Loss and Beauty: Creating Solace in a Land of Infinite Sorrow
Photographs and Poems by Keron Psillas
Over the last five years I have been creating images that narrate my response to what was destroyed by hate during the Holocaust. The project arose from my life-long passion for history. In 2010, I had the opportunity to make my first trip to Eastern Europe. I traveled to Bergen-Belsen and Theresienstadt along with a few smaller but no less poignant places in the historical landscape of World War II. Confronted with only the beauty of birches enrobed with brilliant fall color in Bergen-Belsen, I was totally destabilized. Where were the black and white images of horror from all my reading? Where was the rain, the unrelenting gray and black of weather, of smoke, of uniforms and rags? It took me nearly a year to understand how I might respond as a photographer and as an artist seeking greater understanding.
It was during the year between my first two journeys that I read The Girls of Room 28, by Hannelore Brenner. The memory of my time in Terezîn grew stronger as my time away grew longer. I was searching for a way to respond, artistically and authentically, when I read and was inspired by the story of these young girls. They showed me the way. They made it possible for me to create images and foster a conversation about the uplifting, healing, and sustaining power of the creative act.
Loss and Beauty: Creating Solace in a Land of Infinite Sorrow, is a collection of images about the nature of personal journeys during the Nazi Holocaust. The images are unique in the world of creativity and expression that has come from the experience of the Holocaust. Composites of my original photographs express the relationship between home and final resting place and the journeys, psychological and physical, that were undertaken. The photographs offer a mirror for us to imagine victim and aggressor simultaneously.
I believe that the images have relevance today as we need not look far to observe continued suffering. As the world careens from one battleground to another, whether from ignorance, greed, racism, or other mummified dogma, the root is identical; we as a species do not understand that we are all the same. It is my hope that the images foster a continuing conversation about the evils of hate and racism.