Monday, May 23, 2005

Still don't have much time. But as I blundered my way through the library this morning, I came across a book -- In the Camps, by the photographer Erich Hartmann -- that proved well worth browsing. As perhaps is obvious, the photographs in the book were all taken in concentration camps throughout Germany and eastern Europe. The twist is that they were all taken fifty years later, when Hartmann -- who fled Germany in 1938 -- visited them in the winter of 1993.

Although the pictures are stunning in and of themselves, when you add the history of the spaces and objects he captures, you suddenly find yourself dazed: how, after all, can a place as horrid as Dachau look so beautiful?

Yet what's most unique about Hartmann's work is that it actually guides you to an answer for the very question it asks. Ultimately, you realize that beauty can still exist in such a place because what happened there is as utterly human as it is evil.


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