A Portrait of Shadows and Light

For my series A Portrait of Shadows and Light, I explore the life story of Irene Kanka, a mother, a grandmother, an Auschwitz survivor. At a time when hate, xenophobia, and thoughtless words pervade the public discourse, her story is a timely reminder of the consequences of dehumanizing people, whether Jews, Muslims or any persecuted population.
Irene was twenty years old when she walked through Auschwitz gates. For three long years, she was identified as “number 2786”. More than once, her life hung by a thread, yet she was one of the lucky ones. She survived. Four of her sisters did not. Beyond the importance of giving voice to a diminishing population of survivors as well as those who did not survive, this project is very personal to me - as a human being, a Jew and as Irene’s daughter in law.
This project bears witness to Irene’s life seventy years after the World War II. Three generations later, yet her daily life was still a blend of the ordinary and the remembered. Pictures of the lost ones framed above her bed, a few surviving photographs from “before.” In every conversation, “those times” were as present as the sun shining through the lace curtains, creating patterns of shadow and light. On February 2017, just a few months shy of her 95th birthday, the shadows finally caught up with the light, and her gentle blue eyes closed for the last time.