(Poland, 1981 during martial law when the Communist government outlawed the Solidarity movement.)
I managed to get a visa to Poland with a little help from an Ottawa politician. Once there I moved around the country a little but stayed mostly in Warsaw because permission to travel was difficult to get.
During my two month stay in Poland I needed to have all my photos cleared by a censor when shipping them by air freight. Wire photo service was not operating. I would hold back any images I thought might be challenged by the censor until after the envelope had been approved, sealed and stamped. On my way to the airport I would slit open the side of the envelope with a razor blade and use a glue stick to re-seal it after adding the suspect photos.
For the first couple weeks I followed the rule of having no military in my photos. After a few weeks, I was given a military escort with permission to photograph some soldiers on duty.
My favourite is the old woman passing a young blue-eyed, blond soldier wearing jack-boots carrying a machine gun with his blue-grey uniform. This is 1981. Forty years earlier this woman might have been on this street passing other young blue-eyed soldiers in jackboots when the Nazi occupied Poland.
The look on her face was priceless.
Peter Bregg is an award-winning photojournalist who has travelled to more than 65 countries documenting history on film. He was chief photographer at Maclean’s magazine for 17 years and is currently photo editor at HELLO! Magazine. He has also worked as a photographer and editor with the Canadian Press and the Associated Press in London, New York, and Washington, DC. He was the official photographer to Prime Minister Brian Mulroney in 1984-85.
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