When Tony Corso clicked the shutter one summer afternoon in 2010, the Paris photographer knew his camera recorded a picture for the ages.
The photograph of Holocaust survivor William Schiff holding his 7-week-old great-grandson with a visable serial number etched into the great-grandfather’s arm says a thousand words about the horror that was Nazi Germany and a belief that after the darkest night sunlight comes in the morning.
Corso returned to Dallas recently to meet and photograph the infant in the picture nine years later. A former Prairiland ISD language arts teacher, Corso then penned a blog about the photo and his opportunity to photograph Holocaust survivors for the Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum. The museum, along with the rest of the world, observes International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Jan. 29.
Through email, Corso communicated his thoughts about the photo.
“The prevailing impression that original photo left with me was the power of this family’s testimony that lies therein … no matter how dark and difficult seasons in life can become, there is good fruit in persevering,” Corso said. “That infant’s little hand alongside that number scratched into Mr. Schiff’s forearm by some deranged Nazi so many years ago is proof that the darkest of nights eventually succumbs to the light of a new day.”
In an interview last week, the granddaughter of the late Mr. Schiff and the mother of Asher Mayes, the infant in the photograph, talked about her son and her grandfather.
“The picture gives me such pride,” Jennifer Mayes said. “I always felt so happy that I was able to give my grandparents great-grandchildren. They got such joy from seeing their lives go on through my children after the horrors that they went through.
“It’s really amazing that because my grandparents survived such an awful atrocity that such a sweet and beautiful life like Asher has been brought into this world,” the mother said. “Asher is such a special boy. He is empathetic beyond his years; so kind and sweet. We call him the soul of our family because there is something very deep and special in his big brown eyes.”
Corso’s blog at http://tonycorsoimages.com/index.php/2019/12/the-photo-9-years-later/ shares how the school teacher turned professional photographer came to be selected by the Dallas Holocaust museum to photograph survivors while a museum staff memberr recorded interviews.
As a seventh and eighth grade reading teacher at Prairiland ISD, Corso said one of his favorite units centered around the Holocaust. After students read about the Nazi death camps, he took the class on an outing to the Holocaust museum in Dallas.
“The prime motivation for this undertaking was so the kids had the privilege to meet and listen to a living Holocaust survivor speak to them about their own experiences growing up, and the hardships they endured in the death camps,” Corso penned.
On his second trip to the museum, Corso said he shared his passion for Holocaust survivors and offered his services as a photographer “to photograph those aging survivors whose time on earth was growing shorter with each passing year.” The director followed up and invited Corso to photograph an event, which led to an assignment to visit about a dozen survivors in their homes.
“For the next six months, I would drive back into the Dallas area, usually on Sundays, meet up with with my liaison from the museum and she would escort me to various homes where we might spend an hour or two visiting with these incredible souls,” Corso blogged, explaining he would first take family photos and afterwards the survivor would begin to share their own history.
“It was then I would snap away, yet while I was totally engaged with their personal stories,” Corso continued.
“Often times, I would set the camera aside and just listen reverently...and on occasion wipe tears from my eyes.”
As International Holocaust Rememberence Day approaches, Corso wrote:
“And so I remember. I remember the day I took a photo; a simple photo of a grandfather holding his great-grandson. I remember that old saying about how a “picture is worth a thousand words” and reflect on the story this photo tells.”