Denise Grünstein, 1950 – 2023

Auschwitz, Poland

Silver gelatin print mounted on aluminum
144 x 120 cm
Magasin III Collection

What I don’t understand interests me. When nothing is neither nor, rather everything can be either or.   Denise Grünstein

Peaceful at first glance, these three photographs capture clouds floating above Auschwitz, the largest concentration camp during the Second World War. It is remarkable how a title that simply gives the geographic location can instantly transform our associations and perception of the images.

The photographs are part of a series taken during a trip through the former Eastern Bloc in 1996–97 to places associated with the Second World War. Moved and overwhelmed after having visited and photographed the concentration camps and their remains, Denise Grünstein completed the series by turning her camera to the clouds.

The entire series consists of 17 photographs and is collectively called Zone V. The term comes from the system invented by the American photographers Ansel Adams and Fred Archer in the 1930s, to establish a scale from light to dark, with Zone V at the halfway point. Grünstein’s photographs from this series are characterized by a subdued grey scale which brings a historical patina to her black and white photographs. The works are suspended some distance from the wall, which emphasizes their ghostlike character.

First exhibited with 14 other works under the title Zone V as part of Arkipelag (Stockholm – European Capital of Culture 1998) at the Museum of Technology, Stockholm.

Bronwyn Griffith, Curator of Collection Research/Senior Registrar