Harry Borden’s work on Holocaust survivors

03 February 2017

The RPS Journal

Back in 2015 The RPS Journal met portrait photographer Harry Borden HonFRPS, and talked about his passion for projects with meaning. One of those projects was his series of images of holocaust survivors, which have been released as a new book, Survivors, earlier this week to mark Holocaust Memorial Day.

The 2015 interview

‘I did the Holocaust Survivors series because it’s an exploration of my identity. My dad’s Jewish but he’s an atheist and I’d never met any Jewish people growing up. 

‘I was aware of that part of me, but I didn’t know what that entailed. It was such a shock when I learned more about the Holocaust. It seemed such an obvious thing to photograph.’

Harry Borden HonFRPS was 13 when he first picked up a camera. From his childhood on a Devon farm he moved to the big city, to jobs at NME and the Observer. He soon got close to the stars – with the Spice Girls when their fame was at its height; with Michael Hutchence not long before the Australian singer committed suicide – but his images of statesmen, actors and sportspeople are just as striking – disturbing, sometimes – but always memorable. 

Being awarded an Honorary Fellowship by The Royal Photographic Society in 2014 gave Borden a chance to look back on his career. ‘I hesitate to use the word artist,’ he says, ‘but great photography is in the way you speak a visual language. When I was growing up I remember seeing pictures by Irving Penn, Diane Arbus, people like that. 

‘When you look at a picture by Penn, there’s no way you could put anything in a different place in the photograph to improve it. For me, a photographer’s visual fingerprint is about how you feel compelled to arrange things geometrically in a frame. And I came to realise that the portrait is also the record of the relationship you have with the person.’

Borden’s down-to-earth approach seeps through all of his work. ‘I just get people to do things,’ he says of his shoots. ‘I trust my instincts.’ Recently, he’s found time amid the big name portraits to work on personal projects, such his emotive Holocaust Survivors series. ‘You have to decide whether you’re just trying to do a project because you think you ought to,’ he says. ‘I feel more drawn to projects that mean something to me personally – and each one of them does.’

See more at http://harryborden.co.uk/survivors/