Untitled from Panopticon, 2006
©Jessica M. Kaufman, all rights reserved
bears witness for the
I approached this series as I have all others: with the intention to investigate, or call attention to, how identity shifts and changes when catalyzed by experience, and more dramatically, trauma. For this project, I again was drawn to the landscape as muse, but uncharacteristically chose one loaded with meaning, burdened with a history so cumbersome that I initially was afraid to pursue it.
The title of this series, Panopticon, refers to an 18th century circular prison model that allows for secret surveillance of all prisoner activity through natural illumination. The subject matter is the grounds of Nazi concentration camps. Far from being documentary in nature, these photographs are decontextualized excerpts through which I sought to dispose of most recognizable clues to the specific places, and focus on the surrounding, and surviving, environments in order to recast them as sites for new meaning. The resulting images, mutated through a technical process that relies on decay as an operative force, do suggest trauma, but don’t require a reaction that encompasses a response to iconic horror. Instead, I make this work in the hope of inspiring a dialogue between the viewer and imagery that fuses indeterminate disturbance with transcendent beauty.