5 years ago I started working on a small body of work titled ‘Gendenken’. I traveled to Germany in late 2008 and came back with a body of images to use for the work which was put together throughout 2009.
Gendenken is a German word for remembering or remembrance – like here in Australia it is used in particular for remembering war and fallen soldiers ‘Remembrance Day’ – ‘Gedenken’
The work was very difficult to put together as the subject matter was very disturbing and talking or discussing the Holocaust or ‘Shoah’ is still very taboo and I didn’t want to trivialise the history or appear to be naive. Having a family who escaped Germany and the Soviet Union after WWII gave me a unique insight into the situation and made me more conscience of handling the subject matter with great care.
I used the base images I had shot in Germany in conjunction with images of a nude man which I shot in the studio. These images were overlayed onto the base images to create a sense of past and present within the same image. I then went to the Sydney Jewish Museum to obtain Shoah testimonies to use as a final overlay on the images.
I sat in the library of the Sydney Jewish Museum all day transcribing testimonies from European immigrants who were able to survive the Holocaust and eventually immigrate to Australia after the war. These were very hard to listen to.
The work became an exploration into memory and in particular memories that are projected onto us by particular environments of historical and emotional significance. It looked at how we immortalise events into memorials – how we lock certain events into a frozen place and time. These memorials we create as a society are a place to mourn and remember events that no longer exist – when we visit these places we are taken back to that place in time and space – we think we catch a glimpse of the past but we blink and its gone. We can only imagine what these events were like. We try and connect to that place and its events of the past
I would like to share with you a small exert of a Shoah testimony given by ‘Simon T’ on the 23rd of April 1995:
Interviewer: I am wondering if you can tell us what your most painful memories are, that perhaps stay with you today?
Simon T: The memory of my mother – I can’t get rid of it. I still dream about her and of my sister. I don’t hate… but I am angry. Angry and upset when I think about it.
Interviewer: And that stays with you…?
Simon T: As long (as) I live. You can’t control dreams, because they come from the sub conscience.
Interviewer: So do you find that you often have dreams and nightmares about your experiences?
Simon T: I got used to it. It’s not so much nightmares, as memory from the past.
Interviewer: How often?
Simon T: Every night a dream… People don’t know they dream – some people. Once upon a time I used to analyse them but nowadays – nothing. I can’t change the world. It goes back to the first homosapien – the one in power – the one with the big club ruled his tribe. It’s still the same today, but we have camouflaged civilisation in culture…
I am still incredibly proud of the work, it was my graduating piece for my Diploma of Photography. Although I have grown and changed as a photographer over the last 5 years, I always come back to this piece for inspiration. I want my work to have meaning and challenge what people think.