Storyboards of Remembrance. Representations of the Past in Visitors’ Photography at Auschwitz

Publications: Contribution to journalArticlePeer Reviewed

Abstract

A majority of today's visitors to the Auschwitz memorial site take photos to document their stay. By calling attention to visitors' photography on site, this article investigates the role of visual perception and visual techniques of memory for visits to memorial sites and empirically discusses the significance of historical imagination in linking the past with the present. Visitors' photography at Auschwitz can be considered a mnemonic practice because seemingly lookalike, amateur pictures express modes of experience which are negotiated within an ethical and social framework. The strongest emotional impulse expressed in amateur photography on site is the feeling of the sublime, which supports the need to promote moral ideas like freedom or justice in the face of the past. Through participant-orientated research, this article contends that visual perception regulates sensual impressions during a visit and identifies six dominant photographic genres through which visitors focus their historical understanding of the site. Single images function within this as storyboards because of their strong narrative as well as mnemonic quality.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)455-470
Number of pages16
JournalMemory studies
Volume9
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2016
Externally publishedYes

Austrian Fields of Science 2012

  • 504018 Sociology of culture

Keywords

  • COLLECTIVE MEMORY
  • WITNESS
  • image
  • media memory
  • mnemonic practice
  • nazism
  • visitor studies
  • visual culture

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