August 06, 2016 @ 22:46 CET

Dear Ivan,

Yet again in a lone hotel room on my travels. Glad they exist of course, but sometimes one longs for a little change.

I started The Blue Skies Project to try to understand. I went to Auschwitz four years ago, to comprehend what my grandfather would have faced if he hadn’t escaped an SS night raid. There in Oświęcim that winter morning, between the camp barracks, the snow barely covering the earth below, a veil not hiding, a cloak not sheltering, I looked up at a cold blue sky.

Many must have looked up at that same sky, without hope. But what if the perished were still up there. What if I photographed that sky, what would the chance be that I’d have literally photographed every single victim? Impossible, of course. Yet I felt their presence.

Since then, I’ve been traveling. Experiencing the reality down here, the memorials, the houses, the streets, the fields, the forests. 1074 camps. The life that goes on below. And every time I look up, directly at every victim. Tiptoeing and reaching does not bring me closer, yet I catch myself doing it every time. 

We have the benefit of hindsight, of course. That’s why László Nemes’ film “Son of Saul” is so gripping for me. He chooses a particular over-the-shoulder camera perspective, and an extremely narrow field of vision, exactly as it was for the deported.

I bought a chair yesterday. A chair to take with me, so that when I see a place with a horizon I can stop, sit, and stare into it. I think I’d like to sit and stare into one of your sunflower fields someday.

#image_by_image is an ongoing conversation between photographers Ivan Sigal and Anton Kusters.
@ivansigal @antonkusters on Instagram