de Saisset Museum

South Bay's free museum of art and history

Impossible to Forget: The Nazi Camps Fifty Years After—Photographs by Michael Kenna

October 1 – November 20, 2005


Impossible to Forget is a powerful and moving exhibition of 80 photographs by internationally recognized English-born photographer Michael Kenna. The photographs, selected from several thousand images produced over a twelve-year period, document the Nazi concentration and extermination camps in Germany, Austria, Poland, the Czech Republic, Belgium, France, Italy, Holland, and Latvia, which Kenna began photographing in 1988.

Born after World War II, Kenna belongs to a later generation of artists and writers who did not experience the Holocaust directly. During his first visit to the Natzweiler-Struthof concentration camp in France in 1986, Kenna was overwhelmed by the abomination of the gas chambers and by the inexpressible suffering of the victims that can only be suggested by the haunting emptiness of the camps. Kenna’s goal was to convey, from his own subjective point of view, what he found impossible to forget about the camps and their respective histories. Knowing that a work of art can be an invitation to meditation, he returned over and over to the camps to photograph what they had become: sites of contemplation. Impossible to Forget speaks of the profound need for humanity—both current and future generations—to persist in remembering the 11 million human beings murdered in these camps.

Impossible to Forget: The Nazi Camps Fifty Years After is organized by Patrimoine Photographique, Paris, with the support of the French Ministry of Culture, and is toured by Curatorial Assistance Traveling Exhibitions (CATE), Los Angeles. The de Saisset Museum will be the first venue for this exhibition in Northern California. The exhibition is accompanied by a hard-bound exhibition catalogue, available for purchase at the de Saisset Museum.

Support for this exhibition generously provided by Mamoru and Yasuko Inouye

Images: Left to Right: Michael Kenna, Camp Buildings, Auschwitz, Poland, 1998, gelatin silver print, 24 x 20 in., © Ministère de la Culture-France. Michael Kenna, Victims’ Shoes, Lublin-Majdanek, Poland, 1993, gelatin silver print, 24 x 20 in., © Ministère de la Culture-France