Award winning German documentary photographer Sarah Pabst, has been based in Buenos Aires, Argentina since 2013.
With her series Zukunft, which means 'future' in German, Sarah goes back to her family’s roots to explore the complex relation between trauma and national identity in her own country. These are memories which have been embedded with pain, guilt, violence and shame in the post-war generations after WWII.
The project is meant to raise a series of questions about the past and a way of dealing with the wounds inherited from her grandparents. After discovering an old box of photographs taken by her grandfather during WWII and a series of her grandmother’s journals, she shifts through their lives and experiences of war, suggesting the viewer to question the present time we are living in.
We can’t forget the past as the future is unpredictable. We always think "these cruelties can’t happen anymore, it’s in the past", but if we look at our present, there are so many dangerous things happening: Trump, the increasingly right-wing orientation in Europe, the tens of millions of people who have been forced to flee their homes. My grandmother used to say that people laughed at Hitler in the beginning—well, they are laughing at Trump as well. The past is a reminder for the future, and we are the ones who are building the world for our children.
The series blends vintage pictures taken from her grandfather during the war, pictures of a history book found on the streets of Buenos Aires that show the bombing of Germany by the allies, and colored contemporary pictures which were taken, reflecting on Sarah’s direct memories, as a means of dealing and healing from her and her sisters' own nightmares and fears about the past. They also deal with the passing away of her own brother while she was working on the project.
Sarah adds yellow dots on some faces and bombs on the vintage pictures to symbolize the missing parts, the things she and we don't know about the past. As her grandparents had survived the war and have passed away already, Zukunft represents an attempt to preserve those personal memories before having them lost just like blind spots in our own history.
Her work has received international recognition. With her series Zukunft she won the Lensculture Emerging Talent Awards and was a finalist in The Burn Emerging Photographer Grant, Arles Voices Off and Athens Photo Festival, winner of the Organ Vida Festival, as well as several others. She was a winner of the Portfolio Revisions at FoLa and selected twice for Descubrimientos Photo España, in 2015 she won a 3rd Prize at the POY LATAM and the Canon Profoto Grant 2014.
Her work has been published in The New York Times, Der Spiegel, The Wall Street Journal, California Sunday Magazine, GUP, Bloomberg, Vice, Lensculture, Le Monde Diplomatique and Juxtpoz Magazine, among others.