Home/ Exhibitions/ Róbert László Bácsi–Ildi Hermann: Facing – Holocaust stories from two distant cities in photos

Róbert László Bácsi–Ildi Hermann: Facing – Holocaust stories from two distant cities in photos

Free to visit:
June 24, 2022 – August 31, 2022
Tuesday–Sunday: 10am–6pm
Other Location: Holocaust Memorial Center (39 Páva Street, Budapest, Hungary, 1094)
Curator: István Virágvölgyi

“A portrait! What could be simpler and more complex, more obvious and profound?” (Charles Baudelaire)

Getting into a distance of almost eight decades, the Holocaust has been increasingly relegated to the pages of history books for younger generations. This is also why it is important that the testimony of the survivors was recorded at the last moment by two Hungarian photographers: Róbert László Bácsi photographed Holocaust survivors living in Budapest, for a decade, while Ildi Hermann visited Hungarian Holocaust survivors living in New York to take their portraits and interview them. In addition to the two creative attitudes, the photographs also reveal the imprints of two life strategies: those who stayed and those who moved far away. But it is not the differences but the similarities that are most striking in these photo series. Despite the distance of seven thousand kilometres, one can hardly come to any other conclusion from looking at the photos than these people are connected by something, and that is why it is worth looking together into the eyes of the much-seen subjects. Because portrait photograph satisfies our ancient curiosity, which compels each of us to be part of the life of the other for a moment, just as we look for the gaze of the oncoming on the escalator of the metro.


Ildi Hermann: Missing stories (2015–2017)

Ildi Hermann: Missing Stories (2015–2017), Pipi néni © Ildi Hermann’s heir

Ildi Hermann’s series consists of portrait photographs of Hungarian Holocaust survivors living in New York and the related interviews. The work was inspired by a personal motivation, namely the aching lack of asking about the story of her grandmother, also a Holocaust survivor. All of this, with Ildi’s tragically early death, puts the potential access to the memory of generations before us in an even more unique light. How much can these photos convey of the experienced Holocaust? What did these personal stories, recalled from an almost historical perspective, mean to the subjects of the photographs, what did they mean to the creator and what do they mean to the visitor of the exhibition today? We are looking at the same image, but we all see different things, because the photograph is both the photographer’s interpretation of the world and the viewer’s impression of it at the same time.


Róbert László Bácsi: To know how to survive (2010–2020)

Róbert László Bácsi: To know how to survive (2010–2020) © Róbert László Bácsi

From 2004, Róbert Bácsi regularly met Hungarian Holocaust survivors at events organised by the Centropa Foundation, and found their life stories so moving that in 2010 he began working on a documentary portrait photographic series of them. Many of his subjects are no longer alive, so the basic statement of each photo is even more pronounced in these photographs: “I was here!” As aesthete Susan Sontag puts it: “To take a photograph is to participate in another person’s (or thing’s) mortality, vulnerability, mutability. Precisely by slicing out this moment and freezing it, all photographs testify to time’s relentless melt.” Let these photographs stand as a testimony to the fact that there were some who survived the unsurvivable and, with their help, let us remember also those who perished.