Unprocessed (2020)


George Rodger, Bergen Belsen, Unprocessed, Roelof Bakker, Negative Press London

Page from Unprocessed, photograph (detail) by George Rodger, The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Unprocessed is an artist’s book responding visually to research carried out for Bakker’s peer-reviewed article ‘A Boy’s Own Trauma: Revisiting a Photograph Recorded in a Nazi Concentration Camp First Encountered as a Child’, published in European Journal of Life Writing, Vol 9, July 2020, University of Groningen Press, Groningen, Netherlands. Bakker’s investigation was directed by critical thinking and writing by Ariella Azoulay, Ulrich Baer, Roland Barthes, Susie Linfield, Werner Sollors and Susan Sontag amongst others.

In both the article and the artist’s book, Bakker engages with a George Rodger photograph, which he first encountered as a child growing up in the Netherlands in a slideshow at school over forty years ago.

In the article, he finally develops this photograph, which registered in his mind yet remained unprocessed, actively engaging with it as a photographer, investigator and spectator, but also as a human being, integrating thought and feeling into an ethical and responsible process of analysis, connecting the photograph to a world outside its frame, towards a future unknown at the time of exposure.

In Unprocessed, black squares framed with wide white borders – subconsciously inspired by Kazimir Malevich’s 1915 painting ‘Black Square’ – symbolise a negative yet to be developed. Brief quotes by Bakker, Rodger and Maandag document aspects of each individual’s personal experience in relation to the photograph.

Only part of the original George Rodger photograph is shown; a factual caption supplies the reader with the missing visual information, including the name and identity of the boy in the photograph: Sieg Maandag, a seven-year old Dutch Jewish boy, a victim and survivor of Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. Both the EJLW article and the artist’s book propose a definitive caption to avoid the photograph being misinterpreted, which has often been the case since the photograph’s first publication on 7 May 1945 in American picture magazine LIFE.

Unprocessed is included in the online catalogue of BABE (Bristol Artists Book Event) 2021 at Arnolfini, Bristol 17-18 April 2021. See https://arnolfini.org.uk/whatson-category/babe-2021-the-lost-weekend/ and was included in the exhibition Why Publish? at Bower Ashton Library, UWE, Bristol, 1 September to 31 October 2020. http://www.bookarts.uwe.ac.uk/whypublish/

‘A Boy’s Own Trauma: Revisiting a Photograph Recorded in a Nazi Concentration Camp First Encountered as a Child’ appears in European Journal of Life Writing, published 7 July 2020, download a PDF at https://ejlw.eu/article/view/36907/34435 or read at https://ejlw.eu/article/view/36907

Unprocessed (28pp, 21cm x 21cm, stapled, Negative Press London)
Available from the Negative Press shop at https://negativepresslondon.bigcartel.com/product/unprocessed

Unprocessed, Roelof Bakker, artist’s book, Sieg Maandag, George Rodger, Negative Press London

Unprocessed, artist’s book (Negative Press London, 2020)