Artist Blog

Every week an artist whose single image was published by Der Greif is given a platform in which to blog about contemporary photography.

Treasure Seekers

May 19, 2018 - Piotr Pietrus

My great-uncle once went out for a walk in the forest for couple of hours. When he got back he noticed that some bricks at the back of his house had been moved so that an empty space was visible. He knew straight away what had happened, someone had come to collect a hidden treasure. Maybe it was the people who used to live there that had come back and waited for the right moment to clear it. Or maybe it was local treasure seekers who somehow knew about it.

 

 

 

The area I am from in Lower Silesia in Poland used to be part of Germany before the end of the Second World War. As Germany’s loss of the war became inevitable and Russian troops approached, German residents fled towards the west. There wasn’t much time to pack their belongings and as a consequence, people hid their most precious things within the walls of their homes, buried them in the garden or nearby forest, hoping that one day they’d be able to come back and collect them.

Soon afterwards the new Polish population started to find by accident some of those hidden treasures and groups of amateur treasure seekers began to form. As they did, the legends and stories also increased: the German government hid weapons, documents, stolen art, money and maybe even an entire train, all within the landscape of Lower Silesia.

 

 

 

The ongoing photo series, Treasure Seekers, is an attempt to showcase this archtypical hunt for the secret and the people involved. But I have to admit, it’s been slow-going: treasure seekers are hard to find. Their activities (or to be more precise: the finding and keeping of hidden valuables) are by law illegal, which means that they are often suspicious and closed hermetic groups that are usually not open to any media or outsiders.

 

 

The longer I work on this series the more questions arise. Who are the seekers? Do they find things and what exactly? What about all those legends that everyone in Lower Silesia has heard of, such as the (in)famous Golden Train?

As the range of protagonists I meet increases, so do the stories I hear; unexpected characters and new layers appear. I guess in a wider sense this project has become a bit like treasure seeking in itself. What am I going to find? I don’t know yet, but that’s part of it’s nature.