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.

 

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Project 2 Childhood memory

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Aged, cracked, confused and blurred memories.

I have decided to make a composite image conjured up from a number of memories. My childhood on the whole was a happy one, with great parents. Yet I was abused and it is the abuse that is the driver for this image.

  • Holidays were great times
  • I always wanted a dog
  • Religion became important after the abuse
  • Aged black and white for my memories

All three of the above points are played out in the image, which is deliberately blurred and aged, like my memories. This is partly due to the time that has passed and partly due towhead happened to me when I was about 8 years old.

I’m not sure I like the image, it reminds me of what happened, but it is how I wanted to recreate my memory, which is part of my healing process. It has left me with PTSD.

Assignment two’s images and write up

Auschwitz – Birkenau. Unseen and un-photograpahble?

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Image 1
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Image 2
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Image 3
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Image 4
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Image 5
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Image 6
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Image 7
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Image 8
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Image 9
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Image 10

This context for this assignment is unseen and un-photographable. Every image also contains reference to numbers. The numbers of people who were unseen, literally and figuratively, for many years during and after the second world war in the extermination camps at Auschwitz. I feel the narrative is self-explanatory and I feel that the images do not need a caption or a title. A picture paints a thousand words for me with this set.

Image 1 represents a place that was one seen and for thousands, never experienced again. This is the place of selection, of Life or Death. Photography was banned here in the second world war, although there are a number of images that have survived.

Image 2 shows a suitcase left behind, after selection. The name of the victim, their date of birth and their status as an orphan are clearly written in white. This was one of many such cases that were packed when the Jews were deported. It would be contain Heinz’s possessions which would be stolen after selection and his death. Judging by his age, he would have been murdered almost on arrival.

Image 3 illustrates 9 bunk beds. Each bunk held up to seven inmates. There was no heating and the temperature swing experienced at Auschwitz, was from -30 degrees Celsius to +40 degrees Celsius. Note the brick work floor. These bunks are where hundreds of thousands of people lived and died and the majority of photographs taken of this area of the camp are mainly after the camp was liberated.

Image 4 places some further context into the human loss that occurred there. Over 800,000 pairs of spectacles were discovered after liberation. The Nazis exported many more back to the Third Reich, for use by the German population and army. This image shows only my selection, of what is an unimaginably huge pile of glasses, which survived, in spite of the Nazi efforts to destroy what was left prior to the camp liberation.

Image 5 continues the narrative of the human element, with hundreds of thousands of shoes which were stolen from the inmates. I was drawn by the colour of the two main shoes in the image, although the other shoes tell their own story, by the drabness

Image 6 is of some portable gallows that was not visible with the naked eye at the time I took the shot. I was drawn by the light of widow and the leading lines in the image. It was only afterwards when viewing this image on my laptop that I noticed the gallows. Maybe death was light at the end of the tunnel for some of the inmates who were tortured so much.

Image 7 shows a number of the Zyclon B gas canisters. This poison was the tried and proven main method of killing in Auschwitz. There are thousands of these stacked up. I was drawn to this image due to the light, colour and the skull and cross and bone symbol. The word GIFT drew my attention in an ironic sort of way.

Image 8 is a small crematorium (comparatively to Auschwitz II) that was used to dispose of the bodies of the inmates. The place had an unforgettable heavy and odious atmosphere and I remember tears rolling down my face whilst photographing this.

Image 9 shows the effects of the Nazi cruelty and how this affected whole swathes of families. I came across this image in a Jewish cemetery. No more words needed.

Image 10 is one that I believe shines some light and some hope on such a tragedy. The image is of a memorial to the victims of Auschwitz and the Ghetto in Krakow. The light illuminated one of the figures really well for me and I feel this image is balanced by the photographs of inmates in the background and the apparent face on the right-hand side of the images. Is there hope that man will never do this again?

These 10 images are but a small fraction of the ones I have taken in Auschwitz and I believe they show the narrative of photographing the unseen/un-photographable. The project was set up over a long period of time and I am grateful to the curator (Wanda) of the Auschwitz-Birkenau museum for allowing me to photograph the un-photographable. I am going back in the next year, to complete further work.

The images have been taken with a variety of settings and cameras, with ISO cranked up to 3200 at some times and as low as 100 and having to shoot through glass, barbed wire, prison bars, and a barrage of tears.

I have never had such a project before. This was amazing and I cannot remember having felt under such stress when photographing. It was the most emotional day of my life.

I am sure you will agree the narrative is strong within the context of the Nazi’s final solution.

I dedicate these images to the gentleman who accompanied me and my wife on this journey. He was a prisoner in Auschwitz when he was four years of age. His mother was there too. They were in separate barracks! It is amazing that we found the hut where is mother was incarcerated. Hut 17C. This gentleman was an Austrian-Jew. It is incredible that he survived, as over 90% of children were murdered within two hours of arriving in Auschwitz.

“MAY THEIR SOULS BE ETERNALLY BLESSED”

This quote was taken from image 8 above.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Assignment Two Planning part 2

What kinds of subjects can be classed as unseen?

  • drug addicts/alcoholics/drop-outs
  • socially deprived people
  • food banks
  • the poor
  • the sick
  • the disabled
  • police brutality
  • minorities
  • abuse
  • mental health
  • Christianity
  • the truth
  • unbiased photographs
  • concentration camps e.g where some of this is off-limits to the public
  • faith
  • the past
  • my mother

How do you go about photographing the unseen.

  • research the subject
  • see how it has been done before, it is has and think how you will do it in your style
  • apply for permission, be honest, be open and be prepared to accept rejection
  • believe in what you want to do, so others will have your conviction
  • pursue your dream with vigour
  • highlight the benefit of your project to the owner/person responsible
  • be confident in what you want
  • have an understandable goal that others can see and understand

What I have been doing.

Photographically, this is where I have been for the last few weeks, which has moved my concentration off my degree for a short spell. Varied and interesting is how I would describe it.

I have also been sorting out my website and setting up my Facebook business page.

Please have a look around both.

http://www.ikonickimages.co.uk/gallery.html

https://www.facebook.com/IkonickImages.co.uk/

My work is also now on a number of websites and Facebook pages a few of which are below.

http://www.thornberryanimalsanctuary.org

https://www.facebook.com/M.silouan.oner

http://www.antiochian-orthodox.co.uk/events/archdiocesan-conference-2017/

 

Course driven exercise

Please note that the following poem has been written by myself as I felt the need to do so, given my chosen subject and my interest in the topic. The topic will be further developed and form part of my assignment. My thoughts on my next assignment have changed as this will become apparent as I type up my blog.

 

Ignorance is not bliss.

 

Auschwitz is a place like no other.

The senseless killing,

of many a father, son, daughter and mother.

Around the place, sounds and nature can be described as dull.

Not surprising really,

with murder and torture enjoyed to the full.

The immense fields,

that were once wet, pleasant and green.

It’s hard to imagine the cruelty,pain and suffering they have seen.

It’s wrong for this place to remain unseen,

and for anyone to be a holocaust denier.

To be one of those,

simply means you are a heartless liar.

How can I know,

well I’ve seen it and I’ve been there?

Now,

with all my heart I really care.

God Bless the victims,

and grant their souls the rest they need.

It must never be allowed to happen again.

WE MUST ALL TAKE HEED.

 

Having written this poem myself I have read it over and over. It conjures up the sad faces of the victims, gaunt, starved, batter, bruised, defeated and dehumanised. These faces and people were also unseen by the world for years, even they we knew what was going on in the KLs. (KL is the official designation for the concentration camp. It stands for Konzentrationslager)

The incarcerated were treated as inhuman and the person inside was nearly always unseen.

The camp was once so full, of the living, the living dead and the dead. Now it is full of souls and full of emptiness, but there is hope. 2 million visitors attended the museum in 2016 and there are signs of life coming back. There are birds there and some wild flowers and other signs of wildlife. However the emerging signs of life feel somewhat dulled and empty.

I have chosen to portray only four images for this exercise as I am going to use a number of images from my set for my assignment.

The images will assist in the telling of the story and there are many more that could be used. For me, in my opinion less is more with this exercise, given my chosen subject. They are all poignant, they all add to the context and contribute to the narrative in the poem.

the unveiling of St John-8
Ikonick symbol of Nazism
the unveiling of St John-15
Even orphans were murdered
the unveiling of St John-14
Portable gallows
the unveiling of St John-13
Reflections of the Holocaust