University of Minnesota
Center for Holocaust & Genocide Studies


Susan May Tell

About the Artist

Susan May Tell is an award-winning staff photographer for The New York Post. A founding member of Saba Press Photos, Tell's photos have appeared on the covers of Time and Newsweek and in major publications worldwide. For LIFE magazine she shot The Women Fighters of the EPLF (Eritrean Peoples Liberation Front). In Kuwait she had lunch with Yasser Arafat at his invitation. She began her photojournalistic career in 1983 as a freelance for The New York Times, later working for Saba, based first in Cairo and then in Paris. The first one-person exhibition of her fine art photography appeared in San Francisco in 1982.

Artist Statement

A Requiem: Photographs of Auschwitz

"We learn, as the thread plays out, that we belong Less to what flatters us than to what scars." - Stanley Kunitz.

In Auschwitz, I felt the presence of its ghosts guiding me, guiding my camera, and was then, and continue to be now, moved to share this place's tale of tragedy through the images I saw through my lens.

This work combines my life experiences and Jewish heritage with poetic and photographic influences: poets William Carlos Williams and Stanley Kunitz; and photographers André Kertesz, Walker Evans, and Roy DeCarava. I consider my Auschwitz images to be poetic images that profoundly illustrate what I strive for in my work: neither form nor content overwhelms the other and the tension between them remains unresolved.

Equally important to my artistic vision is my commitment to Auschwitz as a meditation on decay and memory. Like others' sacred grounds that have been neglected and are decaying, (i.e. Rwanda and Cambodia), Auschwitz today is disappearing. The loss of its spiritual presence raises major questions about whether places of this kind, and others such as NYC's World Trade Center, should be restored and the importance of memory and commemoration.

A Requiem shares a common perspective with all peoples who have experienced violence and loss. I created this exhibition to provide a visceral experience: for visitors to feel the presence of unspeakable horror, convey the ever present pathos of desolation, and give a real sense of the large scale of this death camp. My intention is to touch a respondent chord in a diverse and wide group of nationalities, religions, and cultures. In turn, A Requiem will create a dialogue about killing fields the world over and the universal problems of hate and evil.

Susan May Tell CV (PDF)

For more information visit the artist's website.

A Requiem: Photographs of Auschwitz Gallery

Barbed Wire GAte Graveyard Gaurd House Lock
Spoons View Furnace Drawing in Barracks
Barracks Valises Maze Tank
Furnaces Stream Vent Daisy

This exhibition is available for loan. Please see exhibition information.

Updated 2012 with permission of the artist.