still suffering from shakes which are echoes of the history. We can find traces of it in the landscape: ruined houses in Bosnia, empty terrains near Kars in eastern Anatolia where millions of Armenians used to live, removed faces of Saints from Serbian, Macedonian, Romanian monasteries, ruins of Trapezunt or Ani. We can read sub consciousness of former Ottoman Empire nations from their landscapes. The more we travel through former Empire of Turks the more we notice the impact of hundreds years of cultural, economical and religious occupation on landscape of todays Bulgaria, Albania or Greece. Genius landscape painter John Constable said: We see nothing truly till we understand it.

Metropolitan can refer to a citizen of a metropolis, especially one who has the sophistication, urbane attitudes and values. In the past, word ‘metropole’ have been used to describe metropolitan centre of the British Empire considering London as a cultural, financial and diplomatic heart of the empire. To these days London continued it’s position as en ever-growing global city and most important city in Europe.

The very first thing that I saw in Skopje was the construction of a 25-meter tall figure of a warrior on horseback which, from what I later found out, was the statue of Alexander the Great.

“Push the Sky Away” is a triptych, with each part of the work the consequence of what has gone before, as well as leading on to the next. It is a creative path that has given me an interest in the primeval cultures from which our own cultural codes have grown. As a consequence I attempt to extract an underlying structure, which I believe is unchanging and unchanged. My feeling is that this lies within the tra­dition of the emotions, rituals, and behavior – elements which are shared in com­mon across all cultures, and to which photography has access.

My father says I am a person from the “lost generation”. He says that we are too lonely, too withdrawn, and constantly change masks creating an illusion of life.

I am sitting by the window, looking at another faceless, bleak panel house. Every day and every night this ridiculous block of flats, a shelter for thousands of anonymous lives, stares at me with its empty eyes, not letting me forget about where I will return.


Ira Thiessen researches a complex identity of Russian Germans who returned back to their historical motherland in the series of staged portraits “Privet Germania” (Hello, Germany).