To commemorate International Holocaust Remembrance Day, the Royal Photographic Society (RPS) in Bristol is opening Generations: Portraits of Holocaust Survivors, a partnership project featuring 50 photos of different survivors all over the world.
“The exhibition was intended to open in 2020 with 75 portraits to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz,” said Tracy Marshall-Grant, RPS Project Curator, over email. When the UK was placed under its first national lockdown like so many other countries in March 2020, the exhibition was updated and postponed until this year.
Opening Thursday, the show features images taken by 13 different photographers, including images taken by Kate Middleton aka Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cambridge. The RPS worked with partners including Holocaust Memorial Day Trust to pair survivors and their families with the photographers. Each photographer was encouraged to treat the project as if it were their own, resulting in photographs of varying styles.
While a select few photographs had been taken prior to Holocaust Memorial Day in January 2020, most of the photographs exhibited as part of this display were taken in the spring of 2021. To protect vulnerable survivors and their families, both sitters and photographers were double vaccinated against COVID-19 before photo shoots took place. Photographers also worked in gardens and altered photos digitally to ensure that the people in the photographs were able to maintain social distancing when necessary.
When Zigi Shipper and 20 of his family members were photographed by Arthur Edwards, images were taken in intervals over a two-hour time period, then stitched together to ensure that no more than six people were gathered in Shipper’s garden at one time. One of Shipper’s granddaughters who is based in Spain wasn’t able to attend the shoot due to travel restrictions, but her portrait was stitched in from afar.
The people in these images are older, so this might be the last time that they’re photographed in such large numbers. Grant said that the exhibition was brought about for this very reason: To display and share the very powerful stories by the survivors. The photographs show how their lives and legacies are being passed down the generations, reminding us collectively how important it is that they are remembered.