Tereska and her Photographer attracts our attention thanks to the silvery doodle on the cover: one day in September 1948, David Seymour, known as “Chim”, photographed a little girl – Tereska – in an elementary school in Warsaw, busy reproducing on a blackboard her house – the silver doodle, in fact – destroyed during one of the many bombings of World War II.
That photo taken by David ‘Chim’ Seymour, one of Magnum’s co-founders, was later published in LIFE magazine with the caption ‘Children’s wounds are not all external. Those of the mind, created by years of pain, take years to heal”.
In 1954/1955 Tereska was sent to a mental asylum – shrapnel from a grenade during the bombing of her home had irreparably damaged her brain. Here, at the age of 37, she choked to death on a bite of food she had stolen from another patient.
Even for Seymour, death came unexpectedly: he was killed by a stray bullet in 1956 in Suez, while he was documenting the Arab-Israeli war, four days after the signing of the armistice.
Carole Naggar takes her cue from these two fates so mysteriously intertwined to rewrite their stories and thoughts, as if in reality after the shoot of that photograph they were never far apart in spirit.
Chim’s photograph, which has become a symbol of the fate that war inflicts on children, remains one of the only portraits of Tereska as a child. As if trapped in the intricate web of chalk she constructed, she remained there, frozen in time: for her, war never ended.
The small hole that accompanies us, from the cover through all the pages of the book, is meant to be an allusion to the “object destroyed” by a catastrophe and the tragic death of the photographer.
I like to think that Tereska used a similar little hole to peer into the world around her, protected by that graphite board on which she had drawn her imagined yet tremendously real home.