Photographs by Maciek Nabrdalik.
Exit Zero, 2013. 188 pp., 42 tritone illustrations, 9¼x8½".
Signed copies available to order!
Selected as a Book of the Week by Rafal Milach
The Irreversible consists of portraits of the German-run Nazi camps survivors. This is a record of face-to-face meetings with the protagonists’ experiences, thoughts and feelings..
Agnieszka and Maciek Nabrdalik started the project in 2009, after one of their visits to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Mueseum. At the gate they saw an obituary notice informing about the death of a former prisoner. Next day there was another one. At this moment they realized that they are the last generation who can approach the survivors to talk with them and asks questions. And so they did. They travelled over 80 000 kilometers to meet their interlocutors, recorded over 100 hours of material. The authors visited people of different nationalities, creeds, often very diverse. The Irreversible book featuring forty-two portraits and interviews was published in September 2013.
The survivors featured in the portrait series The Irreversible often say that in the camp one could forget one’s name, but not the number, which provided a new subhuman identity stripped of all spirituality. The style of these portraits denies the impersonal tone of the Nazi statistics. The striking namelessness of the victims, the numbers recurring in historical reports, and the ongoing debates about how many people really died take away all individuality from the prisoners. This project aims to restore their faces and show a little piece of what they managed to salvage in spite of the cruelty and the humiliation.
The photographs were taken in the survivors’ homes during intimate conversations when they were affected by strong emotions evoked by their memories. Looking at these photographs, one might sense that they have returned to those dark places.
The accounts of the prisoners serve as the commentary to the photographs. They don’t resemble historical accounts from the camps, but instead are reflections from the present. After so many years, the prisoners are trying to understand the reasons behind their own survival and the answer to the question “Why me?” is not always possible to find. They all come to one conclusion - those events left in them an indelible trace and each survivor must individually work through his or her trauma.