Undoing Gendered Expressions of Grief: Dora Kallmus’ Post-War ‘Slaughterhouse’ Photographs (1949−1958)

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This article focuses on the work of Jewish Austrian photographer Dora Kallmus, also known as Madame d’Ora, the name she assumed in 1907 when she opened what was to become one of the most important photography studios in Vienna. In the 1920s, Kallmus opened a studio in Paris, where she excelled as an innovative fashion photographer and created portraits of the leading cultural figures of her time. This article centres on the dramatic shift in the kinds of images Kallmus created in the aftermath of the Second World War, when she photographed people in refugee camps in Austria, and in the abattoirs of Paris where Kallmus spent the final decade of her life creating a series of photographs of dying and dead animals. In order to understand these photographs and their powerful affective charge, the article argues that it is necessary to consider them not only in relation to the body of work Kallmus produced before the war, but to read them in relation to the catastrophic events that effectively destroyed both her life and the social world she inhabited. I read these images as an expression of Kallmus’ views on society and the practice and meaning of photography in the aftermath of the death camps, and compare this to the post-war thought of political theorist Hannah Arendt. Through my readings of Kallmus’ slaughterhouse series, I seek to show not only how the images reveal the photographer’s own psychic pain but also insist on a confrontation with the painful truth of the Shoah. The desire to avoid this painful reckoning, I argue, provides a reason for why this series has been largely ignored for the last six decades.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)57-80
JournalL’Homme. Europäische Zeitschrift für Feministische Geschichtswissenschaft
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 11 Oct 2022


  • Holocaust
  • Photography
  • Women
  • History
  • Memory
  • Austria
  • Nazism
  • Trauma


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