As part of the UGRE we hosted a photography exhibition. All UG students in the Faculty were invited to submit a photograph or photographs depicting their research.
The winner of the £50 Amazon voucher was Sarah McKeever, International History and Politics (3rd Year), for Death by Camp, a tryptich of stark, yet hopeful pictures of the death camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau.
Specialising in Third Reich history in my final year at University, I recently went to the death camp for research purposes and these three pictures represent my thought provoking experience.
The first depicts the brutality of Auschwitz itself in the past tense: barbed wire, electric fences, and security surrounded the ‘Big Brother’ camp. Victims were under lock-down, there was no escape and the only exit was through death.
The second photograph symbolises a revelation in my journey: how a number was translated into a personality. The sheer figure of individuals maltreated is incomprehensible which distances us from the reality, however a simply bunch of flowers represents a person, a character, a name, and thus the present effect upon their bereaved family.”
The last picture illustrates hope for the future. The background shows the Holocaust memorial signifying the Jews attempting to escape from the gas chamber, whereas the foreground demonstrates the beacon of hope that this tragic genocide will never occur again. In this sense, the collection of photographs represents the past, present and future effects of the death camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau.
The runner up prize of a £25 Amazon voucher was awarded to Esther Harper, Russian Studies (3rd Year) for Challenging Connotations a depiction of the Moscow Metro at closing time.
This photograph was taken at midnight on the Moscow metro, during my year abroad in Russia (2010- ’11).
The Moscow metro has always held a deep mystery for me- for a few minutes a day, strangers lives collide, their eyes may meet, they may read a book or newspaper over another persons shoulder or tread on someone’s toe.
But after these few minutes each life will continue as usual- their paths have met briefly but now they head separate ways, and will probably never meet again.
The metro is notorious for being packed and busy, full of bad smells and short-tempered people. This photograph offers a different view on the metro- the metro DOES sleep. This is a sight that few will ever see, yet an important contrast to the metro Muscovites are so familiar with. And so the viewer is left wondering about where the lives of each passenger takes them after they step from the carriage onto the platform and carry on their day. Each Muscovite is unique, yet once on the metro, everyone is the same- to each other passenger the others are simply an anonymous, amorphous mass of people.
But now, empty, this metro carriage offers a new view on this typical Moscow experience. I hope that as this encourages new connotations and angles on something we all think we know so well, it was also encourage us to consider different sides and takes on places we frequent, people we meet and situations life throws at us.
Zhong Dong Cave, Guizhou, China
Zhong Dong cave is one of the last inhabited caves in China, what will soon by the richest country on the planet. As the already monstrous income gap between China’s poor and her rich widens, scores of rural Chinese are left living in conditions inconceivable to the urban population. Zhong Dong perfectly illustrates this.
Over ninety people are resident in Zhong Dong cave, which is situated in the shockingly beautiful but stiflingly poor province of Guizhou (Guizhou has the lowest per capita GDP of any province in China). The inhabitants of the cave are members of the Miao ethnic minority. They retain their own culture and language, and all but the youngest generation are unable to read written Chinese or even speak Mandarin, the official language of the People’s Republic. The average family of four lives on 100元 a month (approximately £10).
This photograph shows the interior of the cave, in which the Miao families have built their houses, some of which are over 80 years old. The cave is conveniently warm in winter, cool in summer and dry all year long. The local government has made several attempts to tease the cave-dwellers away from Zhong Dong because it views their situation as an embarrassment to modern China. In the valley below, the government contractors built modern, brick housing for the families to move into; however they cut costs and corners and the resultant housing is unfit for human habitation.
The village elders have been trying to lobby local government to built them a road linking the cave to existing infrastructure. Currently, it is a hour’s walk through mountain passes to the nearest road. The elders are insistent that if a road is built, it would drastically improve the standard of living for those at Zhong Dong. Crippled by inaccessibility, the farming community of Zhong Dong find it difficult to transport their sellable good to market. The children could be driven to school on motorbike taxis, instead of walking for 2 hours every morning and again every evening. The adults would enjoy improved job prospects. The whole community would benefit from the laying of a road, far more than they would have from the poorly-planned and unwanted housing project, had the local officials only listened to those they govern.