History books are filled with black and white photos, but one Brazilian artist is using color to add new context to the past.
Artist Marina Amaral specializes in colorization and recently released an updated version of 14-year-old Czesława Kwoka’s Auschwitz registration photo. Her work brings color to what may have been Kwoka’s last photo, as she was killed in Auschwitz in 1943.
The Auschwitz Memorial’s Twitter account filled in the clues about the mysterious girl’s past. According to Holocaust survivor Wilhelm Brasse’s testimony, he took the photograph right after Kwoka was beaten. The marks on her face are still visible. In color, her broken lips seem more prominent than in the old black and white photo.
The photo has had a profound effect on many viewers. Some of whom have shared their responses on Twitter, mostly of empathy at the young girl’s fate or the horror of her treatment before the photo was taken.
Film Critic Roger Ebert once called movies a “powerful empathy machine,” and that theory proves true in the outpouring of support for Kwoka. “I can walk in somebody else’s shoes. I can see what it feels like to be a member of a different gender, a different race, a different economic class, to live in a different time, to have a different belief,” Ebert said.
So here’s the photo of a young girl. Her cheeks sunken, her eyes wide in confusion or fear. Her clothes are too big, and her hair is cut close enough to her skull that you can see her scalp. You can’t help but want to help her, but it’s too late.