Dorothée Nowak: Tell me her story
It is human nature to contemplate one’s ancestry. This is evidenced in the high-popularity of television programs like Who Do You Think You Are? or Finding Your Roots, as well as mail-away DNA testing kits. We are hoping to learn something about ourselves by looking at the past. French photographer, Dorothée Nowak, explores her personal heritage in the body of work Tell me her story because war is only the half of it. By visiting and documenting within her family’s countries of origin, Nowak attempts to generate a better understanding of the external influences that affected her grandmother—before and after her immigration from Poland to Northern France prior to the commencement of World War II. The resulting photographs visualize this process of research and discovery by showing us places and people that in some way connect to Nowak’s grandmother, and subsequently to Nowak herself.
Dorothée Nowak is a French documentary photographer currently based in Takasaki, Japan. She holds a MA degree in Visual Arts from Valenciennes University (France) and graduated with a BFA with Distinction from Concordia University (Canada). Coming from Polish origin, she is interested in the subject of displacement and migration, and attempts to grasp upon the narrative of being in-between two cultures and the sense of self within a new environment. Her photographs have been presented in Canada and, featured in publications both printed and online. Her work has been shortlisted for the Athens Photo Festival 2018. Her work will be shown in the upcoming collective exhibition, Trajectoires in Montreal, Quebec, as well as in exhibitions at the Complexe culturel Guy-Descary, Lachine (13 July-19 Aug.), the Galery Stewart Hall, Pointe-Claire (1 Sept.-14 Oct.), and the Maison de la Culture Mercier, Montreal (20 Oct.-25 Nov.).
Tell me her story because war is only the half of it
Tell me her story because was is only the half of it is a documentary project based on my father’s family immigration history from Poland to France in 1938. The project focuses on the journey my grandmother, Teresa, began with her family when she was only 11 years old. Born in 1927, she was raised in Ostrow Wielkopolski (Poland) which was, before the end of World War II, in the territories of the Republic of Germany. Her family left on the eve of the Second World War by train, and arrived first in Belgium before establishing themselves in the north of France.
In December 2016, I went to Europe and traveled to Poland, Belgium, and France in order to find out more about my polish roots. In Ostrow Wielkopolskki, I researched traces of family members in the National Archives in Kalisz where I was able to know more about Teresa’s father, Stanislaw. Jozefa, my great grandmother, remains a mystery as no traces about her were found. The only thing known about Jozefa is that she was a single child living in Krempe, a neighborhood near Ostrow Wielkopolski’s center. This area was destroyed during the war.
Nothing concrete emerged from the research in Europe. Yet, the idea that Teresa’s mother Jozefa was from a Jewish family is growing as she found out that her last child’s name was Salomea. Although, it is only a couple of month ago that she discovered that her aunt’s first name was, in reality, Salomea. Salomea comes from the Hebrew “Shalom” and means “peace.” Tell me her story because War is only the half of it is about my quest in order to find out more about my roots. It focuses on the portrait of my family’s members, people who knew Teresa and others who did not. It mixes as well places I visited and photos archived from my father’s collection as well as documentation from the Museum of Ostrow Wielkopolski. Tell me her story because was is only the half of it is a combination of a non-linear sequencing mixing past, present, and future of a family whose descendants escaped their homeland on the eve of the Second World War.
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