“For me, the whole process was like putting a stick into an anthill and confronting my family trauma,” the Polish photographer says.
A cupboard crammed full of chairs is one of the first images to appear in 29-year-old Dominik Wojciechowski’s project, The Castle. Then, a picture of the photographer’s mother, hovering as if sat on an invisible chair. A third image shows a closed cupboard door, camouflaged against a brilliant, white wall. This is just one example of the playful way that Wojciechowski interacts with this series, and the humorous associations that guide us through the sequence.
The Castle explores the emotional significance of home and what happens when personal space is encroached upon. It all began in 2019, when Wojciechowski was helping his mum deal with some concerning family issues. “A colleague advised me that I could register to have my father officially ordered out of the apartment my mum lives in,” he explains. “At the time [my parents] had already been separated for 15 years and had lived apart for three of those. Yet he would still come over unannounced and a lot of his stuff remained all over the house.” Wojciechowski filed the papers and waited for a decision. At the same time, he entered a photography competition organised by the Arsenal Gallery in Poznan. Under the theme of ‘Places of Everydayness’, entrants had to look through records from the city’s Archives of Research on Daily Life and make pictures in response. “That’s how this idea came to me,” he says of his latest project. “I wanted to dive into the world of everyday objects, relate it to my parents, and turn everything upside down.”
The images in The Castle are a hodgepodge of comical scenes shot with an array of items found around the home. In some pictures, Wojciechowski has created makeshift sculptures, precariously balancing piles of plates or twisting wires into the shape of hearts. Elsewhere he directs his mum to perform absurd poses, balancing plates on her feet and a brick – the fundamental element of house-building – on her head. In one picture, a marriage certificate peeks out beneath a gaudy dessert of jelly and cut bananas. Wojciechowski’s favourite diptych from the series is one of his mother kneeling on the floor, using a footstool to make it look like she’s proposing. It is a lighthearted play on the subject of marriage, and the fact that his father had never asked for his mother’s hand. “I think it’s hilarious,” he says.
A sense of humour is at the heart of everything The Castle is about for Wojciechowski, and the project ultimately became a collaborative way for mother and son to process their circumstances. “I made those sculptures to explore the broken relationship of my parents, and it was even more powerful because all of the objects from that apartment brought back memories or emotions,” he says. “But me and my mum didn’t want to be dramatic about it. Turning drama into a joke was my approach from the beginning. And, actually, my mum and I improved our relationship with my dad by confronting it.” Now based in Kosovo, Wojciechowski continues his interest in the relationships between people and the places we carve out for ourselves.
Joanna L. Cresswell is a writer and editor based in Brighton. She has written on photography and culture for over 40 international magazines and journals, and held positions as editor for organisations including The Photographers' Gallery, Unseen Amsterdam and Self Publish, Be Happy. She recently completed an MA in comparative literature and criticism at Goldsmiths College, University of London