Ruth Finger

Ruth Finger (1) oil on canvas 152 x 152 cm 2018

The project entitled Ruth Finger is based on snapshots in a small leather photo wallet that was purchased from a Berlin flea market in 2015. The wallet contains 28 photographs, six of which have inscriptions on the reverse, and five of these inscribed photographs are dated, placing the majority of the set in a timeframe between 1941 and 1944, judging by similarities of dress and setting. There are duplicates of four of the photographs, which have been printed in both black and white and a sepia hue. The wallet contains no other documentation.

Most of the photographs show Finger at work in an office, walking along a country lane, or in the company of a young man in a uniform. They convey the high spirits of what appears to be an exuberant youth, enjoying life in the company of her family, friends and partner. The wallet was possibly intended as a keepsake, and I have collected several pocket-sized albums produced during wartime, and containing photographs of young girls posing in woods or meadows holding flowers. The Ruth Finger photographs struck me as a particularly affecting group in that they are artfully composed to seem spontaneous, and force a sense of carefree innocence and optimism into contiguity with evidence of required conformity to an odious political ideology.

In one of the photographs, apparently taken outdoors at a picnic or beer garden, caps with badges worn by the Reich Labour Service can be seen. This was a Nazi State organisation for men aged between 18 and 25, intended as a prerequisite for military training and combining agricultural and manual work with an element of political indoctrination. After 1939, it was also compulsory for young women, and it is likely that both Finger and her partner were serving at the time the photographs were taken. The degree of political conviction felt by the subjects in these photographs is, of course, unknowable, but this is not an impediment to the use of the material for artistic purposes, in that judgment, blame or incrimination of individuals are not the aim. Rather, the work produced from the photographs attempts to explore how snapshot images mask their political content through a form of ritualised behaviour to camera.

Ruth Finger (2) oil on canvas 152 x 152 cm 2018

Ruth Finger (3) oil on canvas 152 x 152 cm 2018