a eassy about a photograph by simon norfolk.
A simple flight or stairs, leading up,, or down.
They look like any set of stairs, that could be anywhere in the world, and made anytime in the 21st century.
Then you notice the wear on the steps, the wear and tear that only comes from many years of use, and many feet passing over them, slowly wearing the stone away.
These steps are situated in the former concentration camp at Auschwitz.
I think this photo makes an extraordinary statement.
How many feet does it take to wear marks such as these, on a stone stairway?.
How many people walked down these steps to their death?.
I feel this image portrays a great sense, of absence, of the people that where once there, and now are long since dead, killed in the gas cambers.
This is a fairly simple image, with few elements. Its what's not there where the power lies.
This image was taken using a medium format camera, resulting in the high quality, large print, and also dictates the square format. The image is framed tightly, using a fairly long lens, (75mm) cropping out what is above, below and to the sides, featuring just the steps, and the handrail, and only a slight hint of what's down the steps to the left. .
This tight framing creates a dominating, and solid feeling to the shot.
He has decided not to show details of the window above, but instead just allow the light that is flowing down, catching the edges of the worn steps, with a crisp highlight, which emphasizes the wear that they have suffered. There is however, still a good level of foreground detail, in the shadows the light from the window has left. There's light from another source, which has picked out detail of texture, on both the floor, and stone steps themselves.
The photographer, Simon Norfolk has, and still does set out to capture images with a powerful social comment about the past. And this is image is most certainly one of them. Born in 1963, on Lagos, Nigeria, he moved to England and studied documentary photography at Gwent College, Newport.