MA in Photography, Falmouth University, Module 3, Surfaces and Strategies, Week 1
Unlike many of my fellow visitors, I attempted to deal with the emotionally sensitised visit to Auschwitz with care, respect and solemnity – that was my strategy during my visit.
Despite the attempt to sanitise the death camps by the Nazi regime days before liberation of Poland, witness accounts, overwhelming evidence of recycled shoes, cases, clothing and gold told the story of what went on; 1,100,000 people passing through the gates never to reappear.
Photographs make one swallow hard when studying the monochrome imagery made by the nazis. On asking our guide I realised that it is surmised that Berlin wanted to receive an account of the design, efficiency and operation through imagery rather than written reports. These images were retrieved and spoke absolute volumes of the journeys made upon entry into the camp, mostly by Jews. The viewpoint was often from a slightly elevated position which suggested a podium or perhaps taken from a watchtower, of which there was one every 100m around the perimeter fencing. Occasionally I photographed these images – fig 1 – alongside the spaces or rooms that they were taken in; they added a human stake into hollow a solemn volumes.
I would dare to suggest that the most telling images wre made via a discreet camera held under clothing by an ‘inmate’ and, at very high risk, the rolls of film were passed through perimeter fences via toothpaste tubes into the hands of the Polish resistance. These show lines of people queuing for the chambers and the bodies being incinerated afterwards. These were known as the Sonderkommando photographs. Only four images were made.
Below are three images – fig 2,3,4 – taken in the most galling spaces, I will leave the viewer to ponder and dwell on the space these describe.
fig 2, 3, 4
Figures 1-4 copyright Philip Singleton 29th May 2017, Fuji XT-1