Last summer I visited the photography festival of Arles, in France. It is one of the biggest photography events in the world, with a huge number of happenings, exhibitions, seminars etc. I saw so many exhibitions that my eyes started hurting me and definitely my mind started becoming a bit insensitive to the visual stimuli. Then, one morning I entered one more exhibition area, hosting a series of photographs with the strange title "Without Sanctuary".
I entered the room bored and almost indifferent to whatever could be there. I immediately noticed that, contrary to all the other exhibitions that were contemporary, this one was about very old images, some of them in bad shape, yellowish and small in size. Like photos from a very old family album. Then I saw people hung from poles, burned bodies surrounded by curious spectators. The exhibition was a collection of photos about lynching of black people in USA, in the late 19th- early 20th century. I was taken by surprise...
If I had gone to an exhibition about the holocaust, I would know what to expect, I would be prepared. But there I was defenseless. In front of this raw, absurd, unjustified cruelty, this profound sadism, I got convinced that evil is so inherent in human nature, like never before.
I will never forget two things : one photo of the remains of a burned man, and in the back the handwritten comment (of the photographer? the owner of the photo?): "this is the barbeque we had last night".
Τhe second was the story of a mother watching her son being burned alive, and having to wait till the end of the "party", to get his remains in order bury them.
I left the exhibition with my stomach upside-down and with the question - WHAT ARE WE? - haunting my mind.
The photos of the exhibition can be found at: www.withoutsanctuary.org