Let me begin with the events that inspired me to create this body of work. I’ve always been fascinated by the struggles of people deprived of their human rights. When I moved to
Belgium in 1997 I found myself personally and artistically moved by the immediacy of the Holocaust during a period of renewed interest in it. I visited a number of historic sites, including the Dossin Barracks in Mechelin where Belgian Jews were interned before being transported to the death camps.
I attended a seminar on Art and the Holocaust in Belgium. A painter who’d survived the holocaust said she’d been unable to express her feelings about the experience for some fifty years. A Gypsy survivor – angry as he spoke -- recounted how he pleaded, “let my son die in my arms.” I felt tears well up as I sketched his face. That drawing, capturing the horror etched in his pores, can be seen on the matting below the twenty fifth photo (the original drawing is in the Traveling Exhibits of the Holocaust Museum in Saint Petersburg, Florida) in my concentration camp series, “Crematorium, Auschwitz I.”
This series of twenty-nine black and white silver gelatin prints, and one color, includes on the mats some experimental montages, drawings, handwritten quotes and original writing. The montages can be seen in number six, “Courtyard, Terezin” and in number twenty-four “Electric Fence.” On the first photo in the series, “Prayer Shawl, Old Synagogue, Krakow,” I appended these words that came to me as I walked through the camps, looking from the inside outwards one feels the emotion that existed time past. These are reflections without a voice.
Trained as a sculptor and painter, I approach the camera with a sculptor’s eye. When shooting I am drawn to shadow, contour, and offbeat perspective. I may shoot down from a ladder or up from the floor. I get beneath the surface, beyond the whole. In one notable image from my death camp series, number thirteen, Chimneys, Birkenau,” I found a peephole perspective, looking out from the barracks. After I snapped the photo I wrote in my journal the quote mentioned above (and the name of this series). Primo Levi, a writer, survived the Holocaust and documented his experiences in the book “Survival in Auschwitz.” I paired his words with some of my photos, including number eleven, “Wooden Barracks, Birkenau, Auschwitz II.” The caption reads:
Consider if this is a man Who works in the mud Who fights for a scrap of bread Who dies because of a yes or a no, Consider if this is a woman
Without hair and without name Her eyes empty and her womb cold Like a frog in winter…
The images in “Reflections Without a Voice” are arranged to tell a story. They begin in the old Ghetto of Kazimerz, proceed through the camps to the ashes, photo number twenty-nine, of those who died in the ovens, and conclude with a sign of hope for the future – an image of a young girl running across a field at Terezin. There is a story behind that last photo. While I was viewing the Jewish burial grounds, in the distance I noticed a little girl running. The message was clear – there was hope for the future. I ran after her and snapped the picture. I had only one chance to capture her on film. This is number thirty and last photo included, “New Life, field in Terezin.”
There have been other horrific genocides in the years since World War II ended – from Rwanda to Darfur. My photographs express that old sadly ignored saying, “never again.”
This exhibit is part of the Holocaust Museum of Florida’s traveling exhibits. Arrangements can be made for its loan.