Alice Herz-Sommer was the oldest living survivor of the Holocaust. She died this year at 110 years old.
That’s notable all by itself, but is not why I felt moved to make a post about her. It’s her relationship with music, which moved me to tears when I watched this video.
Not tears of sadness… but the ones that happen when I hear or see something SO RIGHT that my soul practically leaps to the heavens. It’s like a visceral response to divinity. That’s Alice. The fact that I hear music in my head when I photograph, that I often feel like I’m scoring a musical piece when I process a photo… that I could replace everything she says about music with photography and its source within me (so woven in with music in ways I haven’t ever been able to explain)… makes her story a song of my own spirit and soul.
Survive to Thrive… The Grace of Music
A survivor of Theresienstadt Concentration Camp in WWII, Alice – along with fellow musicians who had been rounded up by the Nazis – was chosen to give concerts at the camp. She said being able to do so kept up her spirits and those of people around her. Before she died, she said that Beethoven was her religion and that Music had saved her life – and Music still saved her.
Of those times, she says: “I felt that this is the only thing that helped me to… to have hope. It is sort of… religion, actually. Music is… is God.”
Thanks to producer Nick Reed and director Malcolm Clark, Alice’s story has been told in their film, “The Lady in Number 6”… a segment of which you see here.
The Resonance of Truth & Art
I share this with you, because Alice – and her story – has a way of speaking powerful and simple truths. My mother had a similar gift. Alice says: “Only when we are old… are we aware of the beauty of life.” Mom said much the same thing. For me, photography is my way of expressing that awareness. And always… music follows me and weaves itself into my work.
My overriding dream when I create a photograph is that if I can imbue it with the very light… the divinity that I see… that one day, it will literally heal the person who sits or stands before it.
Why do I photograph? I think Alice captured it when she said:
“…Life is beautiful, love is beautiful, nature and music are beautiful. Everything we experience is a gift, a present we should cherish and pass on to those we love.”
Thank you Alice, for loving life so incredibly.
Life is Music… Life is Light.