They left clothes strewn around, unmade beds,
open books, the TV turned on, as if they were about to come back soon.
They left their rooms unprepared for emptiness.
-­Magdalena Gorlas

On January 20th, 1995 Robert, a 21 year-old psychology student at the Jagielonski University in Kraków, Poland, woke up and took the rubbish out. The rest remains a mystery. That morning, Robert did not get on the bus to the University nor did he attend his morning lectures. Since, his whereabouts are unknown.

Every year, the Polish police file 15,000 missing person reports. Every day, the faces of missing people gaze out from posters designed to attract our attention; yet, every passing day, they are noticed less.

Those who have lost a loved one can imagine the pain these families experience. Their feelings teeter between loss and hope. Often, the rooms of the missing are left unaltered for a few months, years or even decades. The individual stories differ amongst each other, but each raises questions: What happened? Where is he or she? When will he or she be back? Is there anything else we can do to find him or her? Is she or he suffering? Is he or she alive?

With the support of the ITAKA Foundation, the only organization in Poland helping to search for missing people, I was put in touch with families of the missing. Many of whom agreed to take part in this project. From May to September 2012, I traveled 7,200 km throughout the country to visit their homes. During each visit, I photographed the rooms of the missing with the permission of their families. In addition, I also photographed the portraits that remained of the missing people in a very individual and subjective way. Each intimate portrait is a metaphor to a time that stands still, and an attempt to hold on to the memory of each unique life.

The final project combines 16 rooms, 16 stories and 16 letters written by the family members to each missing person. This project seeks to reinvigorate the efforts to find the missing, and to create awareness of the immense pain caused by the loss of a loved one, who one day went missing—by highlighting the plight of those who are missed and those who miss them. On a personal level, the project also serves as an exploration of the link between depression and disappearance.

My goal is to raise awareness of the missing both in Poland and worldwide.

At this time, this project is ongoing.

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