Peer-Reviewed Journal Details
Mandatory Fields
Kylie Thomas
Undoing Gendered Expressions of Grief: Dora Kallmus’ Post-War ‘Slaughterhouse’ Photographs (1949−1958)
Optional Fields
Photography; Holocaust; Slaughter; Gender; Commemoration; Hannah Arendt; History; Erasure
In 1907, the Jewish Austrian photographer Dora Kallmus, also known as Madame d’Ora, established what was to become one of the most important photography studios in Vienna. In the 1920s, Kallmus opened a studio in Paris, where she excelled as an innovative fashion photographer, creating portraits of the leading cultural figures of her time. This article centres on the dramatic shift in the images Kallmus created in the aftermath of the Second World War, when she photographed people in refugee camps in Austria and dying and dead animals in the abattoirs of Paris where she spent the final decade of her life. In order to understand these photographs and their powerful affective charge, it is necessary to consider them not only in relation to her pre-war works, but to read them in the context of the Holocaust, an event that effectively destroyed both her life and her social world. I read these images as an expression of Kallmus’ views on society and the practice and meaning of photography in the aftermath of the death camps, and compare them to Hannah Arendt’s post-war thought. Kallmus’ ‘slaughterhouse’ series not only reveals the photographer’s own psychic pain but also insists on a confrontation with the painful truth of the Shoah. Society’s desire to avoid this painful reckoning, I argue, provides a reason for why this series has been largely ignored for the last six decades.
Vienna, Austria
Grant Details