"The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera." - Dorothea Lange

Friday, February 28, 2014


I have a friend called Sonia. She goes to work every day at her alterations shop, John's Tailoring (named for her husband). The shop is located in a mall that has all but died. There's still a Topsy's Popcorn, a movie theatre, a Sears and a Macy's (which recently announced it will close) and a steady stream of jogging-suited mall walkers. Other than that, there's Sonia.

But she's a big presence, in a gentle, warm, dignified kind of way.

Sonia's 89. Her workday is longer and fuller than most of my 50 and 60-something peers. She listens to NPR all day, and she'll engage you in any and all kinds of conversation. She's always impeccably dressed. She drives a big Oldsmobile. (And I happen to know she's famous - at least in the eyes of family and friends -  for her homemade gefilte fish.)

I hadn't seen her for a while, but last week I took one of my photo students to her shop. Kat wanted to make some pictures of Sonia in her shop.

A Holocaust survivor, Sonia is one of the last in the KC area to still make public presentations about her experiences during the war. She and her family were rounded up in 1939 and transported to a concentration camp. Only she and her sister would survive. She endured brutal beatings. From the Auschwitz concentration camp, she survived a death march to the concentration camp of Bergen-Belsen where finally, allied troops liberated the prisoners on April 15, 1945. As she celebrated, a German soldier shot her in the chest.

Sonia was featured on the local news yesterday. You can watch it here.

I photographed her back in 2000 when I was working on a project for the Midwest Center for Holocaust Education. In the shop, of course.

And I made a quick portrait last week before my student got started.

In the photo Sonia's holding, she's in her 20's.

Sonia's a lovely, fascinating woman. I have always been inspired by her. And I feel really lucky to know her.

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