2011 FotoVisura Grant
Forgotten and useless things covered in dust, emaciated cats running around searching for leftovers, rooms taken over by spider webs and the strong odor of alcohol. These were just part of the chaos I encountered while photographing the village of Palmowo, my birthplace, and its surroundings in the Polish region of Wielkopolska (Greater Poland). This cycle of images depicts a personal journey through the individual stories of men and women struggling with the problem of alcoholism. I decided to try and create a form of visual narrative to help me tell the story of my past. Although not every person in my pictures suffers from alcohol dependency, each one has, in his or her own way, encountered this problem through their relatives or their circle of friends.
Throughout this 12-month project, which I titled Behind the Curtain, I carried out numerous interviews with the people I photographed, their families and specialists in the field of addiction, which helped to greatly improve my understanding of alcoholism. This was my way of trying to understand the lives of my former neighbors, who had either encountered these problems or had struggled with them for many years. I know all of the people in my pictures, their wives, children, the interiors of their homes and the views from their windows. For 15 years I was part of that community and, like the majority of these people, I ignored or accepted without protest the situation around me and the inevitable misery of life in this world.
Not everyone finds it easy to understand that alcoholism is a disease and not a choice. There are many people who don't know about the help available, or for various reasons, don't try to get it. There are many clinics and institutions for the treatment of alcoholism which can offer patients and their families the support and information essential for dealing with the disease in normal, everyday situations and in the long term, support them in attaining sobriety. Hiding the truth about alcoholism is like hiding behind a transparent curtain. The alcoholics think that nobody can see their addiction and they are the ones who are suffering. Meanwhile their sickness is plain for all to see.
Ula Wiznerowicz, Third Prize Recipient of the 2011 FotoVisura Grant