Survivor: A portrait of the survivors of the Holocaust

April 24, 2017 by Sophie Deutsch
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As an incredibly moving and thought-provoking portrait of the Holocaust, Survivor captures the experience of surviving one of the darkest moments in human history.

Produced by world-renowned photographer, Harry Borden, and producer, Miriam Hechtman, this compilation of powerful photographs accompanied by handwritten notes from each survivor attests to the incredible resilience of the human spirit.

“My interest is very much about learning how people live after trauma, how people move from surviving the worst atrocities to living an ‘ordinary’ life,” Miriam told J-Wire. “What stood out for me talking to survivors was questioning them about how they dealt with their pre and post war time experiences – did they talk about it after the war, did they decide to never speak of it again… Some people we met have dealt with depression their whole life, others have led very successful careers, some have turned to meditation and therapy in their later years and now feel free from the burden they have been carrying since the war.”

As a global project, Miriam and Harry travelled across four continents, and their book includes photographs and letters from survivors in London, New York, Jerusalem and Melbourne. “The fact that the project is global gives it weight and further illustrates that this horror is universal. It can happen to anyone, anywhere and we must be vigilant, we must remember and we must keep talking about it so that something of this magnitude does not happen again”, commented Miriam. Through the documentation of thought-provoking photos and letters, Survivor serves as a strong rebuttal to Holocaust Deniers, and a wonderful testament to the strength of the human spirit.

“Photographs have a way of telling a story that is clear, honest and can be profound. We all understand photographs, they speak volumes and they allow us to engage with them at our own pace, in our own time,” Miriam reflected. “Harry’s decision to use natural light, photograph people in their homes and spend quality time with each person and many times their families, before, during and after the photo shoot definitely created an intimacy between us and the survivors. There is no spotlight, no studio and certainly no big production team coming into people’s homes.”

The world-renowned, award-winning portrait photographer, Harry Borden, commented, “I wanted the images to have a reflective and even ambiguous quality that emphasised the individuality of the sitters.”

As well as photographing survivors, Harry and Miriam spent hours speaking with each survivor, listening to their stories, filming them, and hearing what they had learnt from their experiences both during and after the war. “Each portrait was a unique record of the relationship we had on the day and each interaction affected me in a multitude of different ways,” reflected Harry. ”Felix Fibich was particularly memorable. He was a Polish-born modern dancer, choreographer and teacher and asked if he could express himself through dance in the session.  There was a portrait of him as a younger man in the background of my picture, which I found very poignant but the emotion he conveyed is almost difficult to look at.”

And for Miriam and Harry, time was of the essence. The number of survivors is getting smaller with each passing year, making it ever more imperative for future generations to remember and honour Holocaust survivors. “Survivors were ageing fast, my grandparents included, and now was the time to photograph them,” said Miriam.

The message that permeates throughout the book is one of resilience and human courage. Each individual has grappled with surviving one of the most horrific events in modern history in their own way. In documenting one of the most horrific events in human history, Miriam notes, “what I really learned after speaking and spending time with so many survivors is that they are not victims now.”


One Response to “Survivor: A portrait of the survivors of the Holocaust”
  1. Julie Paul says:

    I already have my copy – just superb!

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