I was recently asked to take part in a project based on Taduesz Borowski's book of stories about his experiences in a Nazi concentration camp. Designers were asked to supply their own interpretation of the cover in order to create a larger body of work that would hopefully create discussion about how the holocaust is represented and mediated.
I knew immediately that I didn't want to rely on the same visual shorthand for this project. No shots of the camps, no shots of the bodies, nothing that would tell you what you already knew, or have been told you knew. Also, I wanted to contemporize the cover if possible. Doing so would not only give the cover a new face, it would also, I hope, create a deeper sense of dread. The events that took place in Auschwitz didn't take place in black and white (history rarely does), and they didn't take place under black skies, through grainy filters; They happened on nice days. The sky was blue, as it is and I think this just makes the cover that much more chilling.
At the risk of sounding too high-minded, I was trying to get past what Bertrand Russel called "the knowledge of description." Or I was attempting to, at least.
But something interesting happened: I started to second-guess myself. I started wondering if I was serving the book or serving my ego by wanting to 'do something different.' Back at the drawing board, the following comp emerged:
Arguably, it strikes the mood just right but seems like something we've all seen before. But maybe we have seen this before for a reason.
It was a 50/50 proposition up until 9am this morning. Part of me still feels the daylight shot cover feels wrong, but for that very reason it's the one I sent.
Update: The This Way Project book is now out and available on their website. John Bertram was kind enough to forward a shot of my spread in the book, seen here.