Photographer Maciek Nabrdalik was visiting a Holocaust memorial and museum in Poland when he noticed an obituary posted for one of the survivors. The next day there was another one.
“At that moment I realized that we are the last generation who can approach them to talk and ask questions,” he said.
Since then, he has sat down with more than 40 former camp prisoners to help tell their stories for his ongoing project, “The Irreversible.”
Those who survived the Nazi concentration camps during World War II saw the worst of humanity.
Some of them hadn’t talked about their experiences to colleagues or even loved ones before agreeing to take part in the project. They were answering questions for the first time.
Instead of a setting up in a studio, Nabrdalik met them in places such as their homes or old camps. To capture their portraits, he only used natural light and painted the camera filter black with a small hole where their faces would peak through the blackness.
The dark represented those who had died during the Holocaust, he said.
He didn’t think of the sessions as photo shoots, and he says no one ever worried about how their picture would look. Deep in thought, they were lost in the camps of decades past while he listened closely.
Many told him the memories have faded over the years, but at the same time the horrors haunted them in their dreams and daily lives. “This, they say, is irreversible.”
Nabrdalik began working on the project in 2009. His wife, Agnieszka, became a part of it two years later, going with him to the meetings and conducting the interviews.
Their work will be released as a book in June. They are still looking for more people to share their memories.
“For the survivors, the final product, the photograph, is not as important as the meeting itself, as the attempt to reach out to us: the younger generation,” Nabrdalik said.
January 27 marks International Holocaust Remembrance Day, established by the United Nations to commemorate the victims.
- Lauren Russell, CNN