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From Hatred to Hope: The Inaugural Art Show at the Holocaust Museum

Untitled, by Cole Thompson

Gail Sachson owns Ask Me About Art, offering lectures, tours and program planning. She is the Vice-Chair of the Cultural Affairs Commission and a member of the Public Art Committee.

There is an intrinsic beauty in black and white photography. Thus, when photographing the horrors of war, natural disasters, illness and even death, the black and white photographer is challenged to make the beautiful … ugly.

Award winning Colorado photographer Cole Thompson grappled with this challenge when he took the photos now on display at the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance and solved his dilemma by photographing ghosts.  In his 15-work exhibit, “The Ghosts of Auschwitz/Birkenau,” Thompson hopes to show respect to those who perished  at the concentration camp Auschwitz/Birkenau in Nazi-occupied Poland. He also hopes his work reminds viewers of the horrors man can impose on fellow man, as he attempts, with  an overlay of ghosts, to unmask and destroy the beauty and calm of the concentration camp as  it might  appear to visitors today.

He says to photograph the ghosts – the souls of those who were exterminated there – was “a  sudden flash of inspiration, where opportunity met experience … I had not intended to photograph during my tour of the camps, but after being there a few minutes, I felt compelled. With every step, I wondered about the people whose feet had walked in exactly the same footsteps. I wondered if their spirits still lingered there today. And so I photographed their ghosts.”

He did that by photographing the other tourists with a long exposure,  which resulted in shadowy, luminescent figures. He hopes he has succeeded  in reaching children especially with a warning that a Holocaust could happen again. He offers no titles, no text  and no commentary, not wanting to interfere with the viewer’s response.

Irma Freudenrieich, by TonyCorso

Thompson’s black and white photos share the new gallery space with the saturated color photos of Paris ,Texas, middle school teacher/photographer Tony Corso, who much too humbly says, “I piddle around a little bit with my camera.”

Corso, an avid photographer since high school and a former church pastor, has been interested in the Holocaust since living in Germany for five years with his parents in the 1970s. He usually shoots school sports  and  local weddings, but he was moved to offer his services to the Holocaust Museum after years of bringing his 7th grade reading classes to tour the museum and after meeting the Holocaust survivors, who act as  guides.

Corso’s six-month Holocaust photography project, photographing the survivors in their homes, was “the most moving experience I’ve ever had,” he said. “It was a privilege, and  I will be forever grateful for the opportunity.” In Corso’s work, complimentary text of names, birth dates and the survivor’s concentration camp history add richness to the stories the photos tell.  The weathered and worn faces of his subjects and the  serial numbers tattooed onto their left arms (prisoners were known by their numbers, not their names) give evidence of lives brutally interrupted. Yet, the colorful, contemporary photos, the dress, the objects d’art, the warm home furnishings and the  pictures of children and grandchildren also tell the stories of lives miraculously resumed.

“I will be forever changed going into the survivors’ homes,” Corso says. “They have overcome an evil that no human being should ever have to encounter. … These people are not victims. They are victors.”

  • Beverly Blumenthal

    Gail,

    This is so moving. I not only had emotional feelings, but also physical ones, as I read this.

    I have seen stories lately about denial of the Holocaust. We cannot let people forget nor can we fail to educate those younger than us about the horrors of the Holocaust.

    Beverly