There are a time and a place for travel selfies. But as Israeli artist Shahak Shapira spotlights in a recent art project called “Yolocaust,” Berlin’s Holocaust Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe is most definitely not one of them.
The project, which exists online, juxtaposes recent selfies shot against the backdrop of the memorial’s 2,711 concrete slabs with incredibly graphic images from extermination camps in the 1940s. Shapira then stitches the images together, creating new photos that depict oblivious selfie-takers amid the hundreds and thousands of dead souls whom that the slabs commemorate.
Viewers can switch between selfies and Photoshopped pictures with the help of a slide-toggle. To say the contrasts are stark is an understatement; if you’re not disgusted by the image of a modern-day hipster doing yoga poses next to a pile of emaciated corpses, you may need a therapy session.
And that’s precisely Shapira’s point.
According to an article on Huffington Post, the artist developed the project to shame users of Facebook, Instagram, Tinder, and Grindr who had been posting selfies from the memorial with (what he perceived to be) increasing frequency. The attraction, which honors the memory of more than 6 million Jews who were murdered during the Holocaust, draws nearly 10,000 people each day.
Here at AFAR, we have been outspoken on the subject of appropriate travel selfies. Last year, after the Pokemon Go craze and a number of national park visitors endangered themselves by snapping selfies next to wildlife, we published a post imploring travelers to be more circumspect. We reiterate the plea here: Exploring can be epic, but remember to follow signs and respect others, too.
As for Shapira, he has offered on his website to take down the images if the people who are featured in them request removal via email. Fittingly, the address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Matt Villano is a freelance writer and editor based in Healdsburg, California. In nearly 20 years as a full-time freelancer, he has covered travel for publications including TIME, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, Sunset, Backpacker, Entrepreneur, and more. He contributes to the Expedia Viewfinder blog and writes a monthly food column for Islands magazine. Villano also serves on the board of the Family Travel Association and blogs about family travel at Wandering Pod. Learn more about him at Whalehead.com.