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Self Portrait at Buchenwald: It’s the Real Thing (Digitally manipulated Photograph, 1991–1993)

In this artwork, shown at the exhibition Mirroring Evil: Nazi Imagery/Recent Art (New York, Jewish Museum, 2002), English Jewish artist Alan Schechner inserted himself in a famous photo taken by Margaret Bourke-White after the liberation of Buchenwald (1945), with a Diet-Coke can in his hand. “The Coke can marks a rupture between the moment in 1945 in which Bourke-White took the original photograph and Schechner’s contemporary presence in the image. The differences between the present and the past are divided by this ideological and historical gap. In this sense Schechner’s image works like an allegorical ruin” (Alessandro Imperato). Schechner is interested in a cultural re-appropriation of signs and icons from the Holocaust through the radical rupture marked by historical distance and touristic perception of memory. A gap that is here symbolized by the Diet-Coke can, a single element that functions as a paradoxical punctum of the image (something that “pierces the viewer”, as defined by Roland Barthes). Below, the original picture by Margaret Bourke-White.


2 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. […] In regards to the self portrait, “The Real Thing,” I feel the same way. Upon first looking at the photograph in Miho’s video, I felt like it was a bit tasteless, almost like it was a Coca Cola ad specifically made to look like it was in the Buchenwald concentration camp. It wasn’t until I found the context of the image that I really began to understand the purpose of it and why the artist made it the way it is. As it turns out,“The Real Thing” was purposefully made to juxtapose the modernity of 40’s advertising with the world events going on at the time, as a way to highlight the contrast of what people see at home vs. what’s really going on. I found a cool piece on the artwork here at… […]

  2. By Photo Ethics – Digital Imaging on 30 Sep 2017 at 7:13 am

    […] Self Portrait at Buchenwald: It’s the Real Thing […]

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