Assignment two’s images and write up

Auschwitz – Birkenau. Unseen and un-photograpahble?

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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 3 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 4 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 5 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 6 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 7 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 8 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 9 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 9 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 3

Here are some iPhone shots of a number of books I have bought and read prior to my visit. There are also a couple of tickets to museums that formed part of my research. Please note this is an ongoing project and I will return and learn more.

Page 4 of the book which is immediately below states “photographing in Auschwitz-Birkenau museums is strictly forbidden”.

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Below are a number of online resources used in my research and all appear in my references list.

Auschwitz-Birkenau (2017) Auschwitz-Birkenau, Available at: http://auschwitz.org(Accessed: 01/04/2017 – onwards).

Below, L (2017) Auschwitz The Holocaust Photos, Available at: http://www.deathcamps.info/Auschwitz/ (Accessed: 01/04/2017 – onwards).

Sawicki, P (2017) Auschwitz The Holocaust Photos, Available at: http://www.haaretz.com/world-news/europe/1.763453 (Accessed: 01/04/2017).

Pitogo, H (2014) Auschwitz The Holocaust Photos, Available at: https://www.warhistoryonline.com/war-articles/nazis-auschwitz-man-named-wilhelm-brasse.html (Accessed: 01/04/2017 – onwards).

 

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

Assignment Two Planning part 1

This is a project I have had on the go for many months and now is the time to use this for my degree. I feel this also fits in with Peter Mansell’s views regarding his own studies.

There were 2 choices for this part

  1. photographing the unseen
  2. using props

The choice was easy for me. Photographing the unseen was the way forward.

Below are some crib sheets used prior to writing up the assignment. All shot on the hoof with my iPhone.

Below is my letter of authority from the Curator of the Auschwitz museum, granting me permission to photograph the un-photographable. Oswiecim is the Polish name for Auschwitz. The name Auschwitz was given to it by the Nazis as Oswiecim was too hard to pronounce!

Letter from Curator
Permission to photograph the un-photographable.

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/

 

Gordon Parks

I have discovered Gordon Parks when looking for photographers who photograph the unseen and what an inspiration Parks is to me.

He spent much of his taken tackling the poor and the racial issues that have blighted the United States of America in the 50s and 60s. Looking at some of the work I’m not sure how much progress has been made, given the current plight of the African-American populationand the Black Lives Matter campaign.

The website,  The Gordon Parks Foundation (2014) The Gordon Parks Foundation, Available at: http://www.gordonparksfoundation.org/artist (Accessed: 25/04/2017). is an invaluable guide to his life and work and shows how he used his untrained eye to great benefit.

He photographed mainly in black and white, with some colour images in his work. The majority of his images have been cropped square, adding some tension where needed.

One of my favourite images from his work is taken from the series of the “Invisible man” and is entitled “Emerging Man, Harlem, New York, 1952”. I don’t know the story behind this image, as to whether it is a staged image, as some of his work was, but it makes you think about what the man is doing, why he is where he is, how did he get there and what was the purpose of his emergence?

He was also responsible for photographing large parts of the civil rights movement in the States and captured some great images of the famous boxer Muhammad Ali, both fighting and relaxing.

Parks gives voices to the unheard and images of the unseen, as demonsrtated  in his series on the Fontenelle family, whose every day struggles are captured with a sensibility of someone who can understand their plight.

 

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Image taken from The Gordon Parks Foundation (2014) The Gordon Parks Foundation, Available at: http://www.gordonparksfoundation.org/artist (Accessed: 25/04/2017).

I particularly like the lighting capturing his eyes (on the image above) and the symmetry of the shot, including some sort of lighting on the sides of the image, acting like a another set of eyes, observing this apparently strange behaviour. Why was Parks there, in the middle of the road, and what had he observed, or is it a statement of this “coloured” man rising from the ground and our of the ashes? You are left with more questions than answers regarding this emergence. May be this is not Parks’ best image, but I love how it makes me think about the emergence from below!

Long may such work, uncovering needless injustices be made. May the unseen become noticed and the unheard find their voice. I will explore this as I progress through the unit.