Niewybuch | by Natalia Kepesz
“Niewybuch” gives an insight into the world of military camps, a phenomenon that has experienced a massive influx in Poland in recent years. In addition to being taught military basics, children and young people are playfully indoctrinated in obedience, fearlessness and patriotism. The young soldiers appear like play figures, their frozen facial features concealing any emotion. Between fake blood, drill and the unreserved use of weapons, the work raises the question of the emotional effects of military education and addresses the tension between a child’s search for adventure and the excesses of the Polish military cult.
Kepesz introduces us to the life on campus where children are placed and trained in bootcamps settings. Kids and teenagers are thought self defense, survival skills and shooting. Children are taught to use air rifles, and sometimes replica weapons like machine guns and grenades. Some of the kids are proud and happy to be at this school thinking it would provide them with job opportunities, and teach them important lessons like organization and obedience.
Natalia shares with us where the children live. “Each room had two bunk beds, with just the bare necessities and no real comforts. There is a kitchen on the premises, where the children go to eat three meals a day. Just like the military, the children had to gather before, and march in a line to the dining hall. Some things in the camps are prepared professionally, while others are simply improvised. Not all of the people who ran the camps were from the military. Some of them were young adults who saw it as an adventure or a survival.”
The Polish photographer Natalia Kepesz lives and works in Berlin. After graduating in cultural studies and art history at the Humboldt University Berlin, she studied photography at the Ostkreuzschule Berlin. She use photography as a means of self-expression –she makes pictures for herself, to identify with hidden qualities of her character, to better understand her reality, and to express her interpretation of the world around her. By photographing, she transforms her own childhood memories. Growing up was always accompanied by the urge to discover something else. Natalia Kepesz is a World Press Photo Contest 2021 Portrait Series winner (3rd Prize), a winner of Portraits- Hellerau Photography Award 2021 (Residence Prize) and exhibition winner of Belfast Photo Festival 2021 and Photo Israel 2021. She is Les Jours Prize winner of Les Boutographies – recontres photographiques de Montpellier 2021. She was shortlisted for Kolga Tbilisi Photo Award, the Loucie Foundation, Photo Taken Scholarship 2020 as well as Athens Photo Festival 2020. She placed third in the Münzenberg Forum Art Competition 2020. Her work has been exhibited internationally.
Selection by Managing Editor Alejandra Martinez Moreno