Primo Levi – Survival In Auschwitz

This book is not related to photography, however it is a great example of literature relating to one project that is dearth my heart. That being the KL’s of the Nazis in the second world war.

I bought this book in Auschwitz for 55 Polish Zloty, which is approximately £11.

Unlike many of the books I have read on the subject, it is a relatively short book, consisting of 185 pages.

Primo Levi is an Italian Jew, he is a chemist by trade and he is a survivor by nature.

He spent approximately 12  months in Auschwitz and the book describes, by way of prose, the dehumanizing effect that the camps had on the inmates and their daily struggles and rituals which were all at the whim of the cowardly Nazis.

His description of the Kapos and other block leaders was particularly interesting and sad and it shows what levels we as a species can stoop to.

The book is really well written, as he intended, in simple English and is a testament to the courage of the inmates and how man can endure what is thrown at him/her.

The original title of the book was “If this is a man” and was changed to its current title  by the American publishers. For me the original title is better.

I have read so many books on the KLs but this is one that I have enjoyed more than others, if that is intact the right way to describe this. There are no images to accompany the book, but the words conjure a myriad of images and will give me inspiration for my life and for my future studies.

You should read this book if you want to know what life was really like. Passion and intensity abound in the book and there is never any form of self-pity from him.

What an amazing book and what a gent. I have kept the review short as everyone should read such a book and make up their own mind.

God bless him and all who were imprisoned and to all those who are in captivity today.

 

KL – Nikolaus Wachsman

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This is the most comprehensive book I have ever read on the Nazi’s Final Solution and the concentration camps that were established.

It documents  the inception, the running and the demise of them and looks at individual stories of survivors and those who died, including Kapos and Nazis.

The amount of research done to complete this book must have been immense as Wachsman source list is lengthy.

In parts the book describes in detail the treatment of hundreds of victims from the gassing, to the vile experiments that such “people” like Mengele carried out.

72 photographs are added to the book in two places. They show a wide variety of KL related scenes and some are obviously very upsetting. The photographs themselves are simply incredible as a result of the fact that photography was banned in most places these we taken. They are a remarkable record of this shameful event in human history.

Of all the books I have read of the Holocaust this has surpassed all the others.

If anyone shares my interest on this subject, this is a must read.

Vivian Maier, Street Photographer.

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Image photographed from the book

This is a beautiful book that presents solely black and white images. To me it has an Elliott Erwitt feel to it in some regards as there are many humorous images in there and some where the main subject are dogs.

It is apparent from this book that Maier was able to build up a good rapport with most people and was unafraid to photograph strangers. I imagine this to be very difficult given it was a man’s world she was living in. To me Maier is a pioneer for women photographers.

The title of the book gives the subjects away, but what is not clear is the natural ability she has for making what could be a boring image, become interesting. She clearly had a raw talent and one that understood basic photographic principles, without any formal training. How clever she was. There are a multitude of different photographic techniques in the book, which draw the viewer in, making you feel you are there, with the subject. Images portray humour, but also the hard nature of the life people around her had.

What I also like is that she does not stick to the white race. There are a number of photographers of the black population, at a time when the vile scurge of racism was still accepted as the norm in America. It is great to see her challenge the pure white photography issue. Very brave.

My favourite image from the book is included below.

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Image taken from :- Maloof, J (2011) Vivian Maier, Street Photographer, USA: powerhouse books.

There are  number of reasons why I like this image. I will list them below.

  • symmetry within the frame
  • being in the right place at the right time
  • the cleaner’s shop being in the background, with the two large men cleaning up
  • there are two burly men, dealing with someone who appears to be smaller in stature
  • the faces of those watching in the background
  • the photographer is a lady in a man’s world
  • this is night time flash photography, which is somewhat unusual
  • the cigarette held in one of the men’s mouths
  • I have a number of questions around this about the man?
    • What had he done?
    • Was he drunk?
    • Had he been fighting?
    • Was he being treated fairly?
    • Was he picked on due to his size?
    • What was he wairing a suit?
    • What was his name?
    • What was his job?
    • Where did he live?
    • Did Maier know anyone in the image?
    • How did she know where the action would be?
    • Was she safe on her own in the dark back streets?
    • How did she feel?

I could go on with the questions, as the image raises more questions than answers.

I feel the book is well worth a look and a handy addition to my collection. Maier was new to me, and I have enjoyed her work and will return to it time and again.

Martin Parr – Book Review

The first thing to comment on this book is the size of it. It is approximately 6 x 5 inches and not the best size when viewing images taken on a medium format camera.

There is a very interesting introduction talking about Parr’s life and his house moves from being born. It talks about how career, his studies, his family and his influences and chronicles his work. It is well written and with some new information coming out of this for me. BUT the rent is very small.

The book then starts with his black and white photographs moving into the colour ones. The images are all titled and come with some excellent commentary.  The majority of the images are on single pages but there are some double spreads too.

The images are Parr’s observations and are narratives in their own right. Some are part of a series, which are all coherent parts of that series. The comments and titles do give them captions which help place the image in the intended context, which is important for students such as myself. The image of the sausages does not make sense to a causal viewer, but with the commentary you can further understand what this is telling us.

I am glad I have bought this but, but let the buyer beware. The images/book are too small to gain a full appreciation of these documents. I have found using the book in conjunction with the book helps gaining a better sight of the images.