Capturing Moments of Healing

with Photographer Swiatoslaw Wojtkowiak

While continuing my search for gaining more knowledge and information about these lovely plants called entheogens, I came across something that really caught my attention; these amazing photographs of people from different parts of the world, performing ceremonies and healing work with plants such as Iboga and Ayahuasca.

I was totally mesmerized by these pictures. When looking at them I felt like they could actually be some kind of portal, sending me to that specific time and place, to allow me to experience these extraordinary aspects of different cultures and traditions.

The photographs are captured by Swiatoslaw Wojtkowiak, a Polish photographer who travels the world to offer the rest of us an insight into hidden and unknown parts of it. It is often said that an image speaks louder than a thousand words, and this would also be the case with Swiatoslaw’s photographs. Still, I did not hesitate to invite him to share more about his beautiful work in an interview:

healing with entheogens

What made you become a photographer?

Perhaps staying on the side, being observer from early years, less participant. I spent many days in my childhood reading and then drawing comic books, entering other worlds, as well as creating my own fantasy. This escapism led to passion for travel later on and I started to enter yet more worlds, and when I came back from these exotic locations people were asking about photos, so finally I began taking them. It was also nice when they eventually started to bring profits and to help financing my trips.

healing ceremony

iboga healing ceremony

Why did you choose to photograph indigenous people
and their ceremonial healings with entheogens?

I guess being other in many ways led to my sympathy and curiosity for Other in general, being from other culture, time, space. Traveling to and with indigenous people was for me a substitute for time travel. I was also very much into history, especially early history, prehistory, roots, and I felt that in those cultures I can find reflections of who we were, or, as I think now, who we really are. We only spend a tiny fraction of our history as humans as linear time, print and intellect obsessed civilization, and one very good way to see that clearly is to step out of our tunnel of vision, out of our culture, by traveling, or another I discovered later, by psychedelics. Now I am actually combining those and more in perpetual exercise, sort of inner yoga, to stretch the limits, to see myself and my background from a distance. I also try to de-attach myself from this wonderful but heavy tool called mind, which enabled me this whole enterprise of getting to these indigenous cultures, which in turn, with their ways of being and techniques developed help me to quieten the mind and develop other spheres of being in the world.

What message do you wish to illustrate through your pictures and
how do you wish for it to affect others?

Photography in all this became secondary, it is a way of storytelling, mostly about my experience, kind of visual signals I am sending from the other side to those who stayed behind, my way of participating in this what Leary called "finding of the others" or on more grandiose terms, following message from Terence Mc Kenna "The artist's task is to save the soul of mankind. If artists cannot find the way, then the way cannot be found." I also believe the same what Alejandro Jodorowsky says - an art is only an art when it can heal. In my case, documentary photography, it is about directing and shifting the very precious asset today - attention. I do it on my small, tiny, local scale, but psychedelics taught me to appreciate it, not to try to affect and change whole world, but what is around me, if I can help to heal even one person by pointing my finger to what can change him/her, then I am into that. On the other hand, to balance these messianic claims, I am honestly admitting that one of the best things that master plants gave me is awareness that my monkey business is not that important, that I can cease to worry about it's meaning, I can enjoy it but not be attached, I can keep taking pictures and telling stories but I don't have to, I am not this, I am not a photographer, I am just a monkey dancing through life and playing sometimes with this, sometimes with other toys. I also managed to transcend that initial dualism observer/participant, storytelling is one of my ways of participation. I wish this liberation for everybody.

Interested in seeing more photos? Visit Swiatoslaw's blog!